‘Surreal in the true sense of the word’ – I’m Never Coming Back by Julian Hanshaw

When I was a child, Channel Four always seemed to have late night seasons of independently produced animation. Weird, twisted, sometimes awful, often brilliant, snatches of other people’s imaginations. This was in the days before Come Dine with Me. Before, as a society, we realised that a man squeaking the painfully obvious over footage of attention-grabbing ghouls with clown faces cooking bastardised versions of restaurant food was the best thing ever ever ever and could we please stop evolving now because nothing was ever going to top that moment when Carol from Basingstoke dropped the pavlova and that man, that funny funny man, said, ooh, looks like she’s dropped the pavlova! and how we cried with laughter, how we rofled and loled at that.

Sorry. Where was I? Oh yes, weird and twisted snatches of other people’s imaginations. I’m Never Coming Back is just that. Julian Hanshaw has created a book that exists on the edges of the imagination, in that territory next to dreams. It is surreal in the true sense of the word. In the sense of art that incorporates the dreamlike thoughts of the unconscious mind into reality.

A graphic novel in stories, some no longer than a page, that intertwine to form a whole that never is quite whole (gaps are important here) I’m Never Coming Back is a brilliant exploration of the imagination. Twin boys flying to Heathrow, a man in a deep sea diving helmet who lives on the dunes, a taco stall run by a woman called Errata, crabs, the Test Match Special…

Julian Hanshaw’s artwork perfectly complements these stories. In each section his line drawings are washed in a slightly different palette. His art has the same humour and melancholy as his writing. It also leaves clues as to how the stories interact. Clues that are often missed on first reading. I’m Never Coming Back is one of those comics you find yourself picking up weeks, or months, or, I’m sure, years, after reading, and flicking back and forth through until you just give up and read the whole thing over again. And finding new things.

The most obvious link between all the stories is the absence of home. (Perhaps that is another reason why I was drawn to my memory of those animation seasons and my VHS tapes of the best bits, now lost forever, when thinking of a start for this review.) Hanshaw is not sentimental or nostalgic though, he merely notices its absence in his characters lives and then sees where that takes them. That it takes them to a place where unopened take-away trays rattle with the movement of something trapped inside is a happy coincidence.

Any Cop?: Yes. Yes. Yes. A brilliant, beautiful collection of lost thoughts.

Benjamin Judge

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