Blat! Issue 1 by Mat Greaves
Blat is the new comic being imminently kickstarted by creator Mat Greaves. I enjoyed Reefers and Riffs, his Murun Buchstansangur meets Charlie Parker comic which I reviewed here. Not only that he did what surely must be the definitive take on middle-aged Shamrock for me.
The influence of the American underground can be felt in the book which consists of four strips and some shorter comics. The cover sets the scene from the start with a distinctly Robert Crumb vibe.
Some of the tales are autobiographical – everyday tales of the meaninglessness of working life, notably No One Wants to Be Here. This bleak tale of modern working life seems even more bleak during a pandemic lockdown when we don’t so much work from home as live from work. Marx argued that modern capitalist workplaces created alienated individuals…alienated from the product they create, from their work itself, from others and ultimately from themselves. If you want to read a fun comic summary of that theory in a style influenced by the likes of Dan Clowes and Peter Bagge then this is the book for you!
Music features prominently in two of the strips. Gone Swimming tells of the tides of memory as a childhood beach holiday washes up during a drunken blowout in Manchester. This is probably my favourite story in the book with its theme of finding joy and inspiration while sticking two fingers up to the working week.
Oh Boy! – the story of a man finally getting to see his favourite punk band is a slapstick comic tale of the joys and pains of gigs. Like the everyday touring stories that Jaime Hernandez told in Love and Rockets, there ain’t much glamour but there is a lot of energy and Tex Avery style dynamism amidst the fag ends and empty cans of Red Stripe.
Finishing up with Albert, who is living the kind of retirement we can all aspire to and which features another homage to the pub life that many of us keenly await the return of. This shows the diversity of styles that Mat brings to this comic with a looser and more lightly inked style reflecting the state of mind Albert is probably in at that time of night.
If you want a blast of underground alienation and slapstick craziness then Blat! is the book for you. Sometimes bleak, sometimes hopeful but always with a sense of the ridiculousness of life.