‘Asleep in the Back.’
Created by Tim Bird.
£5.00. - 32 pages.
A5 sized 148x210mm
The Story - ‘I remember being a child and falling asleep in the back of the car on long motorway journeys. Hypnotised by traffic rhythms and monotone radio. These days its me who's driving and checking my own kids in the rear-view mirror, waiting for them to drift off as we head north, up the A1 to visit my family.’
The Review - This book comes fast on the heels of ‘The Great North Wood’ that appeared on a lot of ‘Best Of..’ lists last year including mine. It’s a shorter affair than the last release and different in many ways. But what it does share with it is that palpable empathic memory of the past. It hangs there in all our memories and we sometimes miss those days as children when everything was simpler and time stood still as we watched wide-eyed at the world and landscape around us.
‘Time drives onwards, Year after year like a constant stream of traffic flowing endlessly along the motorway.’
It’s this often insidious and ubiquitous land of the never-ending motorway vanishing point that Tim transforms into a nostalgic stage. The cover is calmly and beautifully representative of the world inside it’s card outsides. Easily one of the most striking covers in recent comics times it shows the flow of the busy highway, the red lights of cars leaving us and the white headlamps of the cars heading towards the city. Above are the rows of lamp posts like the eyes of illuminating long-legged creatures starring down at the travellers. And above all of this is the nighttime dark grey sky. It has a mellow magnificence and made me press ‘buy’ without bothering to explore it’s interiors.
Inside the book Tim doesn’t let the reader down either. It is gently contemplative like much of his output and has that now familiar slow and measured pace. The family travel through towns to the motorway and the young man in the back dreams of flying high above the buildings, roads and countryside as his sister sleeps soundly beside him. He watches the side of his fathers face who is at the wheel and the tail-lights glow red ahead. This, later in the story, counterpoints to the current day with Tim’s wife and children taking their places in the family car and you realise that not much has really changed. Some pages are full of images and some are more minimalistic and show just a central single drawing. I have absolutely no problem with this approach and especially in the way Tim spins out a story I approach it with relish.
Having read Tim’s comics and interviewed him on occasion I know that this book contains two of his interests. Psycho geography that we saw on show in his ‘Grey Area’ series mingles with the more personal and introspective angles from books like ‘Rock and Pop’ and ‘Our Town’. Since the latter is part of the ‘Grey Area’ series this shows that the two subjects have that affinity and Tim shows the parallels with ourselves and our environment. It certainly reminded me of those long car journeys in days before iPads and only a single comic to read and reread.
In the story as night draws in we see some lovely art on show. The ‘Red Sky at Night’ floats above the journey in a couple of panels - just gorgeous use of flat colour and iconic imagery. We are reminded that even in those moments where time seems to pause the world outside of our cocoon moves on and on.
This is not a book for those who only love punch-ups, disasters, alien invasions, Care Bears and Sonic, monsters or robots. But it is the book you should reach for on a relaxing Saturday afternoon just after you’ve watched the wrestling and before The Basil Brush Show (now..... THAT ages me!)
Head over to Tim’s website here http://www.timothybird.co.uk/ or grab a copy of this great book at https://timbird.bigcartel.com/product/asleep-in-the-back
You can also follow Tim on Twitter @T_J_Bird
Many thanks for reading.