Dan White’s Cindy and Biscuit returns – with a difference! We’re going back to see where the beginnings of one of the best double-acts in comics started. And it’s just as beautifully charming and subtly dark as it’s always been. Year One might be short, but it’s perfectly short.
What’s that? There’s a new Cindy & Biscuit comic out from Dan White? And it’s all about Cindy and Biscuit when they were much younger, in Cindy & Biscuit – Year One. Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice!
Hopefully, you’ve heard me talk about White’s Cindy and Biscuit before – I reviewed Cindy and Biscuit – Sundays back in the early part of 2018, calling it one of the best of 2017. Which was no surprise to me – after all, I’ve loved White’s creation since I first saw it back in 2011 in the New British Comics anthology. Since then, White’s released a fair few Cindy and Biscuit comics, collected into 187 pages of brilliance as Cindy and Biscuit Volume 1: We Love Trouble, two big issues of Cindy and Biscuit: The Bad Girl, and the aforementioned Cindy and Biscuit: Sundays.
Basically, they’re all just the most wonderful comics you could get – ostensibly all-ages, but packed with layers and layers of meaning and darkness – should you choose to see them.
Cindy is the little girl, Biscuit is her dog. Here they are…
And in the comics thus far we’ve seen a pre-teen Cindy face trouble with all manner of nasties – monsters, cryptid thingies, ghosts, marauding robots, aliens, pretty much anything you can imagine. If it’s here to cause trouble, Cindy (and Biscuit) has a big stick (‘good soldier’) with their name on it.
And ‘Imagine’ is a crucial word to describe Cindy and Biscuit, because it’s perfectly possible to think of it as just the overactive imagination of a rather lonely and isolated child. Or maybe the monsters are real and Cindy’s facing not just them but the disbelief and scorn of her peers and her mom.
You can see where the darkness comes creeping in, can’t you? And there’s definitely plenty of darkness in there if you look. And I’m not talking about just the monsters, or even the inherent creepiness of Cindy’s pupil-less eyes. No, it’s all coming from Cindy’s background, the loneliness, the isolation, her mom’s bad-tempered, even – just occasionally, but enough to make it a thing in my head – perhaps borderline abusive and neglectful of her child. Add to that a school life that’s full of incidents yet not full of friends – Cindy’s that kid you remember at your school, the one that no-one wanted to be friends with, for reasons they weren’t always sure of – and you have something that really does build and build into melancholia and something almost traumatic when you really start thinking about it.
Anyway, that’s the background to the comics. Needless to say, I think they’re all essential purchases.
But they’re not what I’m here to talk about. No, because today is a great, great day, as the first new Cindy & Biscuit comics for four years turned up the other day – Cindy and Biscuit: Year One.
And this time, Cindy and Biscuit are looking like this…
Debuting at Thought Bubble the other week, Cindy and Biscuit: Year One, is just eight pages long, just six pages inside, but it’s a glorious, wonderful, hugely enjoyable thing.
For a start, White’s adopted the Sunday comics broadsheet approach to it in print, so although it’s eight pages long, it’s still got a beautifully tactile feel when you pick it up.
Here’s White’s recent TB table so you can see the size difference I’m talking about…
We’re going all the way back to the earliest days of Cindy and Biscuit, with the pair of them younger, but still involved in all the strangeness that we’ve come to appreciate.
Here, you’ll see them come up against, in no particular order, a possessed paddling pool, strange aliens, spectral beings that can only be seen by Biscuit (and a magical mask that Cindy finds), a demonic pink goblin thing, and a weird green, multi-eyed thingymabob.
It’s bigger, brighter, and lighter than what we’ve seen before, with White making all the best use of those big broadsheet pages to tell one little adventure on every one of the six story pages here.
And the meetings with at least some of the monsters are a lot lighter, such as this one…
Yes, it looks serious, but the final panel shows us a much lighter side of it all, with Cindy treating it all, at this point, as a little bit of a game. And while we’re looking at that little example, take note of just how perfectly White shows us his characters in motion, a kinetic sense of the action done so well.
However, as a perfect contrast to the lightness seen, there’s also that wonderful bit of darkness creeping in even here. And as much as I’m deliberately not showing you much of the art, as I want you to be buying it and loving it for yourself, I want to share just one full page with you, breaking it down into the particular beats of the page to show you just how exceptional White’s ability to compress so much into so few panels, so few lines to give us a huge amount of the feels…
So, first half of the page, Cindy just being a kid…
The art is just so simple, but there’s so much to believe in the body language, so much that makes it feel just right. Something as simple as Cindy sitting down for a cuddly toy tea party just feels right. Except, it’s not right. Sure, it’s all set up like that, but the final panel reminds us that she’s just not a normal kid. Hell, it’s the Year One moment if you want, where Cindy first sets out on her life’s mission.
It’s still all super lovely and sweet, the artwork simplified, the colours popping.
But fear not, it doesn’t take too long to deliver a little chill down the spine…
The creepiness of a kid’s toy talking to them like that – oh, that’s a perfect bit of bitterness to cut across the sweetness.
But then there’s the final panel of the three – Cindy’s look so strong – nothing’s going to put her off her mission. That steely glare, the facial expression, it’s just a perfect look.
All leading to this. A perfect end…
Yep, perfect pretty much sums it all up.
Dan White‘s Cindy and Biscuit, plus his excellent horror comics, Sticky Ribs, and the however the hell you want to categorise it book of Terminus should be available in various digital/print formats at his shop. Be sure to stop by his website, Twitter, and subscribe to the Silence! Podcast he does with Fraser Geesin