I first encountered Ben Passmore’s work online in the form of the title comic, “Your Black Friend.” Though admittedly not the most glamorous of beginnings, it stopped me scrolling through Facebook or Tumblr or whatever soul-sucking conveyor line of shitty news and shittier spelling I was consuming, and I read the comic. I thought it was beautiful, and relevant, and witty, and the colors were gorgeous, and all those good things, but I mostly forgot about it as one tends to forget things they read on the internet.
This did not quell my surprise and joy when I saw Your Black Friend & Other Strangers on the new graphic novel display at my library. I was ecstatic to find out there were more comics out there by Passmore, and even more ecstatic that he seemed like more than a one-hit wonder. Even just reading the introduction to the volume, I was stoked. This guy gets it, I thought.
I got lucky, because he does get it. Not only are the comics gorgeous—and they are gorgeous: the colors are fantastic, the characters well-designed, with an overall great visual vibe—if you’ll let me use that weird expression, about the collection, but the stories ring honest and true. Though some are more abstract in storyline, many address completely contemporary issues in an almost biting manner. A particular favorite is “It’s Not about You,” an introspective look into Passmore’s reaction to being introduced—and attracted to—someone who uses the gender-neutral pronouns “they/them.” At first, he’s confused and angry, but as the night goes on, he comes to the realization that their identity isn’t about him.
The comics in the Your Black Friend collection tend towards a similar framework. Something seemingly complex that we see everyday comes up and Passmore breaks it down to the bones of the issue while retaining a humor and beauty about it. Even the more abstract comics, such as “ok stoopd!” and “The Vampire” serve as metaphors for social and political conditions in the way only comics can. The visuals are central to this metaphor, as in “ok stoopd!,” in which an anthropomorphic chicken serves as a visual metaphor for reactionary fuckheads. Without this visual, the incredibly short scene wouldn’t have the clever punch it does.
Again and again, Passmore draws you into his world, even if just for a single page, and teaches you something, all the while making you laugh and your heart swell in the fun of it all. These comics are good for the tired, jaded, and cynical soul of 2018. –Jimmy Cooper (Silver Sprocket, silversprocket.net)