Your Black Friend and Other Strangers

Writer / Artist
Your Black Friend and Other Strangers
Your Black Friend and Other Strangers review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Silver Sprocket - 978-1-945509-20-9
  • Release date: 2018
  • UPC: 9781945509209
  • Contains adult content?: yes
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: yes

Ben Passmore’s is a voice that should heard when racism, that shame of humanity, has actually re-emerged into public display as if this were the 19th century, not the 21st. It’s far from the sole topic addressed in a thought-provoking collection of strips, in which Passmore sells his observations and experiences with vibrant underground style cartooning.

One strip ends with Passmore concluding he’s run out of things to say. It’s with reference to his mother informing him she intends to vote for Donald Trump, but it’s difficult to imagine in any circumstances as each of his strips offers a salient voice of conviction. The title strip is written in the second person, pointedly referencing behaviour on a scale from negligent and patronising to offensive on the part of people who’d consider they mean well. It’s a distillation of a topic that’s referenced in several forms in strips Passmore had previously produced, also included.

While the collection is titled after a strip making it’s point succinctly, the centrepiece is ‘Whose Free Speech?’ a longer and wide-ranging treatise, starting by taking the American Civil Liberties Union to task. They now consider their brief as apolitical, and so defend right wing views about the removal of statues African-Americans consider offensive. The broader point reached is that single strand peaceful protest has only very rarely worked, and any effective movement for change has multiple strands, but along the way Passmore educates and reasons with fervour.

Not everything is politicised, but few of the strips without political observation have the same strength, while some lack clarity. ‘A Pantomime Horse 1’ mixes a possible jailbreak with scenes from World War I’s trench warfare, and ‘The Punklord’ is an extended scattershot reflection on urban life in metaphorical video game terms. Both are nicely drawn, but are likely to mean more to the creator than the audience. Passmore’s on better form when relating his arrest at an anti-KKK protest, reflecting on the conclusion of an impressive cycle ride, or during a succinct poke at Christianity. And lest this all sounds dry and hectoring, every strip has the sugar coating applied by the cartooning.

What Passmore has to say matters, but even more so with regard to his chosen medium, as English language comics are majorly disproportionate when it comes to anything other than white participation. Your Black Friend is therefore going to reach and teach. The broad thrust of his views remain valid even though the political scene Passmore reflects on was that of 2016, since when the Black Lives Matter movement has gained considerable traction (albeit through appalling circumstances). Agreement isn’t compulsory, but rational thought is.