Publisher: Susie Gander
Writer: Susie Gander
Artist: Susie Gander
Price: £5 from PerrywinkleComic.com
When (fictional) Susie is initially diagnosed with lung cancer, she gains a wise cracking, ass kicking super powered conscience and motivating force called Perrywinkle who appears to her and helps to guide her through the battles with chemo and beyond. As you would expect from a superhero inspired tale this means Perrywinkle takes on the villainous forces of Susie’s illness which manifests themselves as evil germs and ultimately an eight legged spider villainess which she battles with the aid of chemo infused super powers!
But it’s not all superhero action. Susie also draws on her personal experiences of coping with illness to create a really powerful and emotionally complex read. It’s a bit like Mike Garley’s Late Fees in the way it blends genre based action with a highly personal tale to create a unique and original take on the story (except this one has fewer samurais!). In Perrywinkle there is as much of the day to day trials of coping with cancer, the effect it has on personal relationships and the tribulations of treatment that Susie receives, as there is superhero action. And it is this which is the more interesting and informative part of the story and gives the books it’s real core.
However, it’s not all serious and by mixing tons of humour in with the superhero tropes Susie also makes Perrywinkle a really enjoyable and fun read – which you might not expect when you hear about the subject matter. By not going down the doom and gloom auto-bio route of say, Harvey Pekar, Susie instead makes Perrywinkle very readable and as such it should appeal to a much wider and more diverse audience than if it had just been a more traditional slice of life tale and that’s great because this is a really powerful story to hear.
For this new collection, Susie has redrawn the artwork from her webcomic as she now becomes more confident with her abilities. Her artwork has a very 90s inspired style, with shades of Michael Turner, J Scott Campbell and Jim Lee in there, which again makes the book feel like something very different from the usual hand drawn auto-bio books. However, with this art style comes the challenge to live up to those lofty comparisons. As with Reckless Hero’s work (which has a similar 90s infused style), the bar is so high that it is easy to pick faults in how the book doesn’t quite have the slickness of those inspirations. Some of the figure work is a little inconsistent and some of the faces feel a little repetitive and generic, and the whole 90s style can be a bit too style over substance in some places. However for a debut offering it is very solid, and in places the computer colours help mask some of these inconsistencies to create a very polished and slick looking product.
Ultimately though, it is the story which makes Perrywinkle worth picking up. It manages to capture Susie’s infectious and positive attitude, as well as focusing on a strong and well depicted female lead (who has a look which many cancer survivors can identify with). All this makes for a personal and informative story, but one which doesn’t ask you to pity or feel sorry for the writer. Perrywinkle is a triumphant tale of overcoming adversity (apologies if that’s a bit of a spoiler!) and we hope that Susie can find a way to continue Perrywinkle’s adventures in the future (although we hope not at the expense of her health!). However if she doesn’t then this debut offering feels like a fantastic and complete story that informs as much as it entertains and manages to create a highly entertaining read about a very serious subject.