There have been countless in-between times I've spent watching ‘Murder, She Wrote’. Whether it was between having breakfast and getting dressed for the day, reading a book and going out for the evening or slouching on the sofa with a hang over, it seems that repeats of the show can always be found playing on some network. The preposterous plots and grandmotherly charm of Angela Lansbury never fail to make me smile and warm my heart. In this new pamphlet 'Angela' with text by Chrissy Williams and illustrations by Howard Hardiman the personality of Angela Lansbury via Jessica Fletcher is explored through a tale of love and obsession. In a confiding deeply-intense monologue stream the narrator speaks directly to Angela in an act which prises free the woman from behind the female super-slueth persona. Through poetic lines and repetition it speaks of a longing for a psychological and sexual connection with her while disentangling the mystery of amorous obsession. “Angela – you draw the dagger out, keep drawing, keep on drawing. This dagger never ends.” Angela is both the instigator and teller of the mystery tales giving her a godlike power which we mortals are enthralled by wanting her stories of small-town murder and intrigue to continue on and on.
Hardiman's illustrations recreate a cast of suspicious characters as might be found in episodes of the show as well as a trail of clues and murder scenes, but each is sharply etched out as if they were woodcuts and coloured in only three vibrant shades of red, white and black. In addition Angela herself is represented as on the hunt for answers, giving a cheeky wink to the camera or staring out at the reader with her face a mask of deep-lined horror. The familiar cartoonish aspect of the genre characters are given a darker edge as if they've been overlaid with the projection of a gothic psychological horror movie. Hardimen says on his website that he was given a brief to imagine Murder, She Wrote as directed by David Lynch. In fact, Lynch appears in the background at one point alongside a cast of characters. Subsequently the pamphlet gives a feeling of deep unease alongside a sense of psychological turmoil mired in absurdity. Shining through all this is Angela’s light-hearted personality making this comic a source of both stark beauty and subversive pleasure. Hardimen’s talent for packing complex emotions into a tenebrous landscape populated by quietly-dignified melancholy figures as was exemplified in his tremendous series ‘The Lengths’ is used to wonderful effect when set against William’s playfully lugubrious poetry. ‘Angela’ emanates with nostalgia tainted with an adult heartache.