'Like her, Oscar despised sour things. That's why she loved him most. Strawberry jam was their shared favourite flavour. They spent years boiling sugar-coated strawberries, melting them into thick red sludge and preserving them as tokens of their love.
But sweetness can only last so long before it begins to turn sour. And sometimes the tongue can crave something with more tang.
What else can a sweetheart do than wait around for the fruit flies when the heart begins to fester?'
"This is undoubtedly going to be one of the most acclaimed UK self-published comics of 2021."
Marmalade is my debut long-format comic, created in collaboration with my sister, Charlotte Cassidy, who initially wrote the short story for a university project.
The book is 44-pages long and self-published. I developed a majority of it between February and May 2021 over evenings and weekends whilst working full-time.
I really enjoyed exploring the themes of love, lust, obsession, doubt through visual motifs- fresh summer berries, sticky conserves, citrus fruits and buzzing flies as well as nods to well known works of art and modern cultural references. I found it very fulfilling to create spreads (if you'll pardon the pun) that were playful and dynamic, using shapes like jars, cake, and shards of glass to frame panels and play an active part in telling the story.
The book is available to buy. Suitable for ages 16+ due to some adult themes.
See below for a small taste of how I developed some of the imagery.
The first two spreads of the story in the physical book.
The staircase page was one of my favourites to develop, representing our protagonists steadfast descent into suspicion as she physically goes down to check whether her dubiety is justified. The unravelling orange peel is also fully representative of this as she cannot shake the taste of marmalade on her husband's lips from her mind.
I chose to obscure our nameless protagonist's face throughout the book until the events of the climax, when we finally meet her face to face- almost a reverse of the image above, staring into Oscar's marmalade eyes, we now stare at ourselves through her mirror image. For me, it was important to obscure her throughout the book, whether it be through props, crops, or minimising her, as so much as what she says and does surrounds her husband- we don't really know anything else about her. The Lady Macbeth imagery was also an inevitable inclusion here, connoting the as-of-yet unknown fate of Oscar.
The upside-down wedding cake composition was inspired by Botticelli's 'Map to Hell' (1485) because I wanted to foreshadow that their marriage isn't quite going to be the paradise our protagonist might have been hoping for. I also incorporated flies into the stained glass design that might initially be read as hearts.
This extreme close-up, almost as if we are looking through the eyes of our protagonist, takes place at the the moment she begins to suspect her husband's fidelity. When it came to working with Charlotte's text, I tried not to be too literal as the text was already full of beautifully rich visual ideas- instead, I tried to twist, squeeze and elevate her words to create a bigger picture. Instead of doing the obvious and giving Oscar orange or sticky lips, I felt the menacing appearance of the buzzing fly and his telling (yet obscured) eyes was a much more impactful image.
The wallpaper here, almost obscured by the shadowy figure in the hallway, is a malignant iteration of William Morris's 'Strawberry Thief' (1883). I incorporated an orange tree and dying birds into its design as our protagonist has realised that her Strawberry dream is coming to an end.
I am trying to get better at thumbnailing, but for this project I mostly worked spread by spread.
I made nine tile images to tease the release of the book on my Instagram feed, both boosting my engagement and interest for the reveal before the announcement. Starting from 'E', the tiles spelt out the title of the project using a range of motifs from the story.
Back Cover- three developed roughs (plate, jar, and shelf). I decided to go with the plate as I enjoyed the way it framed the text and it best matched the colours for the already developed front.