Lonnie Mann went on a trip to Iceland in 2012 and converted his adventures into a series of comic books.
If you’ve ever traveled alone then the events of Thoughts From Iceland #1 will be unsurprising. Lonnie boards his plane at JFK, watches some crappy in-flight movies and lands in Iceland. He struggles with such things as the language barrier, his hotel room not being ready upon his arrival and the lack of an American convertor for his plethora of electronic devices. There is a record of the various tourist attractions, strange sights (including a visit to the Phallological Museum – which I looked up and is a real place), and an account of the time he missed his boyfriend.
Alright, it probably does not sound that exciting – and it’s really not, but Lonnie Mann presents an honest, un-romanticized look at solo international travel. He tells his tale sweetly, in the confidential tone I’ve come to respect from such personal independent comic books. Adding to the distinctly personal touch the final pages of Thoughts From Iceland #1 are personal photographs from the writer’s escapades abroad.
While these elements certainly work in favour of Thoughts From Iceland #1 the plot (which is to say, Lonnie’s adventures), is in no way resolved by the end. It has obviously been Mann’s intent to have Thoughts From Iceland be an ongoing series, but with the lack of real conflict in, what is essentially the writer’s diary, the reader could be left with a feeling of being unfulfilled in the end. In this case I think the lack of a classic comic book narrative structure adds to quirky indie charm of Thoughts From Iceland #1, but this particular device may be problematic for some readers. I, however, have a great affinity for personal, independently published stories, so my biggest problem with this issue would have been how exactly to pronounce Reykjavik if I hadn’t taken high school geography.
PERSONAL AND CARTOONY
Lonnie Mann’s artistic view of the world is as endearing as his narrative voice throughout Thoughts From Iceland #1. He presents himself in every way as the awkward, slightly-nerdy man adrift in a world of beautiful, extroverted foreigners. The world (which is to say: Reykjavik, Iceland), is presented in a hyper-simplified style which speaks to the inherent gloss one places over a foreign city when visiting for the very first time … and given the photographic evidence in the issue’s latter pages Mann manages a fair facsimile of actual Reykjavik attractions.
To sum up Thoughts From Iceland #1 aesthetically I will say that: it is as if the reader were seeing the world through Mann’s own unique, Americanized filter. In this case it happens to be incredibly charming and downright cute (even for the middle of winter), and certainly makes Iceland seem nothing short of a wonderful place to spend adventure time.
INDIE GO GO
If you are the type of reader prone to pick up independent slice-of-life comics with stylized art and go: “Awe!” or “This looks neat!” then Thoughts From Iceland #1 is for you. Everything about it from Lonnie Mann’s own voice and self-perception to the irregular plot structure combine to create a simple story told with affection.