Joe Stone has already produced several mini-comics. They are drawn in a simple humorous realist style with no grand plot lines but a resonant reflection on everyday life. Several of these are now collected in a booklet disarmingly called Leftovers. It even has a introductory strip about how he had the idea of making a collection. Stone is a designer as well as an illustrator and this shows in the way he puts together the panels and how he arranges the works in sequence. Some are funny, some are dark, all are clear and often autobiographical without being egotistical.
Stone’s first book was Like Tweet Match Repeat a series of strips on the use of the mobile cellphone and social media. He went on to make Stutter, a memoir about living with a speech impediment which won an award for Comic of 2018. On his website joe-stone.co.uk, he has pocket cartoons about Stars Wars – how many rhymes with Darth can inspire yet another drawing about the Vader of the Evil Empire.
Star Wars pops up in Leftovers where Joe details the homemade comics of his childhood. Inspired as well by 1990s X-Men, no one has captured the early experience of making comicbooks better: the imitation of works we read then and the modifications that our experience, or lack, made of these in our own productions. My homemade characters were called the Skeleton and Porter John and my two-page efforts accompanied me into early adolescence – from fist-fight sagas to later referencing the politics of the time.
On his website Stone also plays with the cast lists of George Lucas and Marvel but not in the prose of fan fiction but visually in ‘family trees’, showing what character is related to which other. There’s also a game based on the film Pulp Fiction called Pulp Fiction Guess Who, where each player secretly picks one character from the selection and other players have to guess who it is by asking ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions. Leave me the Gimp. Of course a game like that could remind us too much of the way political debate is covered these days. “Leave or Remain? Hurry up, yes or no?”
Leftovers too gives you some idea of the range of his subject matter.
Stone might well go on to become a cartoonist for magazines like Private Eye but one hopes they allow him to use the same strip format. He needs to do sequence as he often uses the technique of image repetition with small differences, like when he shows what happens to a tree poster about a missing pet or demonstrates his interest in hats. On a train he observes different commuters and their reactions to the experience – the variety is witty and empathetic. Some of the strips, like his ‘end of the world’ story, finish with a image that is more than a punchline. While his account of being mugged is a memoir of every nervy detail apart from “the most important part: what the two guys looked like”.
Joe Stone might yet go on to longer stories or stick with his telling miniatures. Maybe there’s a stage of his life that could run to a more developed narrative and many more pages with other living characters coming to the fore.
An artist to watch then.