A description of the premise, while intriguing, doesn’t do the project justice. Nelson is a multi-creator anthology in which each artist shows us a day in another year in Nelson’s life, from her birth in 1968 to what she’s doing in 2011. Along the way, we see how attitudes and lifestyles change in the UK over the decades, while noticing the patterns that repeat themselves as people grow up, struggling against becoming their parents.
It’s a wonderful glimpse of the wide range of talent working in the UK today. I was eager to see work by my known favorites, such as Andi Watson, Ellen Lindner, Roger Langridge, Woodrow Phoenix, and Posy Simmonds, but I didn’t realize how many new (to me) creators I’d discover as well, including editor Rob Davis, Sarah McIntyre, Sean Longcroft, Rian Hughes, Kate Brown, Adam Cadwell, Garen Ewing, and Laura Howell. The biographies section, with more information on the artists and their work, is thus appreciated.
I was amazed to see how much depth was found in what could have been just a star-studded game. The material isn’t superficial. We see Nelson’s parents cope with the death of another child, try to manage the wife’s mother’s racism (complicated by the husband’s friendship with a black co-worker), the move to the suburbs to raise the children, fears of nuclear war, and political changes affecting employment.
More, it’s a touching portrait of a universal life, from how parents hope the world for their baby to the challenge and wonder of raising an imaginative child to having to make choices about the future while not feeling ready. There are overheated vacations and changing fashions and teenage pranks, plus lots of adolescent rebellion and sibling rivalry as Nelson struggles through art school and pursuing creative work.
The book rewards your attention, especially since the characters can be drawn differently in different styles. I was left thinking about both what Nelson and I had in common and how different we are (especially given the cultural and political differences between the US and the UK).
If you buy directly from publisher Blank Slate, they are donating all profits to Shelter, a housing and homelessness charity. If nothing else, that link will give you the full list of contributors. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)