john cei douglas

They sailed to the moon and listened to the stars

John Cei Douglas’s Holding Patterns is a thing of modest beauty. A collection of seven stories (some new) from the UK comics creator, it’s limited to a blue, black and white color set, with vignettes that rarely involve more than two characters.

“Lost & Found” is split into two pages – it’s a stirring short tucked into 30 or so micro panels that follows an expressive young boy who loses his way in town only to find himself pickaxe-ing through a cave and fending off bats to get back home. Douglas’s usually thin lines go a bit jagged for this frantic episode, and his renderings of the narrative’s natural setting (a watchful owl, a lantern-lit cave) are both humorous and a bit spooky. In the character’s mini progression, Douglas has him visibly irked by his shadow in “Lost” and shortly thereafter decked-out in war paint for “Found,” springing from cliffs to avoid what’s possibly hungry Piranha. 

“Footnotes” is given a bit more room to play out than the others in Holding Patterns have. It’s a season-driven love story, communicating volumes in quaint wordless panels, sometimes framed by Douglas’s lines if their perimeters aren’t relegated to the backdrop, like the farmland that’s slipped behind the regional rail line on page three of the story.

“Footnotes” is dictated largely by the tick of the seasons, which can be painfully slow if there is vast hilly countryside and frustrating train schedules between you and your partner.

Holding Patterns’s “Footnotes” pairs well with Douglas’s Show Me the Map to Your Heart, a single-story mini comic dressed in a folk tale setting. The creator sets Show Me… in fantastic, fable-rooted visuals – a bearded bard and his maiden toast wine glasses miles beneath the sea’s surface; moonlit skies dotted with stars appear as if built by hundreds of strokes. With its gorgeous montages of snow-capped mountaintops and richly detailed meadows, I believe that each page of Douglas’s work here could stand on its own, inspiring a multitude of stories aside from the lovely one that ended up in his final draft. Wonderful stuff.

Illustrations: John Cei Douglas