Friday, November 14, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #316: Soppy by Philippa Rice

The most difficult emotion to depict in art is quiet contentment: happiness in place, without fuss or exuberance. Sadness and anger and rage are vastly easier, since they're big and bold and demonstrative. And the show-offy kind of love, all limousines and flowers and grand gestures, is nearly as simple.

But an everyday, grounded kind of love and support -- that's tough. It too easily falls into tweeness or blandness, either too thrilled with itself or too matter-of-fact. So a book that can depict that kind of quiet happiness may seem small and minor, but it's really doing something very difficult, something that could so easily have gone wrong.

Philippa Rice's Soppy is exactly that kind of book, and I expect most readers won't realize the amount of care and hard work that must have gone into making it seem this sweet and lovely and light. But that's how it needs to be: if you could see the effort, it wouldn't work. And Soppy is a lovely little thing, cozy and snug and sweet and wonderfully grounded in everyday life, with a nouveau mid-century look of flat blacks and reds.

Soppy collects the webcomic of the same name -- unlike a lot of similar collections, the original comic doesn't seem to still be up on Rice's site -- which starts off with single illustrations, all black and white and red, and slowly turns into comics as it tells the story of Rice and her boyfriend Luke Pearson. They're both British, which possibly makes the whole understated thing easier: it's not a nation fond of big romantic gestures in general. They're already dating as the book begins, but they move in together during the course of these hundred-odd pages, bringing their books and furniture and drawing tables together.

Soppy is all about small moments: it's punctuated by a series of pages that show Rice and Pearson in bed sleeping, changing positions as the night goes on, and most of the vignettes here are similarly small. We see the couple get milkshakes, watch fireworks, build bookcases, tie scarves, and in what seems to be the aftermath of one fight. It's all small moments, all everyday life -- Rice never tries to make any of it big or flashy or important, but tells the story of this life beautifully and precisely.

Philippa Rice makes cute comics that are more than just cute, that are sweet without being cloying and with a Mary Blair-ish look that she makes all her own. And you don't have to be soppy to enjoy them, either.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

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