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Sunday, 26 February 2012

Freddie and Me (LGBT History Month)

A coming of age (bohemian) rhapsody

Writer and artist: Mike Dawson
Publisher: Jonathan Cape

What's it about?
This is Mike's life story, as soundtracked by Queen.

When I say soundtracked by Queen, I mean everything is told through a Queen filtered lens.  Dawson is something of a superfan, and so all major moments in his life are linked to the band and their music.  He's born in England, where he first discovers Queen on Top of the Pops (an old BBC music programme that ran weekly for about 30 years, it was an institution) by watching the video for I Want to Break Free.
This starts a lifelong obsession which follows him through primary school, his family move to America aged 11, his teenage years, his first girlfriends, his first jobs and meeting and marrying his wife. He's also pretty passionate about art, which explains why this is a comic and not a prose book.

What's good about it?
Oh gods, it's embarrassingly accurate to being an obsessed teenage fan.   I don't know how many of you were also into music as a teen, but I was.  I'd read the music papers from cover to cover.  I had my favourite bands I'd listen to over and over.  I knew all the trivia.  I'd learn the words.  I'd spout off about the amazingness of said bands, their music and the members.  I'd connect everything with certain bands.  I'd take it personally when someone insulted my favourite band.  I lived and breathed music.
Reading this comic flung me straight back into that feeling - I recognise all the nerdy, fannish things Dawson does.  He captures the intensity and the awkwardness perfectly.  His sister is massively into Wham and George Michael in particular, which gives us some great sibling/band rivalry scenes.

If you identify with where he's coming from, you'll probably laugh and cry and cringe, just like I did.  Then perhaps you'll feel a little bit of pride at the fellow superfan who's grown up and still nurtures that love for Queen.
What's bad about it?
If you aren't a Queen fan, or aren't a big music fan, you may not find much to interest you.  Dawson's life story, judged on it's own merits, isn't particularly interesting.  It's the tidbits about his fannish love of Queen that bring life to it, that provide the sometimes funny, sometimes moving, sometimes sad, moments.
What's the art like?
Ahh, this is another high point!  Dawson's cartooning is fabulous.  It's all black and white and it's so expressive.  He draws familial resemblances while making each person distinct.  His depictions of other rock stars are eerily accurate even though they are a bit caricatured.  I've rarely seen real people captured so well on paper.

When he draws Freddie Mercury singing, or himself singing, as in for example the cover of the book, you can feel the energy streaming off the page.  Dawson is a natural at drawing epic, intense, charged scenes.  When he shows us how he reacted when he found out Freddie died, well, my heart broke for him.

In short, the art is great and is one of the standout aspects to this book.

More information
Apparently only available in hardcover, Amazon prices this at £9.89.  The ISBN is 0224081934.
Mike Dawson has a website here.

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