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mercoledì 9 aprile 2014

Koyama Press Special Part 2: Very Casual, Journal & Little Tommy Lost

I'm going on and concluding with considerable delay my special feature about Koyama Press books of 2013 (here is the first part, where I talked about Blobby Boys by Alex Schubert and Everything Takes Forever by Victor Kerlow), hoping that this overview will serve at least as an appetizer for the new publishing schedule, which will be launched in May at the Toronto Comics Arts Festival with three new titles, A Body Beneath by Michael DeForge, Safari Honeymoon by Jesse Jacobs and Cat Person by Seo Kim. In this post, I'll try to be short, mentioning the aspects that impressed me the most of books published several months ago.
I'm beginning with Very Casual by Michael DeForge (May 2013, 152 pages, b&w and color, 6x9 inches, $15 Cdn), a collection that shows all the artistic skills of the Canadian cartoonist, putting together strips, illustrations and comics for the most part already published in comic books, magazines and anthologies. Very Casual is mainly about DeForge's obsession for something the Situationists would call the détournement of the body, human or animal, turned into a kind of blob through a meandering and morbidly obsessive style.

And so a black and mushy being becomes a sexy queen thanks to some strange accessories, two punks start to transform themselves after eating a slice of meat cut from a snowman, a strange video(drome) relates a woman's sensual body with that of the spectator. DeForge's graphic imagination has no limits and in some illustrations it has an incomparable visionary strenght. Among the different comics, I'd like to mention a story already published by Koyama, All About the Spotting Deer, a sort of documentary, in full color, on a strange species of deer that is an endless succession of narrative and graphic ideas. Very Casual is a great book.

At the Toronto Comics Arts Festival, but this time for Drawn & Quarterly, will be released also the new book by Julie Delporte, Everywhere Antennas, the follow-up of Journal, written originally in French and translated into English by Koyama. Just as Very Casual, I would have certainly added Journal (May 2013, 184 pages, full color, 6,5x9 inches, $20 Cdn) to my list of the best comics of last year if I had made one, since this autobiographical diary, set between Montreal and Vermont, about a long sentimental separation is one of the most touching books I've read recently.
The story is detailed, the sentences are brief and effective, the thoughts deep, the memories of the past moving, and going forward it seems to know the author, also thanks to the drawings, which through the use of colored pencils and essential figures recall the childhood creating a warm and family atmosphere. I found particularly interesting as the personal vicissitudes join indissolubly with the development of the creative process. And at the end of the book we got the benefits of this personal and artistic growth.

I'm closing this overwiev about Koyama Press with Little Tommy Lost by Cole Closser (September 2013, 72 pages, b&w and color, 10x7,5 inches, $15 Cdn), a graduated of the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction and also a rising star of the contemporary comics who looks at the tradition. His first major release is a fictional collection of black and white newspaper strip, with the classic Sunday pages in full color, obviously inspired by Harold Gray's Little Orphan Annie. The idea is not new but the way in which it's realized is extremely effective and enjoyable. The strips are reproduced on a dirty paper that resembles that of the newspapers, as if they really came from the early years of the twentieth century. Even the narrative style is true to the form chosen by Closser, since the story of Tommy is developed with the repetitiveness typical of the strips, as if the author really has the task of remembering the general plot to the casual reader who browse the newspaper on the train or at the bar. The Sunday strips are the space in which Closser unleashes his imagination, wandering from the main theme and realizing some wonderful graphic experiments, mostly reminiscent of Winsor McCay.

The story looks further back, at the nineteenth century literature, which Closser used as inspiration also in the adaptation of Brothers Grimm's Bearskin, released by Rotland Press (I'll talk about it in a next post). Little Tommy Lost is in fact a typically Dickensian story, in which little Tommy travels from Missouri to the big city with his parents and he losts himself. Found by a policeman, he's brought into an orphanage, which in reality is a factory led by the merciless Mr. Greaves. In this first chapter the story focuses primarily on Tommy's relationships with the other orphans and on his attempts to escape from his prison. A second book will follow, with a new and intriguing setting.

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