We all love cinema, right? Sure, perhaps to different degrees, but we all have at least one moment in our lives where we found ourselves sitting, open-mouthed, utterly transfixed by what was unfolding on the screen before us. And that’s what Reel Love is about, in essence; the love and passion that a young boy finds in the films he watches, in the heroes he sees on the big screen, and the inspiration that leads to him wanting to create a film of his own and to become a part of the magical industry he becomes obsessed by.
However, rather than serving merely as a love letter to the world of cinema, this book is also deeply rooted in exploring the inherent, almost naive innocence of childhood. That first “best friend” who we find ourselves connecting with so perfectly that it makes us question whether they’re actually real or whether we just dreamt them up to keep us company. That first sting as we realise that our own ideas and passions aren’t necessarily shared by everyone else around us, ‘best friends’ included. And rather than just coming across as a rose-tinted ode to the magic of the big screen, Reel Love is every bit as much about our optimistic yet tragic protagonist, and the painful realities of growing up.
The story is conveyed beautifully by Johnson’s energetic, passionate artwork. Sketchy in places, sure, and occasionally lacking in detail, but always remaining gloriously emotive and filled to the brim with juicy pop culture references and knowing nods to the films of the past. Johnson’s own love for the world of cinema is readily apparent on almost every page, and he does a fantastic job of capturing the sense of sheer awe that the big screen can invoke in us. I’m sure a lot of people around my age can fully relate to the feeling of ‘love at first sight’ that we experienced as that Star Destroyer flew overhead in the opening shot of Star Wars, a moment which Johnson perfectly illustrates in a brilliant two-page splash.
This is a book that resonated deeply with me, not just due to the pop culture references which just flat-out ‘clicked’ (Star Wars? Check. Lord of the Rings? Check. Ocarina of Time? Yep, I’m pretty much hooked), but also as a summary of the overall experience of growing up. Sometimes we do get a little too excited about things, sometimes we can’t see the line between passion and obsession, and sometimes we can find ourselves – consciously or subconsciously – pushing away people who care about us because we don’t think that they share that same passion that we do.
So what we have here with Reel Love is a love letter, not just to the world of cinema, but to the effect that movies can have on us as we grow up, both positive and negative. Perhaps if you’re not as immersed and fascinated by the world of cinema as I am, you may not get the same sense of reward from the references, or from the overall sentiment, but there’s definitely a lot to love about this book regardless of your background. Expressive artwork, some truly inspired page layouts, and an intimate, warts-and-all story of the naïve nostalgia of childhood.
If you’re at Glasgow Comic Con next week, you need to pick this one up. It’s just that simple.
Reel Love: Act One will make it debut at Glasgow Comic Con 2014 on the 5th and 6th of July
You can also keep up to date on the latest news regarding this title via the DoGooder Comics Website.
The writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson (aka Ceej)
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