Best Of British: Make Your Own Mystery & Horror In Sightings Of Wallace Sendek

by Richard Bruton

More from the best of British comics now, with a comic by two creators I’ve already featured, Douglas Noble and Sean Azzopardi. Talented writers/artists both of them, but here, in the expanded edition of Sightings Of Wallace Sendek, they bring the best of both their fertile imaginations to craft something quite wonderfully surreal, a fragmentary reading experience, something that will sit in your brain long after reading it, the ideas and threads developing in whatever direction you care to take them.

Or, to put it another way, I’ll let Kieron Gillen explain…

The Ziggy Stardust myth as imagined by David Lynch from two of the titans of the British small press.

Yes, that’s about right. It is Ziggy Stardust, filtered through that strange lens as we follow the mystery that was/is the rockstar, Wallace Sendek, who vanished in the 1970s. Since that time, there have been numerous sightings, both by fans and those unaware of quite who he is.

This is a collection of just some of those moments, where Noble and Azzopardi create a series of moments, some simple sightings, others more mysterious, some downright bizarre, even disturbing.

Each ‘sighting’ is presented, seemingly, at least at first, randomly, the dates of each sighting jumping all over, from the 70s through to more recent times. But, as you read each one, certain things begin to pull at you, certain recollections, repetitions of tiny things pulling at you, and the end result is that you begin to do exactly what Noble and Azzopardi want, to begin to act as your own detective in the search for Sendek. Your piecing together of the puzzle of this rock star will be completely different to any one else who has the pleasure of reading it. And that’s the thing that makes it so good, so strange, so fascinating a comic.

Each sighting adds something, no matter how insignificant, but it’s the strange ones that really start your nerves jangling, when a class of students all make the exact same portrait of a man only their teacher knows, when the TV stations in three different countries all throw up the same blurred, yet familiar, image, his agent ponders just when Sendek can be legally declared dead. But two stand out as pointers to something darker for me; There’s the mumbled dream talk of a hitch-hiker, whispering something about a murder, and the tourist on a Greek island, meeting a face from her college days, who replies to her innocent question about when they might meet again with this…

“The next time hell lets me visit”.

And a chill runs through your bones at that moment. Dark writing, incredible art from Azzopardi, it’s the eyes that really do it for me…

And then there’s that moment before the disappearance, in ’76, as Sendek, staring into the window of his limo, breaks down, crying out “There’s no-one in there. No-one’s there”. And then what about Angela Jordon, services retained, but we’re never explicitly told what those services are. She is, however, tracking down those who claim to have seen him last, and has maybe, possibly, connected another disappearance to Sendek’s, a disappearance where all the records have vanished.

Mystery upon mystery, the clues are there to be put together, but the dense nature of the story, the fractured nature of it all, everything means this is a challenging thing, a fascinating, magnificent, take on Ziggy Stardust doing a Lord Lucan, where the disappeared leave traces, imprint upon lives, and it’s all up to you, as reader, to put it all together. You can take whatever you want from Sightings Of Wallace Sendek, read it however you want… is he dead? Has he faked his own death? Is there something sinister to it all? Could he be haunting this world? Is it all merely mass hysteria? Or something more? The answer to each and every one of those questions is yes, no, maybe… it all depends on you.

Now, a lot of the genius of the comic comes from the fractured nature of the moments we experience, but so much of that is down to Azzopardi delivering every bit the deliberate variation in his art styles to match the changing narrative shifts of Noble’s words. There are so many different styles through the book, with each new visual giving something more to the tale. Sometimes it’s simple bold lines, others it’s sketchy crosshatching to darken the mood, then there’s the effects throughout, all chosen with care and style. Each page looks different from the last, creating every bit the visual assault on the senses the narrative demands and deserves.

Sightings Of Wallace Sendek is a comic by Sean Azzopardi and Douglas Noble. Find it and more of the works of both these great British comic makers at their websites; Azzopardi’s Phatcomics and Noble’s Strip For Me.

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