Elsie Harris PicturePalace
Writer: Jessica Martin
Artist: Jessica Martin
Format: Graphic novel
The 1930s are often thought of as the golden age of Hollywood. Squeezed between two World Wars, they feel now like a brief, glamorous respite from the defining horrors of the 20th century, which is one of the things that make this original graphic novel, written and drawn by Jessica Martin, so appealing – and occasionally melancholy. It’s not a sequel, but very much in a similar vein to her well-received short work from last year, It Girl.
The hero of the book’s title is Elsie, a young girl from a poor background, who is besotted with Hollywood. She wants to become an actress (the profession that Martin herself is best known for), but ends up as a star behind the scenes instead (no spoilers here, she’s well on her way before the book’s halfway mark). Immensely gifted, she finds fulfilment – but also her fair share of frustrations and disappointments from an industry that largely treats her with scepticism.
It’s an unconventional premise for an unconventional book, but one that’s immensely charming and refreshingly optimistic, even though it’s clear from the off where the story is going. Elsie is always sympathetic and likeable, and Martin has a knack of finding the humanity in even the more antagonistic characters.
But our foreknowledge of realworld events also hangs over the book. We all know that there’s a terrible darkness on the horizon for some of these characters, which lends the story weight.
Martin’s art style is loose and fluid throughout, the monochrome the ideal match for the period and style. The shading, however, is not always quite up to snuff. For the most part it’s fine, but every now and again a page will come along that looks a little scrappy and unfinished because of it.
Still, that’s a small criticism. We want comics that are bold and different. Elsie Harris Picture
Palace is all of those things and more. A poignant and charming book. Will Salmon
1930s Hollywood is always appealing...