February 2006

Carrie Jones

fiction

Wimbeldon Green: The Greatest Comic Collector in the World by Seth

Ever have a funny thought that snowballed into a running joke that turned into a central part of your social folklore? Wimbledon Green is one of those thoughts, expanded into a funny and thoughtful parody of comic collecting. Originally just some sketches in artist and writer Seth's notebook, Wimbledon evolved into a series of interconnected stories that shed light on the mysterious identity of Wimbledon Green, the greatest comic collector in the world.

Although set in the present-day Canada, with references to the 1990s spread throughout, the present of Wimbledon's world is strangely archaic. Much like the future imagined by comics in the '40s and '50s, this world is filled with rocket cars, super fast locomotives and men who dress as if they are stuck in a film noir. The intrigues that pull the characters along are similarly cinematic -- an extremely rare comic stolen, transported, and bargained for (like the Maltese Falcon), Hitchcockian mistaken identity, daring criminal acts -- and create a surprisingly detailed and compelling back story for Wimbledon Green's wily hero and the varied cast of supporting characters.

In telling the story of Wimbledon Green, Seth uses the people around Wimbledon, mostly comic shop owners and rival collectors, to give tiny bits of the story. They confirm, deny and spread rumors about the rotund, silly-hatted uber-collector in panels of all sizes and lengths. A few times, Seth focuses on one of the minor characters to illuminate a particular archetype in the collecting world. The best of these is the story of Jonah, a bitter, compulsive thief, who creates eccentricities to mask his outsider status in the collecting community. Jonah shows the strained flipside to Wimbledon's easy killer instinct, but his story stands alone as well. When we get to see glimpses of Wimbledon's fabled collection, Seth shows his great understanding of comics of the past, and creates some hilarious but believable artifacts for the collectors of Wimbledon Green to salivate over.

In the preface to the book, Seth writes a longish and self-deprecating letter to the reader telling them that the following book is not as good as it should be, just a brainfart from his sketchbook. He also says that Wimbledon's story managed to captivate him even during a really busy time in his career. Generally, I am not a fan of sketch collections; they are usually ways of capitalizing on an artist's fame by flooding the bookshelves with substandard work and creating yet another tantalizing must-have for collectors. But I think, though it is reasonable to want to excuse rushed art or shallow storytelling, that Seth knows that his story is good and that the character of Wimbledon benefits from some holes in his biography.

In the end we only get a taste of who Wimbledon Green really is. Mostly, this book is an awesome send-up of collectors and their obsessions, and showcases Seth's massive creative imagination. Even though this book is considered to be minor by its author, it is well worth getting just for the experience of being inside the warped world of comic collecting for a moment and a few rides in a rocket car.

Wimbledon Green: The Greatest Comic Collector in the World by Seth
Drawn & Quarterly
ISBN: 1896597939
125 pages