Monday, May 24, 2010
Train to Shanghai
By Rob Jackson
I spent two years living and travelling around various parts of Asia, so I’m always curious about other people’s experiences in the same countries. Shanghai wasn’t somewhere I ever managed to get to (I only went to Beijing in China), but Jackson’s tale features a lot of things that I grew to know during my time in that part of the world.
This really is a comic solely about a (33 hour) train ride to Shanghai. Jackson was living in Harbin (which appears to be in the ass end of nowhere near North Korea and Russia) in the late ‘90s. He’d lost his job as a teacher and set off for Shanghai because apparently that was where the jobs were. Jackson breaks the next thirty three hours into things that are familiar to me, not being able to communicate with anyone else, being utterly confused/disgusted by things (people spit so much! Partially due to pollution, but still!), the sense of isolation, the paranoia and fear that something will go wrong, not having any idea what to do when you get to a new city. They were all things I had experienced when I lived there.
The art here is not the greatest. Actually, that’s unfair to Jackson. I think his drawings of the train itself, and the cities and buildings he passes are fairly good (and I like the collage elements he occasionally uses), I’m just not a fan of how he draws most people, as they often seem strange and rather simplistic. The style does work well for a large crowd scene when he first arrives in Shanghai, but less well with the fewer people in his train carriage.
(The guy on the right is how Jackson usually draws his people. On the left is how he draws himself after just waking up. I like the juxtaposition.)
I do have one unanswered question: Did Jackson really go on an incredibly long train ride without anything to read as this comic seems to imply? I doubt there was much reading material in Harbin, but there must have been something!