Set in Eastern Europe at the start of the twentieth centaury, Market Day tells the story of Mendleman, a weaver of rugs, who makes the long journey into town to sell his wares. Rug weaving is his vocation, his form of expression, and Mendleman works hard to continue expressing himself through his art. But his life is different now to when he first went independent ten years earlier. He’s married and his wife is about to give birth to their first child.
The frequency of James Sturm’s comics isn’t often enough as far as I’m concerned, but when they arrive they’re as fully formed and as pure as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s fall from the future in the first Terminator film. Every line, every panel and every page seem perfectly considered. Everyone and everything looks beautiful, even the supposedly deformed. Sturm creates comics that always look as if they’ve been made with complete assurance by a master of the craft.
Market Day is perhaps about Sturm’s own relationship with his art, or at least about my relationship with mine. When Mendleman arrives in town to sell his rugs, the shop he can normally rely upon to buy his wares is now run by somebody else who doesn’t appreciate the quality of his craft. After traipsing all over he eventually settles on an impersonal out-of-town emporium that sells everything. (Tesco’s?) As he walks home, he realises he has no choice but to sell his loom now, and is visited by dark desires of his wife and baby dieing during child-birth freeing him to continue his life’s work.
Everybody who is devoted to a creative art should be able to identify with Market Day, particularly as we’re in the midst of a period of austerity. Mendleman experiences the contentment of creation, the drudgery of the market, the joy of appreciation, the frustration of rejection and the bleakness of conformity.
Budgetary stats: This was another purchase made using birthday money. £11.69 from Amazon, retail £12.99. Either way, a beautiful book worth everyone penny.