Hey, Grownups! Graphic Novels!
Three new releases from the good folks at Drawn & Quarterly
By Wayne Alan Brenner,
4:30PM, Tue. Dec. 6, 2016
Looking for a gift for some comics-loving friend this holiday season, citizen? Or want to get yourself a little something decent in the way of sequential art in a beautifully designed package? Because you deserve it, really, just for having survived almost another whole year on this planet without resorting to homicide or suicide or some other sad 'cide?
Look, we say, no further: It's probably represented, thanks to Canada's comics powerhouse Drawn & Quarterly, in this list that follows.
There’s something about Tom Gauld’s distinctive visual style – all those intensely crosshatched shadows adding the illusion of dimension to his simple outlines – that lends itself to depictions of the surface of the moon. Also, Earth’s closest neighbor is – like much of the man’s humor – dry, dry, dry. So it makes perfect sense that his new book –
Oh, hold on. Maybe I’m suggesting this due to hindsight alone? Maybe there’s a sort of personal retcon happening here, because I’ve just finished Gauld’s delightful Mooncop and so only now can’t help but think his cartooning style is just the right thing to express a lunar landscape and the meager outpost of humanity ensconced (in this futuristic tale, at least) thereupon?
Not busted by this Mooncop, though: That guy’s far too busy (ha!) keeping his crime-solution rate at 100% to waste time messing with any earthbound journo from his past. Far too busy interacting with the rudimentary robots and vending machines and dwindling human population of that not-quite-heavenly body. Far too busy attending to his procedural duties – much as Gauld continues, with this book, attending to what seem to be his duties: Bringing us humor and a sort of romantic weltschmerz in equal measures, in wonderfully illustrated form, in stories that deserve such treatment as Drawn & Quarterly provides with this slender and handsome hardcover.
If we insist that cartoonist and journalistic gadabout Lisa Hanawalt is no more perverted than most of us, we’ve also got to admit that we’re all pretty fucking perverted: Perverted in a friendly and sometimes hilarious way, to be sure.
Sadly, most of us don’t have the talent or the skill or the lack of artistic inhibitions to express those perversions and obsessions and flights of fancy in a way that’s appealing to anyone else. But, happily, that same Hanawalt does have the talent and skill, et cetera, and D&Q has seen fit – because they have good taste, because they know it’ll reap profits – to present whatever the irrepressible young artist improves a series of blank pages with.
In Hot Dog Taste Test the drawings and comics and lists are mostly in keeping with a culinary theme, sure to delight any foodie friends of yours, but of course the woman is, in this new collection, all over the map with her celebration of equestrian activities and a wildlife sanctuary – oh, those otters! – and the excesses of Las Vegas and many other things either scatological or sexy. And Hanawalt’s plethora of watercolors are, as ever, a sort of Fauvist explosion of whimsy and cartoon-realist depictions, drenching a reader’s eyes with so much color that the tears of laughter they might end up crying would resemble tiny little rivers of rainbows trickling down their cheeks.
(Tiny little rivers of rainbows trickling down their cheeks: You know Hanawalt would paint that so adorably. With a horse or a bird or maybe some genitalia in the background.)
So, yeah. There might come a time when we’ve gotten tired of looking at life as rendered, in pen and ink and brush and pigment and boldly honest text, by Lisa Hanawalt after it’s been filtered through her dirty dumb eyes. But that time will likely be a decade & a half after worms have devoured our grave-buried flesh – and by then we wouldn’t really care about anything anyway, would we?
Seth, Seth, Seth …
We don’t say that with exasperation or disdain, the way The Brady Bunch’s Jan was wont to say “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia …” back in the halcyon days of American daytime television, but with a kind of pleased acknowledgement of the artist’s ubiquity this holiday season. Because Seth was a solid portion of that highly giftable D&Q 25th Anniversary Anthology we reviewed a while ago, and because it was he who designed the excellent Haunted Bookshelf series from Biblioasis that recently impressed a certain Mr. Faires and myself, and because this Dominion isn’t just by Seth but is also about that stalwart of the Contemporary Canadian Comicbook Community.
It’s a DVD, for one thing, featuring a film documentary by Luc Chamberland, effectively splicing together a talking appearance of Seth’s at D&Q’s lovely retail outpost, several animations based on the relentlessly dapper fellow’s shorter comics, and home-interview footage of him and his wife Tania (and D&Q’s head honcho Chris Oliveros and – almost required, we’d suggest – Seth’s longtime cartooning pals Chester Brown and Joe Matt).
It’s a DVD, we say, but even the wealth of material therein (definitely a wealth for those who are fans of the man’s work, and at least a curious diversion for those who aren’t) only matches the Seth-designed, comics-enhanced, candid photo-filled, gorgeously produced book (bound in a hardcover sort of leporello style) that the DVD is packaged in. Thinking of the vast cardboard-model city of Dominion that the artist is building in his basement, I’m really wanting to invoke Dylan Thomas here, am eager to indulge in a bit of goofy wordplay along the lines of “Who’s to say Seth shall have no Dominion, y’drunken Welsh git?” But that would be irrelevant, except so far as noting that Seth’s work – here, elsewhere, and everywhere – like that of the poet’s, also traffics in a sort of stylized melancholy brightened with the occasional ghostlights of humor. And we highly recommend an acquaintance with it – and with this well-rendered documentary.