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Pat Grant, in his graphic novel “Blue”, captures the young Australian surfer in all his gruff and sauciness from the language itself to the appearance of these school-skipping, seaside dwellers. Even if readers are not familiar with the Australian high school surfer lingo, the images that Grant fills each page with will sweep the reader through the perplexing slang and onto the main idea of the story.
The dialect of the teenagers in Blue serves as a written device to give more authenticity to the life of Australia’s youth, but can be a bit distracting at times. That is why the joyfully flowing images of waves and the crude characters Grant draws bring the reader back to the main focus, which is not the language.
The first character readers will meet is a young boy that looks like a tourist and could possible represent the more commercialized version of surfing. Either way, he is an outsider, not from the town of Bolton in which this story takes place. All he wants to do is help the three kids he spots on the beach build their castle.
They chide him for calling it a castle and ignore his pleas to aid them in the building of its architectures. They even destroy their own sand castle once they find out he is from Sydney, so that he cannot make any changes to it. This scene sets the stage for the rest of the book.
The boy from another town is replaced with ‘the Blues’, who look like a weird breed of octopus-like sea critters. They travel across the sand with their numerous tentacles and use small nubs on their ends to leave behind blue graffiti across a town, known for its cleanliness. Their faces look similar to something you would see carved on a jack-o-lantern that entreat suspicious first impressions of an invading new people.
When they first arrive, they are ridiculed by the people of Bolton and carried off like animals, but everything that happens after this and before the narration continues, is left for the reader to conjecture. We return to the same town years later under the narration of Christian, one of the trio of children who originally refused to let the boy from Sydney help build the sand castle.
The arrival of ‘the Blues’ and the new status of Bolton are revealed to the reader through his nostalgic and at times regretful, memories. He states outright that he would not have chosen his previous group of friends had they not been the only ones who liked to ditch class as much as he did.
The history of the town is shown from the beginning of its creation, including the fresh start it symbolized for many of the families that eventually settled there. The idea of the town being known for its tidiness is constantly revisited in its contrast to the dirtiness of the teenagers’ hangout spots and the way the town is after the take over of the Blues.
By the end of Christian‚Äôs reminiscences, the reader eventually witness the ‚Äúrevenge‚ÄĚ of ‘the Blues’ on the town that treated them like foreign animals and the effort of Christian to paint over the graffiti with white paint to bring back the Bolton he once knew.
If the comic had stopped here it would have been a decent read, but Grant has included a witty fine print as well as a few essays he has written about the link between comics and childhood memories, and the history of surfing comics.
His commentary on comic history is just as fascinating as his story about the Blues and once readers have read his essays they should revisit the comic itself. They will find a new found respect for the wave imagery throughout as well as the greater themes hidden beneath his childish and engaging drawing style.
Overall Rating: 4/5
Image Courtesy of¬†¬† http://www.boltonblue.com