The Astral Gypsy
Born with spina bifida, disabled graphic artist and martial arts teacher Al Davison has overcome extraordinary obstacles (21 operations by the age of eight, and five murder attempts by his father) to become an extraordinary man. Student filmmaker Richard Cracknell adroitly packs his portrait of the artist into a funky, acid-coloured four-minute documentary. His smartest move ? Letting Davison's surreal comic-book creations loose across multi-image split screens, bringing his subject's witty, self-deprecating testimony to violent life.
The Spiral Cage
The Spiral Cage is the autobiography of the graphic and martial artist Al Davison. The story returns throughout to Al's struggle with a bout of ME, chronic viral fatigue, and spirals around to the other ways he's had to deal with prejudice and acute physical difficulty. He was born with Spina Bifida, was never expected to walk; faced skinheads, ignorant arrogant doctors and intellectuals, school bullies.
Reading a graphic novel, especially one told as masterfully as this one is, you come to forget that the whole thing is based upon repetitions: similar drawings appearing over and over again, relentlessly. The images establish a rhythm: your eye flicks from one to the next, registering the changes in posture, strength, seeing the main character's body not as something that can be easily described - as it might be in words - but as a being that has to be dealt with on its own terms, allowed to carry the story in its own way. The montages of prejudiced, angry faces (there's one terrifying bird-like school bully, his face clotted with prejudice), set against the precise sequences of martial arts work in front of the mirror, are like the mantra Al chants at one point to avoid a violent confrontation. They build up a sense of the way that an individual person's voice and breath and strength and skill can peacefully resist the circumstances which attempt to reduce him.
There are a variety of voices, many of them childlike, many of them lyrical. A book like this is a reminder that `disability' is as much the result of prejudice as of any difference in physical development. This book's technique and narrative are inseparable from each other - at the same time, they describe and perform the remarkable discipline and courage of their creator.