In Review: Vivacity by Jessica Martin

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A follow-up 2013’s It Girl, Vivacity moves Jessica Martin’s non-fiction Hollywood Heroines theme from the silent black and white era into the glamour of the early colour epics with the life story of Oscar, BAFTA and Tony winning British actress, Vivien Leigh, who will be always be associated with her most famous role, Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind.

It Girl was something of a revelation when I first read it, given the high standard of not just the artwork and script but the layouts and overall production of the comic it was quite hard to take in that it was Jessica Martin’s first published title. Since then she has produced a series of prints and postcards of Hollywood stars, contributed artwork to two World War One anthologies, To End all Wars and To Arms!, as well as continuing to work on her full length graphic novel Elsie Harris Picture Palace which was shortlisted for the 2014 Myriad First Graphic Novel prize and has since been picked up for publication by Miwk in 2015. So Vivacity has a lot to live up to – and it doesn’t disappoint.

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While there is much more to Vivien Leigh’s life that her role in Gone With the Wind, Vivacity is in its introduction’s words “a graphic vignette” that focusses on her life up to and including the film. Jessica neatly uses the concept of a 1939 Gone With The Wind press interview between Leigh and a generic Hollywood journalist to allow Leigh herself to tell the main section of the story while a brief prologue and epilogue bookend the main tale to allow readers to complete the story of her life. It is a concept that works remarkably well condensing the story into seventeen pages of artwork. The book’s writing style is concise and reminds me, perhaps somewhat incongruously, of DC Thomson’s Commando with its house-style of copious use of text boxes and its ability to complete a scene in a handful of panels, an ability seemingly lost in so many American and faux-American comics these days.

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For Vivacity Jessica uses a light, sketchy art style and shows a remarkable ability to catch the essence of her characters’ faces, so important on a non-fiction biographical title. Partly the style of artwork is down to the fact that it appears to have been printed virtually directly from the pencil art without going through a full inking stage. While this could well have been done as a time-saving expediency to allow Jessica to get another short title into print while working on her much longer Elsie Harris Picture Palace graphic novel due out later this year, on the whole it works well here giving a soft look to the artwork that I like.

Vivacity continues the Hollywood Heroines theme of It Girl with a maturity of both writing and artwork that belies Jessica Martin’s relatively brief sojourn to date in the comics medium.

Jessica Martin’s official website is here and her e-shop sells copies of both Vivacity and It Girl as well as cards and postcards of her artwork.

Jessica Martin was interviewed on downthetubes about her comics work here.

The downthetubes review of It Girl is here.

The downthetubes review of To End All Wars is here.

An exhibition of Jessica’s artwork  entitled Jessica Martin’s Picture Palace is being held in the Radlett Centre in Radlett, North London beginning on 3 March 2015 and lasting the full month. There are more details on the Radlett Centre website.

Jessica Martin is a guest at the True Believers Comic Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse on Saturday 7 February 2015 where she will be selling copies of Vivacity and It Girl.

Jeremy Briggs

News, reviews, interviews and features for print and on-line: Spaceship Away (since October 2005), Bear Alley (since February 2007), downthetubes (since June 2007), and Eagle Times (since October 2008). Plus Titan’s Dan Dare and Johnny Red reprints, Ilex’s War Comics: A Graphic History and 500 Essential Graphic Novels, and Print Media’s The Iron Moon and Strip magazine.

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