He Talks Mars / She Talks Venus is a slim, double-sided book of comics from the wildly successful British Tottering-By-Gently strip, which follows a dotty, middle-aged couple of leisure in the English countryside. Dicky and Daffy are a quaint enough pair, and the book is semi-entertaining, how I imagine Brits see The Lockhorns.
The strip is obviously not geared toward someone like me, though like anyone I can identify with the age-old communication gap between men and women, which is the linchpin of the enterprise. But there’s something ironic to the escapist simplicity of the stereotypical Dicky and Daffy, something that’s difficult to get your arms around when considering this book and its author.
Tottering’s creator Annie Tempest lost her 18-year-old son to a heroin overdose last May. Though it shouldn't matter, it does endear the characters who struggle with relative non-issues like making tea and growing old. We should all have such problems.
Tempest's son, Freddie McConnel had struggled with drug addiction for years, and kept a sensitive diary in which passages were published in the UK’s Daily Mail.
So unlike the commercialized and sheltered writings of his mother's topical business, McConnel's writing is poetic and vulnerable (as well both should be, you might suppose). One of the final passages in the moving article reads: "I have just moved to [a friend’s] flat, it’s lovely, it was less than five minutes before I was smoking skag in the bedroom. I feel lost, a passenger at an empty station.”