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Cheap Things

Matthias Wivel is here today with another installment of his Eurocomics column, Common Currency. This time, he reviews three French-language comics as a way of examining the unexpected challenges that have been created by the huge aesthetic and technical explosions of recent decades.

Each [of Antoine Marchalot’s stories] is graphically distinct, adapted to the tale at hand: the one about the little boy who refuses to eat his fish, and gets invited by it and his suddenly talking dog to record a “hardcore pornographic rap video,” is rendered in digital imitation of smudged crayon with irradiant coloring and turns spectacularly expressive toward the end; the one about a renegade scientist in a fancy lab secretly trying to hook two potatoes into a network, and eventually succeeding with two dogs instead, is drawn in black and white in thin, clear lines, with old school zip-a-tone-type texturing (very Elvis Studio); the western spoof with a dog-cowboy riding a tiny horse kept in his pocket features black and white or monochrome figures set against hallucinatory, digitally patterned desert landscapes garishly colored not to look like nature.

All this is obviously done with some skill, and the occasional dialogical exchange or visual surprise hits home, but it really, really helps if you are high. Which basically seems to be the point. Now, far be it from me to dissuade people from getting high, or reading comics while doing so, but there’s something safe, even lazy, in resorting to absurd non-sequiturs and digital psychedelia rather than coherently building a humorous language or crafting a visually compelling environment where the absurd takes on its own meaning. In other words, the difference between disposable fare such as this and, say, Cowboy Henk or Megg, Mogg and Owl. The problem here is not so much the one I’ve been outlining of mismatched form and content, but rather a digitally-enhanced shortcut taken to update a traditional comics format — the short-form humor strip.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—The most recent guest on the Comics Alternative podcast is R. Sikoryak.

—It must mean something that an artist as well-established as Paul Dini is putting out a new comic book via Kickstarter, though maybe I’m overinterpreting and this particular project is just not very interesting to publishers.

—Shea Hennum pans a reprint of one of Spain Rodriguez’s last books, Che.


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