Every morning, we wake up to a new bile-filled hurricane of headlines. In its third issue, Richard Short’s Klaus magazine proves to be a shelter from the storm. It’s healthier to become excessively melancholy over the way the tide rolls in on the paws of a cat longing for the love of a horse rather than, you know, the shitty news. In Klaus, romantic platitudes are routinely announced and soft breezes graze feathers and fur. These are picnic comics, daydreaming comics, and right now, thanks to the sincerity Short fills his cast of felines and vermin with, completely necessary comics.
That’s not to say anything really happens in Klaus. One widowed bird attempts to woo the cat who devoured her husband. Another cat becomes an agent of chaos and knocks down all the structures the meticulous moles have built. Horses prance in distant fields and in a duck’s vivid fantasies. But most of all, these wistful beasts just sit around and pine away the day. They simply exist, showcasing one of Short’s greatest strengths: creating comics that are gentle without ever being cloying. Klaus can be like poetry in that way.
I’m not throwing around the term “poetry” like it’s often used in art comics lingo, as a stand-in for geometric squiggles on a page. Short is obviously concerning himself with line breaks and rhythm. The latter is aided by the layout. The majority of all Klaus comics are in a stacked four-panel grid with two strips to a page. Focusing on various themes and going back and forth between different characters in Short’s strong array, reading Klaus never feels like a chore like some strip collections. Short doesn’t produce these daily and you can tell. Situations never go stale and the punchline well is never wrung dry. Each strip feels like its very own distinct vignette.
Klaus clearly comes out of the schools of Schulz and Jansson, but the setting and character design suggest Suihō Tagawa and the way the casts’ soliloquies seemingly continue on from panel to panel even when the backdrop has changed is reminiscent of Herriman. (Or David King. Please come back to comics, David.) It’s a good mixture of influence that creates a comic where everything feels like it’s in the right place. From the swaying grass to the curly-q lower-case “d”s in the word balloons, Klaus is satisfyingly pleasant, even when the cats and rats that fill the pages are toiling in anguish or delusion. Richard Short makes it possible for readers to be at ease, even if the characters are not. In these times, it’s easy to be engulfed by anxiety, despair, and resentment. At the very least, Klaus magazine gives us a minute to catch our breath and leave all that up to the animals.
RJ Casey works for Fantagraphics Books, which distributes several Breakdown Press titles in the United States. Klaus magazine is not one of them.