Alone in Space – A Collection by Tillie Walden
Alone in Space collects several of Tillie Walden’s stories together in one volume. The End of Summer, I Love This Part and A City Inside along with some rare early work.
Tillie Walden restores to comics some elements that have got a little lost. The surreal, the innocence of youth. The moments after you awake from a dream and cling on to the weird and sometimes disturbing world that you have just left. Memories of childhood that linger on the edge of our consciousness. A liminal world, an epic world, an impossible world.
She revels in imagery of fantastic architecture. The recurring image of a woman looming over a city, lounging amongst the skyscrapers. In the story A City Inside she talks about her fear of moving to the city. This Brobdingnagian vision puts her in control of her environment, a laid back colossus. The experiments with scale and perspective can be seen in The End of Summer with its soaring ceilings and the giant cat Nemo who is ridden around the palace. In this epic world the characters’ status as children is emphasised – they shrink in the echoing halls.
Tillie noted that she took three words as her cue when she first started working on The End of Summer – “twins, cats, architecture.” But I think she could also have added winter. The inhabitants of the castle experience a seemingly endless winter which leaves them snowed in and isolated – and having to face up to their lives. After a year in which many of us have been cut off from the world to some extent, this is somewhat relatable. Indeed in the short biography My name is… the snowy season is given full billing.
Another short story Slumberland gives an insight into the author’s creative inspirations. It is a tale told in the style of Winsor McCay, a comics pioneer and creator of the legendary Little Nemo in Slumberland. A City Inside sees its central character fly across the sky in a bed in a scene straight from Little Nemo. The dreamlike quality of McCay’s work is an obvious influence, but so too is the imaginative use of scale and perspective.
The delicate, tender and fragile feeling of The End of Summer does tie in with the themes of the story but it can sometimes feel a little insubstantial for my taste, the narrative a little meandering. It is clearly a story whose visual elements come first. That same tenderness can be found in I Love This Part and work perfectly with the intimate and personal story.
As an introduction to the work of Tillie Walden this collection is perfect. Packed with imagination and as fresh as snow falling on a distant castle. The collection showcases a huge talent, yet one that still has room to grow and develop. I have the feeling the best is yet to come.
Alone in Space – A Collection is published by Avery Hill.
It will be released in the UK on 10th June 2021 and in the US on 6th July 2021