Grit graphic novel: A Review. A continuing series of Artists You Should Know
“Artists you Should Know” is a series that originally appeared on my Tumblr blog. I am reposting and continuing them here partly because I am transitioning away from Tumblr, and want to do more with this kind of content in the future. #artistsyoushouldknow
In this installment of artists you should know I look at the graphic storytelling work of Sliq AKA Ronald Martineau. I review his first long form published work “Grit Book 1“.
Grit Book 1: “A purely fictional series of catastrophic events that befall a group of total idiots.”
So the “warning” on the first page sets up, probably a little too earnestly, that this is no “kiddy comic book” in fact this is no comic book, this is a graphic novel just so we’re all clear on the distinction. Grit is Martineau’s first ever foray into the long format novel realm. It doesn’t disappoint.
The story revolves around a mild-mannered, almost meek, character of a comic book artist named Ron. Yes. His name is Ron. I will let you figure out the significance of that on your own. Without spoiling the story, Ron has a problem. Grit is a murderous, psychopath who for some reason, wants the original treatment of the book you’re reading. Oh yeah, he’s all in Ron’s head, but manifests himself in reality during one of Ron’s many psychotic blackout episodes.
This is a story about psychosis and split personalities in the vein of “Split” and “Unbreakable” Some of Ronald’s known sources of inspiration. There is a certain manic feeling to the art. Its drawn like a deadline has already passed. In true Masamune Shirow style some panels are highly detailed while others border on the drawing of stick figures. This is running gag throughout the book as Grit constantly berates Ron about his “shitty drawing style”. Ronald’s art forgoes clean line work, for thick broad brush strokes and hard angular corners. Grit’s alter egos all have their own “shitty drawn” style and is in itself hilarious because at one point one of Grit’s representations is that of a virtual stick figure with an approximation of his face, much to his own disgust.
Grit is almost a call back to those high school comic books your friends drew to impress themselves. But it rises above that to become a wonderful page turner. The dialog is snappy and punchy and the book doesn’t take itself to seriously. Ronald was definitely channeling Sergio Aragonés and his Groo series with the self-deprecating humor and pretty much lame way the “heroes” deal with the menace of Grit.
In the end it all comes from Ron’s disturbed mind. That place we wish we could activate and use to stop pain, defend against bullies and win the woman of whom we have a deep crush. What Ron conjures up is Grit a mean out of control psychopath who does what Ron only dreams of doing. Its Ronald’s attempt to possibly deal with his own demons as an artist working in a format that has been relegated to the “kiddy section” of the bookstore. There’s just no respect there. Grit the book comes out with guns blazing to give all his naysayers that big “Fuck you. I do what I want.”
Sliq is Ronald, Ronald is Sliq
Ronald Martineau was born on the sunny isle of Trinidad & Tobago. Growing up in the hotbed of creative influences of in Belmont, a suburb of the capital city, Port of Spain. Archer Street would be the focus of the Martineau household where Ronald’s father, a former principal of Trinity Boys Secondary school, would instill in him a passion for comic books. Ronald would be accepted to the prestigious comic book art school, The Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art. Armed with a unique creative flair Ronald would return to T&T and spend 17 years in the soul sucking advertising industry.
Spending this time as a Graphic Artist for so many years gave Ronald tools he didn’t possess at Joe Kubert: the digital kind. Ronald had no idea what Photoshop and Illustrator was but in record time he mastered them. This provided an easy way to transfer his ideas from paper into a digital format. With the tools bred from experience and having to work fast in a high pressure “creative environment” Ronald turned it into high level art. Using his understanding of type and graphic art skills he composites pages differently from the “normal” sequential artists we have come to know.
Grit took almost a decade to be realised. It seems to have started somewhere in 2008 and changed focus many times. Upon leaving the ad business Ronald took the opportunity to dust Grit off and taking the spirit of the book, fleshed them out. What’s apparent is that Grit was always a tale about TrulySliq himself and that didn’t change.
The Artists you should know should keep doing what he’s doing.
I truly hope Ronald continues the series. I will keep buying them. We need to support more of our local artists in their endeavours. Look forward to Grit‘s next attempt to “destroy life”. You can buy your own copy digitally on gumroad.com and for your Kindle. You can also buy a soft cover bound copy on amazon.com.
Ian wanted to be a comic book artist but realised that he has no head for proportions, so he liked using comic sans instead and then grew out of that phase. He is an avid reader of graphic novels. Get in contact with him to see how he can work with your business as a graphic artist.