Unofficial beauty

Pingu, a TV series I enjoyed entirely as an adult, has a special place in my heart similar to that reserved for the cultural artifacts of my childhood. For one thing it was on TV when the spawn was small; for another it has a brilliantly infectious, funky theme tune (that loops in about five seconds); for another it shows the world from a kid’s perspective, with very little sugar-coating; for another, it is an essay in beautifully economic claymation film-making; for another its small-town Swiss-Antarctic setting is strangely plausible and very appealing; for another its dialogue is completely asemic, leaving the viewer to fill in much of the detail; for another … etc etc. There are a lot of things to like about Pingu. I think so, so does Zainab Akhtar (editor of this book and head (sole?) honcho of publisher ShortBox), and so do the sixteen very talented cartoonists and illustrators that contributed to Pingu Zine.

I would be unlikely to buy an officially licensed comic featuring a children’s TV character; even if it was spun off from a show I loved, it would be unlikely to carry the virtues of that show from one medium to another, and the ‘official’ version is unlikely to have much to add to what I know already. An unofficial fanzine, on the other hand, is at liberty to present as many, as various, and as outlandish interpretations as it wishes, and is motivated solely by love, by the desire to create in response.

Pingu Zine contains a selection of  illustrations (‘pin-ups’) and short narrative strips, as diverse in their creative premises as you would expect from sixteen artists left to their own devices, that enjoy all of the scope for reflection or subversion that comes with the collection’s unofficial status. Most offer a take on one facet of the show, or of their response to it, such as the existential angst occasioned by a young Michael Furler’s encounter with the walrus, or Becca Tobin’s terrifying quadrupedal fish murderers; others explore one or another of its narrative themes, as in Jessi Zabarsky’s pithy lacrimal cycle, or Lottie Pencheon’s exploration of anger and regret. The total effect is to highlight aspects of Pingu that one might not readily associate with children’s TV – its high pathos and tragedy, for example. It is also the occasion of some gorgeous, creative illustrative art, and some concisely involving storytelling. It is beautifully printed on high quality paper, and a real pleasure to hold and enjoy. I’ve been to art exhibitions that had considerably less to offer than this slim, staple-bound one-shot.

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