A room with a view – Richard McGuire’s Here

Here by Richard McGuire is ostensibly a graphic novel about a single point in space and the things that happen there over the course of several million years. For the majority of the comic’s duration, the space in question is the corner of a room in a house in America – everything in the story takes place ‘here’

Here by Richard McGuire is ostensibly a graphic novel about a single point in space and the things that happen there over the course of several million years. For the majority of the comic’s duration, the space in question is the corner of a room in a house in America – everything in the story takes place ‘here’…

The comic itself actually started life 25 years ago, as a six-page black and white strip which ran in an 1989 issue of Raw magazine. Despite its brevity it was a radical piece of work and represented a real shift in ideas about how the ‘form’ of a comic book could lead to new ways of storytelling. McGuire’s ambitious new version takes the concept on and expands it into a book.

The corner of the room remains the protagonist, however. As readers, we’re taken right back to the time before the house was built, we see both its construction and destruction and are offered hundreds of snapshots of the various people who have lived there over several generations via snippets of gesture and dialogue.

 

With the viewpoint fixed on the corner of this one room, the angle of which nestles neatly into the spine of the book, McGuire adds other smaller frames to the pages which offer glimpses of years futher back into the past and also into the future.

For example, have a look at the image shown at the top of this post: placed over a background panel from 1964, a smaller inset panel shows 1993, which sits alongside two others from 1932 and 2014 – in each of the three sub-panels a girl is dancing.

 

There are moments of significance detached from larger life stories – arguments and declarations, for example – but we also see snatches of the comings and goings of the everyday.

In one spread, shown below, a large eighteenth-century house burns near to the site of where the book’s own house will be built, while we also see the slightly uncomfortable climax of a joke told in 1989.

 

The link between each ‘event’ is the room (or space) itself, a point in which everything here happens; each  moment becoming in effect a single element of the same story.

Narratives are bookended by expanses of primordial soup-like conditions from several millions of years ago and a post-apocalyptic future landscape.

In between, people get on with being people, they make their mark on each other’s lives – and McGuire records these moments in a fascinating piece of work.

Here by Richard McGuire is published by Hamish Hamilton; £25. See penguin.co.uk and richard-mcguire.com.

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