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Things To Do In A Retirement Home
Trailer Park #1

story and art by Aneurin Wright

During this year’s APE con in San Francisco, fellow Planeteer Chris Garcia was dragging me up and down the aisles like a ragdoll as he swept across the floor like the proverbial bat out of hell.

It probably didn’t help that he’d convinced me to try to do an ashcan comic a week before and that I hadn’t slept for the three days prior to the con, but, somehow, I was way more open to suggestion than usual (think “mind-control slugs from ‘The Wrath of Khan’-style” open to suggestion) and, whenever we went to a booth and browsed their wares, Chris turned to me, grinning like an imp, and said, “You know, you need to buy this!” before turning back to the vendor for approval and then resuming doing their job for them, bewitching my wallet to leave my pocket and magically grow thinner.

About $300 later, my mind suddenly became a lot clearer, and, realizing Chris was consorting with The Devil, my wallet remained secure and less open to Mr. Garcia’s telekinetic attacks.

Then I found Aneurin Wright’s booth.

Secure that I could now repel most psychic powers, I allowed myself to be absorbed by the pretty banners arranged behind him and the casual way he soft-sold his latest book: “There’s a bull-guy whose house turns into an elephant. Here, look.” Sure enough, bull-guy’s house turned into an elephant, and it was pretty damn cool. The grayscale art had me thrown a bit, and the book looked homemade in a professional way, but the more I looked at it and the more he told me about what he was doing with it, the more I had to buy it.

Five bucks later, Mr. Garcia bounds up to the booth and takes a quizzical look at it. Realization crosses his face and he rushes to shake Mr. Wright’s hand before gushing over him and, turning to me, says “You need to buy this!” Uh huh. I show him the book I have in hand, and he nods approvingly yet non-patronizingly, then somehow convinces me to buy Wright’s previous book, “Lex Talionis," an adventure story about gorillas, before leaping off into the shadows like the villain he is.

But, dammit, if he wasn’t right.

Anuerin Wright’s style is fascinating. Based on woodcut printing he learned in school, Wright digitally layers his tones in a bold, chunky fashion. I can only imagine how “Lex Talionis” looked in the grayscale format, but the full color Image publication is so lush and vibrant, I have no doubt that when his new book “Thing to do in a Retirement Home Trailer Park* (*When You’re 29 and Unemployed)” gets the same treatment, it’ll be equally gorgeous. As is, the book already achieves nuance and subtlety that both reflects Wright’s growth as a storyteller and the thought that went into spinning this largely autobiographical story.

“Trailer Park” starts with the aforementioned “bull-guy” medicating his dying father, who happens to look like a rhino. It then flashes back to Nye (short for Anuerin, who isn’t bull-guy in real life, of course) getting a phone call on his birthday from his father: turns out dad’s been certified for Hospice, meaning he’ll get better treatment at no additional cost.

Sounds good to Nye, but he knows there has to be a catch and sure enough, there is: the doctor thinks his father only has six months to live. Naturally, Nye’s a bit stunned… then his house kinda turns into an elephant, while he’s sleeping, and jumps out of the neighborhood as Nye shrugs it off and goes back to bed. Some time later, Nye draws what we recognize as the first pages of “Trailer Park” while his dad sleeps in the living room, and, as Nye considers the broken old rhino-man through the doorway, he recalls a time, many years ago, when that rhino-man was young and angry and took it out on the not-quite innocent but certainly undeserving young Nye.

While not as tidy as “Lex Talionis”, “Trailer Park” aspires to tell a difficult and honest tale without making the reader feel like they’re going through another sob story or “oh, but ain’t life sunshine and gumdrops” quasi-inspirational musing. He acknowledges that dealing with the slow death of a loved one is hard, but the one thing that makes it even harder is reconciling the sins of the past with the present situation. There’s a tension flowing through the book, and Wright’s pacing is languid without being tedious. The pauses, transitions, and little details come together so well that you couldn’t see them at all, if they worked any better. At times, it almost feels like one of Will Eisner’s slice of life stories, but then Wright throws us for a loop with the elephant-mounted house or the hyper self-referential phone call from a friend discussing the new comic he’s working on starring (wait for it) a bull-guy.

While the art’s very similar to the “digital woodcut” style from “Lex Talionis," it uses many more fine lines and crookedly overlapping tones. I’m not so sure about this. On the one hand, it fits the story well, giving a more nervous look to it than the powerful shapes of “Lex Talionis”, but, aesthetically, I’m not convinced it’s a step in the right direction. As more and more artists (especially manga influenced ones) discover the joys of shading with Paint Shop Pro or Illustrator, the combined look of hand-drawn lines and digital tones loses it’s novelty. That clean, solid base of “Lex Talionis” is still there, but the unnecessary detail inevitably detracts from the image. Should Wright continue to move away from his early style? Hey, do whatever fits the story. In this case, however, I’m hoping more and more that style will dictate the narrative.

In the future, we have three things to look forward to: “Trailer Park” published in glorious color, the second part making it to press not long after (since he leaves it hanging in the first part), and Wright getting the recognition he deserves from the mainstream.

I’m not sure how much of a market there is for stories about gorillas and bull-guys, but I know I’ll be a pretty regular customer from now on.

Even without a Garcia breathing down my neck.



Jason Schachat

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