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St Louis Post-Dispatch on Dan Zettwoch and Kevin Huizenga

Updated November 20, 2012


August 18, 2012 6:00 am • BY CLIFF FROEHLICH •
Imaginative graphic lit from St. Louis and beyond

Dan Zettwoch’s “Birdseye Bristoe” (Drawn & Quarterly, 64 pages, $19.95) is the most anticipated of them, the first book-length work by one of graphic lit’s most innovative talents. The eponymous protagonist is an iconoclastic old feller who, for opaquely religious reasons, allows the controversial erection of a sky-piercing cell tower on his land. The construction coincides with a visit by his great-niece Krystal and her cousin Clint.

The teens’ and Birdseye’s interactions with one another and the tiny surrounding community constitute the slender “plot,” but the main pleasures of Zettwoch’s work derive not from narrative per se but from the imaginative ways in which he tells his stories. A practiced hand at infographics — i.e., information conveyed through visual means — the artist makes complex use of maps, diagrams and extensive annotations.

The book thus alternates more traditional story-driven interludes with frequently hilarious (but dead-on) explorations of arcane subjects, including a primer on how to harvest nightcrawlers and an exegesis on blood blisters. There’s even a foldout, “Birth of a Cross Section,” that cannily simulates a newspaper graphic offering an “anatomical overview” of the cell tower.

Zettwoch uses these narrative strategies both to provide a richly furnished environment for his characters and to reveal with striking economy their quirky obsessions, memories and feelings. A Rube Goldberg construction of marvelous intricacy, the book begins in dreamlike confusion — starting with the apocalyptic destruction of the cell tower before flashing back to its origins — and assembles its crazy quilt of seemingly stray details into a wonderfully organic whole.

Drawn in a faux-primitivist style — nicely appropriate to Birdseye’s own handmade, down-home inclinations — and colored with a muted palette that emphasizes yellows and reds, “Birdseye Bristoe” merits careful study. Though relatively thin in page count, it’s dense with meaning and allusion.

Zettwoch’s running buddy Kevin Huizenga — a major figure in contemporary cartooning — is similarly interested in fresh ways of constructing narratives. “Gloriana” (Drawn & Quarterly, 118 pages, $19.95) would generate serious excitement if it weren’t simply a repackaging of a 2001 self-published minicomic (“Super Monster” No. 14), which had already received an upgrade in 2004, when it was published in slightly revised form as the second issue of the Huizenga series “Or Else.”

The latest iteration features hard covers, higher-quality paper and an incrementally larger size. If you own one of the previous versions, there’s frankly no reason to invest an additional $20, but if you’re a “Gloriana” newbie, buy the book posthaste.

Starring Huizenga’s recurrent characters — everyman Glenn Ganges and wife Wendy Caramel — the comic features four interlocking vignettes of quotidian events: daydreaming at a desk, putting away the groceries, watching the sun set and the moon rise. Huizenga vamps on these superficially inconsequential moments and makes them surprisingly large by stretching and fragmenting time and by experimenting with different representations of how thought is processed.

Huizenga veers into abstraction in one long stretch, culminating in a glorious four-page gatefold of sometimes baffling imagery. He also deploys his own version of Zettwoch’s infographic approach in a bravura sequence — no doubt influenced by his stint at the St. Louis Science Center — explaining why the moon sometimes looks “blood red.”

In addition to its linked pieces, “Gloriana” even provides a bonus story: a brief, lovely autobiographical piece on the Huizenga family and basketball in Illiana, Ill....
 
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Featured artists

Kevin Huizenga
Dan Zettwoch

           Featured products

Birdseye Bristoe
Gloriana




  Giant Robot reviews The Making Of, Birdseye Bristoe, Gloriana

Updated August 27, 2012


Comics reviews: The Making Of, Birdseye Bristoe, Gloriana

Martin
Aug 15 2012

A lot of you left Comic-Con with the latest scoop on movies, TV shows, and toys. But what about comics? I finally finished my stash of advance and new titles from my favorite page pushers out of Montreal, and here are my takes. Of course, you should buy own copies at Giant Robot on Sawtelle or your local indie bookstore.Comics reviews: The Making Of, Birdseye Bristoe, Gloriana
Martin | 15, August 2012 | MW, News, Reviews Publications | No Comments


A lot of you left Comic-Con with the latest scoop on movies, TV shows, and toys. But what about comics? I finally finished my stash of advance and new titles from my favorite page pushers out of Montreal, and here are my takes. Of course, you should buy own copies at Giant Robot on Sawtelle or your local indie bookstore.



If you read the interview with Brecht Evens that I posted a couple of weeks ago, you already know about his painterly style, colorful aesthetic, and deceptively loose panels. It turns out that his artwork is beautiful to look at and fun to talk about but belie the Belgian artist’s formal composition and masterful storytelling. The Making Of tells the tale of a liberated artist who is expected to liven up an uptight art festival. The story addresses art, partying, and sex, and the effect is not cautionary or sordid but liberated. The subtly playful tone–as well as the subtle randomness, slapstick, and artfulness–remind me more of Blake Edwards’ The Party than any comic book that I’ve ever read, and it’s as much of a page-turner as it is a mind-blower.D. Zettwoch’s Birdseye Bristoe isn’t exactly bedtime reading. Every over-sized page is crammed with images, words, and references, and the point of view not only shifts between the main characters but smaller ones as well. To further challenge skimmers with short attention spans, the saga about a high-tech cell phone tower being erected in a small, rustic town is complemented by an unending barrage of asides that range from science fair projects to science fiction. (In the spread above, you can see not only a reference to the geodesic form that appears on the Suicidal Tendencies debut album but a footnote to Gamera movies.) It’s a testament to Zettwoch’s skill as a storyteller that the barrage of information enhances the mood and builds up the tension rather than diffuse or distract from the plot.The stories in the brand-new hardcover expanded collection of Glen Ganges strips by Kevin Huizenga typically begin with everyday events that trigger existential and scientific daydreams. As you read each story, you can feel the pacing quicken as the protagonist’s mind begins to wander and his fast-moving logic mutates into fantasy. History, astronomy, writing utensils, basketball, and Gamera (again!) are only some of the topics that are mixed and matched as simple errands lead to the end of the world. However, Gloriana never becomes close to boring or pretentious, as Huizenga is as self-deprecatingly committed to the humility of mini comics as he is to pushing the possibilities of the form.
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Featured artists

Kevin Huizenga
Brecht Evens
Dan Zettwoch

           Featured products

Birdseye Bristoe
Gloriana
The Making Of




Huizenga's "Gloriana" reviewed by The Comics Journal

Updated August 27, 2012


Gloriana

BY NICOLE RUDICK
JUL 30, 2012

Every story carries with it stories that aren’t told—versions of itself that might have unfolded had the author chosen slightly different paths for his or her characters. By making a decision to tell a tale in a particular way, all other version are eliminated. But what if instead the reader were able to recognize other ways a story could be told, other ways the action could proceed? And what does a story look like when this potentiality becomes fact?

To start, it might look something like Kevin Huizenga’s Fight or Run, a series of stories in which two characters fight each other or one runs away. Each setup draws from a fixed set of relations, and in each telling (A fights B and wins; B runs from A but then kicks A’s ass; A fights B and loses), all of the variables are present, since the very nature of the exercise is that it is a diagram of possibilities. Spun with more detail, and you might have something like Rashomon or As I Lay Dying, in which multiple perceptions of the same event gradually produce a fuller picture of the characters, their complexities and subtle differences.

This kind of diagrammatic structure, rich with potential, characterizes much of Huizenga’s comics. Variables are at the heart of his work. The “or” in Fight or Run and the title of his minicomics series Or Else highlight the fundamental play of alternatives. Gloriana, a collection of previously published stories, is filled with tales that begin only to reset and begin again. In two panels, the Wendy Caramel prologue builds a symphony of office activity—charted temporally on a graph, in the culminating panel—only to have Huizenga draw from it a single sound to continue the narrative. It resembles a short piece of thread with a big tangle in the middle.

On their own, diagrams don’t formulate or correlate to emotions, but even the most minimal plot can hint at something deeper. The Fight or Run comics are absent all characterization, detail, and narrative flourishes, yet the instant in which a choice is made creates a moment of tension. The second story in Gloriana, “The Groceries”, uses a banal task—unloading groceries—to spin out Glenn Ganges’s daydream about what might transpire in the near future, before retracting the narrative to the “present,” then sending out a new shoot that depicts Wendy’s daydream. Their two imagined scenarios aren’t fantastical but grounded in the commonplace: the often anxious job of raising a child.

While not included in Gloriana, Huizenga’s adaptation of an entry from Kafka’s diary (from Or Else #3) works with a similarly spare framework but achieves far more in emotional effect. (It’s easy to see why this entry intrigued Huizenga—its action can be diagrammed quite simply.) As Kafka steps out to take a walk, he observes, from a corner on an empty street, an “insignificant municipal employee” in the distance inexplicably hosing down the pavement, a task he deems inappropriate; at the next intersection, he watches two men fight, pause, and fight again. In a story in which almost nothing happens, narrative tension is created by Kafka’s very nonparticipation: he seems on the verge of throwing himself into the fray, but in the end, he merely issues a tremulous call, heard by no one, to stop.

When Art Spiegelman, in conversation with Huizenga, suggested that the younger cartoonist’s “distillation process” mirrors poetic concerns, it’s telling that Huizenga countered with “maybe the analogy would be a designer.” The distinction is apt: though Huizenga’s comics work stylistically on the level of poetry, he organizes them according to design, or architectural, principles. His visual stories—often wordless or with a minimum of dialogue—must be read structurally. It’s not for nothing that he’s cited the influence of Chris Ware’s distinction between reading and looking at comics. For Huizenga, who admits a disinterest in visual art (and, by extension, the pure aesthetics of drawing), the idea of reading an image is akin to, say, interpreting the system of a flowchart.

Huizenga’s “The Sunset”, in which Glenn observes a sunset from a library window, is a small masterpiece. Glenn’s emotions in viewing the sunset are the story’s sole subject, and Huizenga portrays them through formal means. Glenn begins to relate the experience, stops, begins again from a slightly different vantage, then stops and tries again. Such is the bulk of the story. “The Sunset” is especially inventive because Glenn’s desire to describe his overwhelming emotion comes through his inability to do the task in a straightforward way. Instead, there are narrative gaps, stopping and starting, and alternating perspectives. Huizenga deconstructs the moment, so that it appears either as a stuttering failure to relay the experience or as an experiential knot Glenn cannot quite parse.

The explosions of awe that Huizenga describes through a compounding abstracted chaos—anthropomorphic sounds busting through panel borders, rhythmic arrangements of tiny panels, regular line work that loosens into scribbled marks—help to emphasize how spare his narratives typically are. Huizenga is a taker-outer, to use Thomas Wolfe’s distinction; he’s a minimalist writer, distilling complex interior experiences into simple yet foundational moments. Ware is also a taker-outer. Another is Charles Schulz. Glenn Ganges is Huizenga’s everyman, as Charlie Brown was Schulz’s. The way Schulz routinely places Charlie Brown before the football, only to pluck it ruthlessly from his reach, is, as Huizenga himself has pointed out, a way of circling around the same idea without ever arriving at the same conclusion—or, for that matter, without ever really telling the same story twice. It’s repetition without being repetitive; each attempt is a variation on a theme. “The Sunset” epitomizes this idea.

In “The Moon Rose”, the enthusiasm, spurred on by nervousness, with which Glenn describes to his neighbors the science behind the unusual moonrise is akin to Charlie Brown’s anxious existentialist speeches (often soliloquies) that always end in a flat note of ironic defeat. Glenn spends a dozen pages, dense with diagrammatic scientific explanations, in a fit of social awkwardness, only to conclude abruptly: “So don’t worry, okay? Just a regular old moonrise”—complete with bead of sweat dangling from his temple.

In Gloriana’s last story, “Basketball”, which serves nicely as a kind of epilogue, Huizenga reminisces on a high school career playing the titular sport. But retrospection blurs the past. He admits that what he most remembers is a view out a fogged-up bus window: “all the lights fuzzy with halos mov[ing] across the steamed up glass.” The past, already completed, contains no potentialities, no variations. It is only a smudge of single events. The future, though, has motion, and anything is possible.
 
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Featured artist

Kevin Huizenga

           Featured product

Gloriana




  "Gloriana" and "Birdseye Bristoe" both reviewed in the A.V. Club

Updated July 25, 2012


Graphic novels & art-comics—June 2012

By Noel Murray
June 25, 2012

Dan Zettwoch and Kevin Huizenga are both St. Louis-based cartoonists in their mid-30s whose comics combine straightforward storytelling with strange interludes: some abstract, and some more like diagrams cribbed from an instruction manual. While the two men have some commonality in their approach—and both produce very good comics—the kinds of stories that they tell differ. Zettwoch’s new book Birdseye Bristoe (Drawn & Quarterly) concerns eccentric characters clustered in a colorful rural community, where the strange becomes normal; while Huizenga’s Gloriana (Drawn & Quarterly) is set in a more familiar suburbia, where the normal sometimes seems strange.
Gloriana continues Huizenga’s “Adventures Of Glenn Ganges” series—or more accurately, it collects a few Ganges pieces previously published in mini-comics. In one of the longer stories, Glenn imagines becoming a father; in another, he encounters some neighbors who are spooked by a full, red moon, and he considers the scientific explanation for the phenomenon. As with all of Huizenga’s Ganges stories, the particulars of what’s actually happening to the hero matter less than what’s going through his head. Huizenga has a gift for depicting distraction: showing what it’s like to be kept awake by nagging worry, or to have difficulty completing a thought because other ideas keep elbowing in. The book culminates in a sequence of densely illustrated pages—connecting astrophysics to optical illusions—complete with charts, labels, and helpful arrows. It’s a powerful contrast to Glenn’s reveries earlier in Gloriana; the hero has difficulty describing how a sunset makes him feel, but he has no problem explaining why a moonrise looks the way it does.
Birdseye Bristoe is also big on explanations, as Zettwoch breaks out schematics to show how his characters live. The book’s eponymous protagonist is an elderly landowner who spends a summer looking after his niece and nephew while trying to convince his neighbors to sign off on the giant cell-phone tower he wants to let a telecom company build on his property. Zettwoch begins at the end of his story and never completely circles back around, letting the reader fill in some of the gaps. But as with Huizenga, Zettwoch doesn’t seem to consider clear narratives to be his primary artistic goal. Birdseye Bristoe is more about Zettwoch’s detailed cross-sections of Uncle Birdseye’s home, where nearly everything is made out of bungee cord and empty 3-liter pop bottles; and it’s about the place the hero lives, which is one of those just-off-the-interstate nowheres that consists of a bait shop, an adult bookstore, and a few scattered farmhouses. There’s both love and awe in the way Zettwoch draws people surviving in a place with no name and no resources, beyond what some corporation chooses to dump at their doorsteps.
Both Gloriana and Birdseye Bristoe feature a fold-out section: In the former, it’s an elaboration of what’s going through Glenn Ganges’ mind as he watches the sunset; in the latter, it’s an annotated drawing of the giant cell tower. In the context of their respective books, both foldouts depict human imagination: one as inward and inarticulate, the other as bold and foolhardy. But in the context of comics as a medium, it matters less what the foldouts say than that they’re there at all. They’re examples of Huizenga and Zettwoch unifying content and package, and considering new ways of presenting information. Even Huizenga’s introduction to Gloriana is clever, presenting Huizenga’s scrawled-out notes rather than an actual intro, as if acknowledging that some ideas are too unwieldy to be contained by mere words on a page.
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Featured artists

Kevin Huizenga
Dan Zettwoch

           Featured products

Birdseye Bristoe
Gloriana




Paste Magazine calls Gloriana "utterly fresh and original."

Updated July 25, 2012


Gloriana: The Adventures of Glenn Ganges
by Kevin Huizenga

Drawn + Quarterly, 2012

Rating: 8.7
HILLARY BROWN
June 20, 2012

Newly reissued in a lovely compact 10th-ish anniversary edition, Kevin Huizenga’s Gloriana is the kind of comic that makes full use of the medium and its flexible approach to time. It also rewards whatever amount of time you spend with it in kind. If you want to read it quickly, you can do that, and you’ll enjoy it. If you want to focus on its elaborate centerfold, flipping back and forth in the book, parsing out each tiny, beautiful drawing, you can do that, too. You might not ever be able to shake out every hidden detail, but that’s its own kind of joy, the kind that means you can keep coming back to a work of art. Even Huizenga’s approach to the idea of alternate fictional universes, a concept that can easily paralyze a writer into never writing at all, afraid to put down anything lest a better option exist, takes on a stuttering, rhythmic beauty. You’ll eventually stop trying to figure out what’s real and what’s not and adopt a kind of cheerful agnosticism. A decade on, this book still feels utterly fresh and original. (HB)
 
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Featured artist

Kevin Huizenga

           Featured product

Gloriana




  A page from "Gloriana" featured in the Paris Review

Updated July 24, 2012


Gloriana
June 22, 2012 | by Kevin Huizenga

In Kevin Huizenga’s new book, Gloriana, the character Glenn Ganges describes a magnificent sunset witnessed from his carrel at the library—or rather, he begins to tell the story, and then he begins again and again and again. With each successive retelling, Glenn’s perspective becomes increasingly abstract and frenetic—focusing now on shelves of books, now on a patron’s feet, now on a book flopping open—until the tale explodes. The story loses its temporal thread; objects and figures reject the panels’ prescriptive limits. The result is a panoptic narrative, in which not just actions but also thoughts and impressions occur at once. That page, originally a fold-out in Supermonster no. 14, is reproduced here.
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Featured artist

Kevin Huizenga

           Featured product

Gloriana




Comic Book Resources reviews 3 Drawn and Quarterly releases

Updated July 19, 2012


One of these things is not like the others: Three new Drawn and Quarterly books


July 10, 2012
by J. Caleb Mozzocco

Here are three June releases from Drawn and Quarterly: Kevin Huizenga’s Gloriana, Chester Brown’s Ed The Happy Clown and Dan Zettwoch’s Birdseye Bristoe.

They have several things in common, aside from the fact that they are all hardcover releases from the same publisher. They are all handsomely designed, for example, they all make lovely coffee table and bookshelf-filling objects, and they are all more or less important comics releases.

One of them is different in several significant ways, however.

The Brown book, which collects a series of strips that quickly evolved into a complete graphic novel from the pages of Brown’s 1980s cult classic Yummy Fur, lacks any fold-out pages.

Gloriana, which features several Glenn Ganges stories, has a four-page, horizontal fold-out of a key sequence in a story that deconstructs a moment in a time down to a molecular, cubist-like level, practically atomizing the comics page into a sort of Guernica of a comic book.

Birdseye Bristoe, the debut graphic novel of a promising new talent about the construction of a gigantic, Tower of Babel-sized cellphone tower in a small rural community, features a vertical, two-page fold-out diagram of the tower.

The Brown book, which does feature plenty of fairly fantastic-to-the-point-of-insane visual subject matter (ghosts, vampires, cannibal pygmies, Frankenstein, mad scientists, a severed self-ambulatory hand, naked ladies, a man who can’t stop defecating, a talking penis with the head of President Reagan who Brown draws to look nothing like Ronald Reagan, etc.), contains absolutely no drawings of Gamera, the giant turtle monster who starred in the 1960s cycle of Japanese giant-monster films.

This fact, on its own, isn’t too terribly remarkable, as a lot of comic books do not feature drawings of Gamera. However, Gloriana and Birdseye Bristoe both do.

In Gloriana, Huizenga uses Gamera as an example of an extremely large object when discussing how the human eye and perception work during a story in which his protagonist Glenn Ganges explains why the moon looks huge and red to some neighbors one night:



In Birdseye Bristoe, Gamera appears in a panel illustrating part of character Clint Murgatroyd’s report on geodesic domes:



Brown’s Ed The Happy Clown differs from the other two books in another, perhaps more relevant to our purposes here, way: I didn’t care for it at all, while I really loved the other two.

Gloriana is another example of Huizenga doing what he does best, extrapolating epic events and consequences out of the most mundane subjects one can imagine: Carrying groceries in from the car, talking to your spouse while unpacking the groceries, having a phone conversation with a friend, noticing the moon one night. The aforementioned sequence, the one that’s so expansive it includes a fold-out, is summarized in a single line of dialogue: “Earlier I was at the library and the sun was setting.”

Birdseye Bristoe is probably the most tremendously exciting of the books, as it is from a relatively new creator, and is big, bright and colorful — the artwork, as well as the characters and storytelling. A cellphone company wants to put a tower into the titular area, and the old guy who owns the land they want to put it on agrees, so long as they meet a few conditions. Meanwhile, his great-niece and great-nephew arrive to spend the summer with him. Zettowoch tells the story by repeatedly breaking it into sections and running gags, usually presented as something appearing in the journals of one of the two teenagers. Krystal draws maps and illustrated lists, offers a tour of her uncle’s bungee cord and two-liter pop bottle inventions and interviews various characters. Clint makes little reports on various subjects. Zettowoch includes recipes and quizzes. The narrative is fast, funny and propulsive, but the experience of reading it is even better — it’s fun.

Ed The Happy Clown, however, is an awful bummer. After a few stop-and-start strips involving the title character, some scientists, some masked policemen and a Chester Brown avatar, a bigger, more ambitious narrative gradually begins to take shape, but it’s pretty tough reading. I made it through Brown’s graphic novel about having sex with prostitutes just fine, despite some misgivings here and there (especially at the resolution and throughout the prose end-section), but a lot of the content here is violent and scatalogical in the extreme.

Brown may draw, say, a room full of feces, or a semen-soaked hand or the head of a bald, jowly man attached to the end of a clowns penis vomiting very well, but that doesn’t really make them things I enjoy looking at. I don’t want to condemn the book purely on content, of course; do note that a cartoonist like Johnny Ryan could draw the same things, or grosser things, and the pictures will come out funny, or at least amusing, because of Ryan’s slick, classic cartoonist style. At this early point in Brown’s career, his style couldn’t really transcend and transform the subject matter, and most of the time, he doesn’t seem to be going for laughs or anything anyway.

I felt kind of defeated by the book, to be honest; I didn’t like it, it was hard for me to read, and I have trouble finding redeeming qualities to it. Aside from the obvious one: It provides a collection of the work of a great and important cartoonist. Certainly its far from his best work, but here it all is, easily accessible, and discussed at great (even tedious) length by the cartoonist himself in copious end notes. Brown’s a cartoonist whose work should all be easily available, to provide context for the rest of it, so I’m glad this book exists, even if I don’t like it.

But more importantly? It could have used a Gamera cameo.
 
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Featured artists

Chester Brown
Kevin Huizenga
Dan Zettwoch

           Featured products

Birdseye Bristoe
Gloriana




  Publisher's Weekly Interviews Kevin Huizenga

Updated July 19, 2012


Kevin Huizenga’s ‘Gloriana’: Glenn Ganges, Euphoria and the Uncertainty of Life


By Casey Burchby

Jul 10, 2012



Based in St. Louis, cartoonist Kevin Huizenga is best known for quiet, introspective work that spins seemingly random trains of thought into beautifully designed, hilarious comics that often merge with metaphysics. Huizenga’s work often features the protagonist Glenn Ganges, a mild-mannered young man who, despite seeming comfortable with his overarching uncertainty toward life, has a tendency to get wrapped up in, and sometimes held prisoner by, his own musings on behavior, the universe, and the workings of his brain.

Huizenga’s newest book is Gloriana, a collection of four early Glenn Ganges stories that combine humor and impressionistic speculation using an overlapping narrative structure. Gloriana has just been published by Drawn and Quarterly. Huizenga corresponded with PW Comics World via email to answer some questions about the Gloriana stories and Glenn Ganges.

PWCW: What did you read as a kid--comics or otherwise? I'm curious about what some of your formative influences may have been.

Kevin Huizenga: My mom liked to read, and when I was a kid we’d go to the library and each bring home a stack of books. I was getting books from the adult science fiction section pretty quickly — the usual, Ray Bradbury, Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Dune and others, the anthologies, and I also got into Stephen King because my mom was reading those books. I didn't read comics until later, age 12 or 13, and then that mostly took over.


Glenn Ganges
PWCW: What inspired these stories? Did you conceive of all four at once?

KH: I had been doing self-published comics for a few years and wanted to try something more ambitious. I didn't know what the stories would be about, I just knew I wanted to do a fat comic book and try out some tricky storytelling, maybe do a fold-out in the middle, and tie it all together.

I began page one not knowing where it would end up, and I guess the first story [“Groceries”] reads weird because it was improvised in pieces. The other stories were more planned out—one [“The Sunset”] inspired by musical forms and the other [“The Moon Rose”] by diagrams. "Basketball," the last story, is different than the Glenn stories, but in the original comic book series it was normal to have a mixed collection of stories, a one-person anthology kind of setup. I left "Basketball" in the book because it always felt like it played off the other Glenn stories in a pretty satisfying way, and I hope the book adds up to more than the sum of its parts.

PWCW: In the ten years since the Gloriana stories were originally released, are you aware of any particular changes in your work or in your attitude toward it?

KH: Two things that have changed since then are having my work published and quitting my day job. Careful what you wish for… It's tricky when your hobby becomes your job. I feel more pressure now, which has unfortunately slowed everything down and complicated my feelings toward what used to be a more pure pleasure, just playing around and making up stuff. It's all in my head, though. I really can't complain. As far as the work itself, of course I hope it's a lot better now, though I can see how I'm still fascinated by the subjects and styles that went into Gloriana.

PWCW: You use the word "euphoric" in your notes at the beginning of the book to describe a feeling you were trying to express in these stories. Did you have any specific experiences that made you want to replicate that euphoria?


From the Kevin Huizenga story, "The Sunset."
KH: That referred to the feeling I felt at one point while working on the "Sunset" story, page 62. Something clicked and I felt really high and good about what I was doing, not that it was necessarily very good or smart, but actually that it was kind of stupid and weird, and had taken on a life of its own, and I felt good about everything in general. It felt really intense, out of nowhere. It was a rare thing, which maybe says something. No drugs were involved. But it had such a strong effect on me that I can't help remember it and think about it when I think about working on these comics. I wasn't trying to communicate that euphoria in the comics, necessarily.

I only mention that experience of euphoria to wonder if other artists sometimes get that feeling too. It's a topic I don't think gets talked about much? Usually, it's all about the hard work and the agony of self-doubt, etc. It's like it's bad manners to talk about the intense pleasure you sometimes feel while absorbed in your work, since it's such a private thing. It's good to remember how great it can be, and it's one of the big reasons you keep at it for years and years, hopefully.

PWCW: "Groceries" ends with a terrific joke. Did the joke come first, or did the idea for the story start some other way?

KH: I started the story not knowing what was going to happen, and then had to figure out a way out. I had read about Thomas Pynchon setting up an elaborate pun in one of his books, and it seemed like such a good/bad idea. Why not? All three of the Glenn stories end with a "punchline," in a way.

PWCW: Did the depiction of Glenn's explosion of thought in the middle of "The Sunset" come intuitively to you? Can you describe the process of designing and planning this seemingly-chaotic, abstract group of pages?

KH: The idea was to hit you with an unexpected, almost physical feeling, when it changes, and then a series of wallops and crescendos and noise, and to have it feel almost like music, and then build up to a busy fold-out, and then fade back to "normal." A lot of it was doodling things and playing them off each other. I put the pages on the floor and played around with the rhythm until it felt close enough.

PWCW: In "The Moon Rose," Glenn spends much of the story providing an extremely detailed description of the science behind the blood-red moon that he and his neighbors are looking at. You get the feeling that the neighbors, who initially see the moon's color as a bad omen, would rather that Glenn hadn't gone to the trouble. Do you share Glenn's fascination with "answers," or is free speculation about the nature of things more satisfying?

KH: I like a good story as much as the next guy. I don't think Glenn was giving them "answers" so much as he was giving them another way to think about what they were seeing. But if the choice is between the kind of story that sees a red moon as an omen of doom and the more naturalistic description, involving light and optics, I think the latter is going to be the more useful one in the long run.

PWCW: What is the upside of uncertainty?

KH: Not being certain and wrong? I don't know that there's an upside, really, but that's life—coming to terms with uncertainties—more or less!

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Featured artist

Kevin Huizenga

           Featured product

Gloriana




Under the Radar reviews Huizenga's "Gloriana"

Updated July 19, 2012


Gloriana


Drawn & Quarterly

By Kevin Huizenga

Jul 09, 2012

By Jeremy Nisen


This newly reissued reprint of Kevin Huizenga's book from 2001 exemplifies how the artist is a master of shifting perspective. During four stories, we telescope into highly personal moments and out into wide views of physical space and out even more into scientific overviews of phenomena. Gloriana also sees Huizenga playing with time, sequence, and imagination in a manner that defines his storytelling voice and separates him from the crowd.

The third story, "The Moon Rose," may be both the best and worst of the lot: while interesting on balance, the scientific explanation of the red moon phenomena drags on ponderously akin to reading comic academia such as Understanding Comics rather than engaging a reader in a narrative. This contrasts with most alt-bio comics, which tend to be ponderous due to naval-gazing, not illustrated physics...so Gloriana can bear it well. And the payoff at the end of the story is punchy, rings true, and oh so worth it. "Basketball" is probably the most straight-forward story, and most emotionally engaging, as it shares family history and taps into experiences many must have when one leaves behind or otherwise outgrows an activity once central to his or her life.

The cartooning throughout is really lovely; in addition to the deft use of camera perspective, Huizenga employs shading and light, panel spacing, and quite effective facial expressions to set a mood.

At its best, Gloriana finds a way to capture the reader by exploring the relatively mundane. It hits a rare sweet spot, effective as art comics and as straight-up narrative. Good stuff.
 
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Kevin Huizenga

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Gloriana




  Dan Zettwoch and Kevin Huizenga in Chicago and St. Louis!

Updated June 7, 2012


Kevin Huizenga (GLORIANA) and Dan Zettwoch (BIRDSEYE BRISTOE) will be hitting the bookstores of Chicago and St Louis this month to promote their brand new D+Q titles.

Friday June 15th, 7pm
Quimbys, 1854 W. North Ave
Chicago
Brief slideshow and signing

Saturday and Sunday, June 16 and 17
CAKE, 1104 S Wabash
Columbia College's Ludington Building, Chicago

Friday June 22nd, 7 pm
Star Clipper, 6392 Delmar Blvd
St. Louis
Brief slideshow, signing, and refreshments to follow.

Featured artists

Kevin Huizenga
Dan Zettwoch

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Birdseye Bristoe
Gloriana




THE WILD KINGDOM reviewed by Washington Square News

Updated February 18, 2011


Surrealist writer Kevin Huizenga is paradoxically concerned with structure. His comics "Or Else" and "Curses" optimize his use of strange imagery and detail the subtle relationships between seemingly unconnected events. Such is the case in his newest graphic novel, "The Wild Kingdom." At first glance, "The Wild Kingdom" can appear totally incomprehensible; there's barely any dialogue and no real plot. Characters appear and disappear at random with no introductions or explanations. Perhaps most confusingly, the book advertises itself as a science textbook: The table of contents promises non-existent chapters like "The Birth of Our Earth," and the inside cover features reprints of an old naturalist field guide.
Images

But these disparate scenes and random images actually come together to create a schizophrenic masterpiece; everything in "The Wild Kingdom" is intertwined, even if it may not seem so at first. Often, the novel's deepest meaning can be gleaned from its tiniest details. For instance, a "Truth Fish," an adaptation of the Ichthys, or "Jesus Fish," makes frequent appearances on the back of a car. It is analyzed to the point of absurdity. The first third of the novel is fairly linear and follows everyman "star" Glenn Ganges through a typical day. But the narrative falls away in the next third of the book, and Huizenga replaces it with a series of satirical commercials for fake products like "Hot New Thing."
The commercials are extremely funny and bitingly satirical. Products are left unmentioned in their own commercials; panels are repeated over and over again with different dialogue advertising different products. The commercials are followed by a series of surreal "diagrams" that chart people, animals and objects that have already appeared.
The diagrams form mountains of fear and misinformation; every animal outside, and most people, are described as "Dangerous" — even squirrels and pigeons. The only positive descriptions are of the products and characters advertised in the preceding commercials. The images pour out in quick and bizarre succession in the book's last third. The last section is filled with strange visions, like absurd "fancy pigeons" and two-page quotations from Maurice Maeterlinck's "The Life of the Bee."
One of the greatest ironies of "The Wild Kingdom" is that it is a self-proclaimed science text with very little "factual" information to be found. All "information" that the book includes has been corrupted and twisted into dangerous squirrels and fancy pigeons by the "great forces [that] have made the Earth what it is today." Huizenga is actually interested in the science of the ideological world rather than the physical one. He tracks how forces can shape ideas and perception.
These are not natural forces. Commercials, superstitions, public perception — Huizenga implies that these create the body of accepted knowledge. Think, for example, of the diagrams, which blur the line between charts and commercials. It's impossible to see where advertising ends and knowledge begins. Throughout the book, characters constantly repeat the phrase "I was saved from my own life!" to illustrate how happy people are to hand their lives over to the forces of advertising.

One complaint that can easily be leveled against "The Wild Kingdom" is that it's ... well, a difficult read. Huizenga isn't wearing kid cartoonist's gloves; "Kingdom" is a serious book about serious questions and it demands the reader's full attention. But that's kind of the point. Easily digestible commercials and product placement-filled television shows have set the tone for the media and impose nice, easy answers to really complex questions. But lasting answers — and maybe happiness — must be found in the hard-to-see details, and Huizenga's book is one hell of a practice round.
 
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Kevin Huizenga

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Wild Kingdom




  NPR Best Comics of 2010 Roundup Features Make Me a Woman and Wild Kingdom

Updated February 9, 2011


The Most Memorable Comics and Graphic Novels of 2010, With Caveats
by Glen Weldon
December 29, 2010

I know, I know. Still yet another list, this one appearing during the last week of the year, a time when the national incidence of list-fatigue reaches its annual zenith.

Look, I’ll make you deal. I’ll keep this short. Ish.

If I’ve already written about a book, I’ll just link to it. If I haven’t, I’ll say a few words and link to someone who has.

The usual caveats apply, here: This list is not meant to be definitive – I haven’t read everything. And it’s not even intended as a "best of" list, as my personal reaction to a given comic's style and subject will likely have little to do with yours.

Because the metric I'm using is one of indelibility: The books below are the ones that I found myself thinking about for days, weeks and (on several occasions) months after I finished them. Several very good books that will surely turn up on other "Best of 2010" lists – Darwyn Cooke’s Parker: The Outfit; Greg Rucka and JH Williams’ Batwoman: Elegy; Marvel’s Strange Tales, Volume II; Jim Woodring’s Weathercraft and many more – didn’t quite make the final cut because, for whatever reason, they didn’t linger in my memory after I closed their covers. (I liked the first chapter of Charles Burns' X'ed Out, but its frustrating slimness (just 50 or so pages) prevented it from making a lasting impression.)

So: Here are the books that got their hooks into me this year; I'm reasonably certain they'll do the same for you.


New Work from Old … er, Experienced Hands

Market Day, by James Sturm. I loved this quiet, wistful, elegaic tale of a turn-of-the-century rugmaker finding himself, and his craft, suddenly obsolete.

Not Love but Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy! by Fumi Yoshinaga. I devoured the Oishinbo books, which turn Japanese cuisine into hugely entertaining narratives full of high-stakes culinary showdowns. This slim, delightfully manic book by the creator of the gender-flipped samurai series Ooku filled the hole those book left. Johanna Draper Carlson, over at Manga Worth Reading, praised the author's expressive style and recommended that food lovers pick it up.

Werewolves of Montpelier, by Jason. The deadest of deadpan cartoonists returns with a meditation on relationships, burglary and lycanthropy. In France. Rob Clough of The Comics Journal called it "a pitch-perfect, expertly-crafted story by an artist who is clearly working in his comfort zone."

Acme Novelty Library No. 20, by Chris Ware. I agree with critic Douglas Wolk: this latest edition finds Ware stretching himself further than he as in some time. It's exciting to see a master like Ware, known for his exacting, precise technique, loosening himself up, even if he does so with his characteristic deliberateness.

Special Exits, by Joyce Farmer. Yeah, this one got to me.

Wilson, by Daniel Clowes. A portrait of the artist as a middle-aged jerkface. Mordant, darkly funny, with a deliberately fractured approach that keeps Clowes' tone gratifyingly varied and surprising.

Heartening Debuts

Temperance, by Cathy Malkasian. I've said my piece on this ambitious, wonderfully unpredictable fantasy epic grounded in very real, and not altogether pleasant, emotions.

Make Me a Woman, by Vanessa Davis. Davis is my favorite discovery of the year, though I'm a bit ashamed to say that, as I should have known about her before. You'll see the influence of Lynda Barry and Roz Chast, but Davis' voice has a satisfyingly spiky, take-no-prisoners wryness that's all her own.

Set to Sea, by Drew Weing. Weing's largely wordless pages of maritime adventure are gorgeous things, and the tale they tell unfolds with the lulling, implacable rhythm of the sea.

Artichoke Tales, by Megan Kelso. Kelso sets up an intriguing tension between the cartooniness of her art and the serious, adult themes of war and racism that fuel her thoughtful story.

Drinking at the Movies, by Julia Wertz. A funny, smart, self-lacerating book about the kind of growing up that happens after you've told yourself your a grown-up. In the LA Times, David Ulin summed it up nicely: "...a quiet triumph, a portrait of the artist in the act of becoming, a story with heart and soul."

The Troll King, by Kolbeinn Karlsson. You haven't seen anything like this. Trust me.

Axe Cop, by Malachi Nicolle and Ethan Nicolle. "Axe ... Cop?" Yes. Axe Cop. For reminding us of comics' enormous, all-too-often untapped potential for Big Craziness.

Neko Ramen, by Kenji Sonishi. There's this cat, see. He's surly, scheming. Also, he's a cook. That runs a noodle shop. Critic Deb Aoki, who should know, dubs it "a kooky but likeable comic snack for cat-lovers (and maybe cat haters too)." Sonishi doesn't really deviate from a simple, light set-up/punchline formula, but it worked on me.

Write These Names Down: Creators You Should Know

Body World, by Dash Shaw. Shaw produces hugely inventive, very funny and thought-provoking work, whether it's this webcomic-turned-book about a small town caught in the grip of a mysterious drug, or the slightly less accessible weirdness of the Unclothed Man in the 35th Century and, especially, Bottomless Belly Button.

Blammo, by Noah Van Sciver. Inside Van Sciver's anything-for-a-laugh approach lies a smart and sometimes suprisingly poignant writer. I'll let The Daily Cross Hatch's Brian Heater tell you more.

Tales Designed to Thrizzle, by Michael Kupperman. I attempted to verbalize my deep, abiding love for Kupperman's series on one of the first episodes of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour. Not sure I did it justice, so let me take another whack at it: PICK UP THIS BOOK. VOLUME ONE IS ONCE AGAIN IN PRINT. IT IS FUNNY. BUY IT BUY IT BUY IT.

Wild Kingdom, by Kevin Huizenga. This is some high-wire, risky storytelling, the kind that leaves you convinced another reading will deepen your experience. NOT UNRELATED: In terms of sheer number of times I've returned to a given book this year, Wild Kingdom is the winner, hands down.

You’ll Never Know, Volume II, by C. Tyler. Volume I of Tyler's comics memoir was one of the books I singled out for praise last year at this time, and the next volume only deepens and enriches the work she did in that book. What's more, volume II sees her opening up her scrapbook-style approach, pushing at its boundaries in small, satisfying ways.

Meanwhile, by Jason Shiga. Man, I loved this book, a dizzying, recursive cross between Choose Your Own Adventure and a Richard Feynman lecture.

Ax Volume I: A Collection of Alternative Manga, by various artists. What's "alternative manga," you ask? Damned if I can say. I can, however, point you to this huge, sprawling, dynamic anthology, full of distinctive voices, art that bleeds off the page, and new ideas. The Manga Curmudgeon and several other mangaphiles held a lively and thoughtful discussion of the book on Twitter earlier this year — you can check a transcript on his site.

Revolver, by Matt Kindt. Kindt's story of a man shifting between parallel realities is an exquisitely constructed, ruminative piece of work with something to say about how tragedy changes us — or doesn't.
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Kevin Huizenga
Vanessa Davis

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Wild Kingdom
Make Me A Woman




Wild Kingdom reviewed on the Panel Patter blog

Updated February 9, 2011


The Wild Kingdom
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Written by Kevin Huizenga
Illustrated by Kevin Huizenga
Drawn and Quarterly
By Rob McMonigal
Glenn Ganges weaves in (but mostly out) of this collection of odds and ends from older zine projects of Kevin Huizenga, the master of understated but extremely detailed comics. Watch as Glenn wanders through his life where the Wild Kingdom is made up of squirrels and pigeons and other mundane creatures we take for granted. Plus, Huizenga adds some other short pieces of commentary, from commercials to mock documentary pieces on items both true and familiar. It's a collection that's anything but wild, but has a kingdom of rich images from Huizenga's pen.

I have to be honest, I was a bit disappointed to learn this book was mostly a reprint. The more I read, the more I realized this was largely the same mini I'd read almost a year ago, making me glad I'd gotten this from the library instead of buying a hardcover version of a zine I'm pretty sure I own somewhere. I thought it was good enough at the time, but it wasn't earth-shattering it. Reading the same stories in a cleaner, larger format didn't change my opinion that much.

About 18 months ago, I thought there were some clever touches, such as the idea that a wild kingdom for a city dweller such as Glenn would be cats and common birds and what have you. That's still true, but I admit that now I'm a little less inclined to read along with a story that doesn't go much of anywhere. My taste for that type of book, whether in graphic or prose form, is waning. If you need your comic to really have a strong beginning, middle, and end, I don't think you're going to much care for Huizenga's work, particularly here.

My favorite in Or Else 4 was the commercial parody, and that's still true here. The addition (I believe) of color definitely adds a bit, though not enough to make a huge difference. I love how the panels change, almost like changing channels, and the commentary on modern commerce is nice and subtle, especially when compared to another book I read recently.

I don't remember the trading cards from the earlier work, but those were clever, too. Looking not unlike things you'd take from the back of a toy or cereal box, each has a connection to the stories within. Might have been neat to include a few for actually clipping.

The rest of the book shows Huizenga's strong sense of whimsy and ability to get as much as possible on the printed page. The details are striking, but I don't think they drive the work enough to make it something I feel others have to read.

Overall, however, the book wanders a bit in a way that I can indulge in the zine/mini-comic format but works far less well for me as a hardcover edition from a major independent publisher. I liked these stories less than I did the first time, and even in the first reading I felt this was something that "wasn't for everyone." I agree with that assessment.

As a zine, Huizenga's rambling, almost plotless work was fine. I don't think it works nearly as well in the larger book format. I can't say I'd recommend this book, even though I like Huizenga's work in general. If you like Huizenga, you'll find this to be a good book for you. If you've never seen his work before, despite this being his newest book, it's definitely NOT the place to start. The Ganges books published by Fantagraphics is probably a better place to see if you like his style. Leave the Wild Kingdom for later, and even then, be aware it's not his strongest book. A little domestication for a larger book format may have been in order.
 
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  Publishers Weekly reviews WILD KINGDOM

Updated December 16, 2010


The Wild Kingdom
Kevin Huizenga, Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95 (108p) ISBN 978-1-77046-000-3

This brilliantly conceived pocket book casually expresses a crystalline analysis of our own imprecise and muddled thinking. Formatted like a textbook from an alternate world where comics are the standard mode of discourse, it references general interest pop-science television programs like the titular "Wild Kingdom," complete with commercial breaks which punctuate the book's more overtly narrative passages. Sequences featuring Huizenga's everyman character Glenn Ganges depict the minor catastrophes that inevitably result from industrialized humanity's coexistence with the animal world, from an unwelcome insect at home to an ill-fated pigeon on a four-lane highway. The book's "commercial" sequences echo with the quasi-religious recurring phrase "I was saved from my own life," a slogan that points to the paradox at the heart of "man versus nature"--a perceived alienation from the natural world from which man springs; this schism is effectively leveraged to sell products promising transcendence from man's earthly origins. Huizenga's lyrical storytelling highlights the ways in which science, education, entertainment, and commerce have been hopelessly comingled, and the book's absurdist climax suggests that this state of affairs can't continue forever. Huizenga continues to forge a path as one of the most important graphic novelists working today. (Sept.)
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Omnivoracious loves THE WILD KINGDOM and EDEN as off-beat gifts for this holiday season

Updated December 14, 2010


Gift Book Suggestions for the Imaginative, the Curious, the Weird

by Jeff VanderMeer

Two of these are hard to find; six of these are not...

Looking for something off-beat book-wise to give as a gift this holiday season? Looking for something that’s imaginative and different? Something that your friends, family, or office buddies might not already have? Something with nice production values?

As the co-creator of a quirky gift book this year, The Kosher Guide to Imaginary Animals, I've come up with some field-tested suggestions mostly from the last couple of years that might just do the trick. Because I am heartless I have included two titles in the photos that you’ll have to search relentlessly to acquire: Catherynne M. Valente’s Under in the Mere and Ellen Kushner’s The Man With the Knives. But because I am also not without empathy, I’ve added a couple not pictured that are more readily available…

...

The Wild Kingdom by Kevin Huizenga (Drawn & Quarterly) - In The Wild Kingdom,Glenn Ganges blindly interacts with the nature of his suburban neighborhood: dead houseplants, a recipe for graysquirrel brain, and pigeons eating discarded french fries in the parking lot of a fast-food joint. Starting off wordless, The Wild Kingdom grows more complex page by page, ending with encyclopedic entries, biographical excerpts, anthropologic flowcharts, and a cataclysmic encounter of nature and technology. It’s a beautifully constructed book, with marvelous endpapers and great production values.

Eden by Pablo Holmberg (Drawn & Quarterly) – Quixotic, surreal, absurd, never cute but always lively, this tiny trade paperback shows off Holmberg’s talent for episodic comics that sometimes veer off into very strange places. A perfect stocking stuffer for fans of Woodring et al.
 
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Kevin Huizenga
Pablo Holmberg

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Wild Kingdom
Eden




  The Ember reviews WILD KINGDOM

Updated November 23, 2010


Into the Wild with Kevin Huizenga

by Elizabeth Prater
The Ember

Like you and like me, Kevin Huizenga inhabits the wild kingdom – a place of ‘innumerable and ever-varying phases’ populated by humanoids, anthropomorphs, spectres and hapless beasts. In the twilight of his adolescence, Huizenga began documenting these ever varying phases in zine form. In the year 2000, he published a representative sampling as Supermonster #12. A decade has passed then, since that first gathering up, and to mark this tenth anniversary Drawn & Quarterly have re-released Huizenga’s field guide to causality and nature as a handsome little hardback.
Aping the avuncular didacticism of old-school documentarians, Huizenga introduces his life manual thus:
Our ancestors, millions of years ago, were as much a part of Nature as any sheep or moth or blade of grass. They moved towards and swallowed their food or water, just as they breathed the air, without taking thought and without being aware of what they were doing.
Mistakes were made, poisonous substances were glibly consumed.
‘But they came to learn quickly from experience, and they could hand to our descendants an increasing stock of facts, in the form of comics. We too brood over this stock, rejecting some, treasuring some.’
With its deference to the gradual accretion of knowledge and its subsequent dissemination in primers, introductory guides, text books and manuals, The Wild Kingdom showcases Huizenga’s commitment to a noble tradition. In his capacity as a founder and curator of the USS Catastrophe Library of Knowledge, Huizenga records and celebrates the many successful steps cartoonists and scholars have made along the road of learning. ‘How did nine planets come to travel round the sun in orbits arranged in a plane or disc, and whatnot? How did Life arise on at least the Earth, and maybe Mars? Why are there so many commercials for drugs?’
Huizenga mixes simplified cartoon characters with closely observed literal representations of the world at large. The star of the collection, Glenn Ganges, makes his way around non-descript domestic interiors and a suburban backyard, he drives past strip malls and buys stamps over the counter in a post office. These real-world, sequential narratives are almost entirely wordless. Where words do appear they bring little in the way of dialogue or plot. Observed reality gives way to surreal sloganeering and parodic advertorials – I was saved from my own life – and to potted autobiographies and factoids narrated by famous ghosts. Maurice Maeterlinck is one of Huizenga’s favourite revenants, an excerpt from the Belgian playwright and naturalist’s The Life of The Bee is the basis for a text heavy offering. On the face of things, Glenn Ganges’ wordless interactions with the natural world sit at the opposite extreme to this verbosity – but in their own way both approaches convey the same fascination with the myths and moral dimensions we project onto nature. Huizenga intertwines the plausible with the absurd, and his wide-eyed attentiveness to the systems which rule the wild kingdom is paired with a satirical and sometimes melancholy intent.
The forces at play in our sprawling galaxy maintain a precarious balance and Huizenga’s guide deftly frames this reality. The Wild Kingdom concludes with a sequence extrapolating global destruction from the fiery electrocution of a bird of prey on domestic power lines. Huizenga’s world is a scientific system - it answers to laws of physics, biology, cause and effect that have been handed down from cartoonist to cartoonist through the ages. The combination of Huizenga’s divergent muses - scientistic empiricism and the brain addling insistences of late-night infotainment - gives The Wild Kingdom the charm of a mild delerium.
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Kevin Huizenga

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Wild Kingdom




Jeff VanderMeer loves EDEN, WILD KINGDOM, and THE WRONG PLACE!

Updated November 23, 2010


Drawn & Quarterly: Pablo Holmberg, Kevin Huizenga, and Brecht Evens

by Jeff VanderMeer
November 20th, 2010

Thousands of books arrive at our house every year because of the various reviewing gigs like the NYT and Omnivoracious, and because of Ann editing Weird Tales. Some publishers, time and again, become anonymous in that context. The books all look the same, or there’s something about the format that becomes anonymous.

Others stand out by a mile because they’re recognizably coming at readers from a unique or interesting perspective, and because they vary their formats and design approaches while remaining true to some central focus.

Drawn & Quarterly always puts out cool books. When they come in the door, I can’t just throw them on the stack.

Today, for example, we got Eden by Pablo Holmberg, The Wild Kingdom by Kevin Huizenga, and The Wrong Place by Brecht Evens. The art style of each, the world view behind each, and the size of each book are entirely different. But they share the D&Q vision. They’ve all got great end papers. They each are in the format best-suited for them (Wild Kingdom as a little hardcover, cover image printed on the boards, for example.) Take a look at some samples below, and definitely look for all three. Extremely awesome stuff—and am enjoying the kind of “eavesdropping on party conversation” style of the Evens.
 
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Kevin Huizenga
Brecht Evens
Pablo Holmberg

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The Wrong Place
Wild Kingdom
Eden




  CBR's Comics College takes on KEVIN HUIZENGA

Updated October 27, 2010


Comics College: Kevin Huizenga

by Chris Mautner

Comics College is a monthly feature where we provide an introductory guide to some of the comics medium’s most important auteurs and offer our best educated suggestions on how to become familiar with their body of work.

This month we’re looking at the career of a relative newcomer to the comics industry, Mr. Kevin Huizenga.


Why he’s important
Even amidst a generation of cartoonists that includes such stellar folk as Anders Nilsen, Dash Shaw, Dan Zettwoch and Eleanor Davis, Huizenga stands apart for his artistry and ingenious, inventive use of the medium. In many ways he also embodies many of the characteristics of his contemporaries. To wit: an interest in comics of all types and genres resulting in a bevy of disparate influences, and an interest in formalism and experimentation that parallels an interest at more straightforward storytelling and characterization. In the short time he’s been making comics, Huizenga has shown himself to be an author of considerable talent and probing sincerity.

Where to start

Ganges #1

In addition to arguably being his best known work, the award-winning Ganges series remains the most emblematic of Huizenga’s comics so far and thus the best place for newcomers to start. Fantagraphics has published three issues to date as part of the oversize Ignatz format and all are worth getting and reading, preferably in order. The series follows an afternoon and subsequent evening in the life of Huizenga’s everyman Glenn Ganges as he goes to the library, plays some video games, reminisces on a previous job and battles insomnia. It sounds like drab minutiae, but Huizenga has a wonderful way of making the everyday seem not just relatable in the “I’ve been there too” sense but significant. He also is the only cartoonist I know of that is able to visually express difficult to describe thoughts and emotions in ways that make you wonder how no one ever came up with them before. His portrayal of Glenn’s frantic attempt at sleep in issue 3 for example, drawing him awash in a sea of random thoughts and word balloons is inspired.

From there you should read
Curses collects most of Huizenga’s best work up till now, including the stellar short stories “28th Street,” “Green Tea,” and “Jeepers Jacobs.” Most of these stories star Ganges again in one form or another and are actually interrelated in so far as they loosely follows Ganges and his wife Wendy’s attempts to conceive a child. Huizenga shows a deep interest in folklore, religion and mythology here that examines how spiritual and a belief in otherwordly or supernatural forces affect our perception of the world around us.

Further reading

Curses

Huizenga temporarily attempted to publish a semi-regular comic book series via Drawn & Quarterly entitled Or Else. There were only five issues released, and about half of the work has been collected in books like Curses, but interested readers will want to track down a copy of issue #2 (currently out of print), which contains the lovely “Gloriana” story (which in turn was originally serialized in Huizenga’s Supermonster minicomics) and #3 (also out of print), which offers a more autobiographical slant (sort of).

Flight or Run: Shadow of the Chopper showcases Huizenga’s more avant-garde side, as it presents an odd video game of sorts where abstracted, seemingly voiceless characters battle it out in all sorts of bizarre ways (to get a better idea of what I’m talking about, check out Huizenga’s Fight or Run blog.

Ancillary material
Having come from the minicomics world, Huizenga has actively kept a toe or two dipped in that culture, with books like New Construction, which offers a loose collection of sketches and preliminary drawings, and Rumbling 2, which continues a story he started in Or Else #5 (and which you can read for free at What Things Do).

Huizenga collaborates regularly with a number of his fellow cartoonists, most notably on the Ripley’s Believe It or Not parody Amazing Facts … and Beyond, which he does with Ted May and Dan Zettwoch. A couple of published mini-comics collecting the strip are easily available via Huizenga’s online store.


Fight or Run

Huizenga has actually quite the online presence. In addition to the above-linked sites, there’s also his regularly updated blogs The Balloonist and New Construction.

Avoid
Huizenga’s most recent book, The Wild Kingdom, is by no means to be avoided — it’s a stellar work, examining man’s relationship to nature and consumerism in a invigorating left-of-center fashion, but it’s not the best place for newcomers to begin as it’s a highly experimental work that eschews narrative in favor of quick asides and impressions (or, rather, it jumbles several narratives and moments together to create an effect that’s not unlike zipping past several cable TV stations via remote). I heartily recommend reading it, but only after you’ve explored his other offerings.
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Staight.com reviews WILD KINGDOM

Updated October 5, 2010


Book review: The Wild Kingdom by Kevin Huizenga

by John Lucas
Staight.com
October 1, 2010

Designed to resemble a middle-school biology textbook, The Wild Kingdom is Kevin Huizenga's meditation on humankind's relationship with the natural world. And meditation is the right word, because the St. Louis–based graphic novelist doesn't offer any definitive conclusions, choosing instead to present the reader with a series of events without much comment.

The most of effective of these are also the simplest: in a sequence of black-and-white vignettes with little dialogue, Huizenga's everyman protagonist, Glenn Ganges, observes and interacts with the creatures in his suburban neighbourhood. Ganges tosses a bruised apple into his fenced-in back yard, where it is seized by an eager squirrel; he watches a pigeon, sick from gorging itself on discarded fast food, maked a doomed attempt at traversing a busy road.

Those don't sound like particularly profound encounters with nature, and they aren't, really. And maybe that's Huizenga's point—that we've become so insulated from the natural world that finding a stag beetle in the laundry room becomes a major event.

The Wild Kingdom doesn't end there. It gets more colorful and more surreal, complete with a guide to grotesquely deformed "fancy pigeons" that would give Charles Darwin the jim-jams, plus pitches for tooth whitener and sliced balls by Walt Whitman. Yes, sliced balls.

Narratively coherent it ain't, but in its quietly weird way, The Wild Kingdom has a lot to say.
 
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Kevin Huizenga

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  NPR reviews KEVIN HUIZENGA's WILD KINGDOM

Updated September 7, 2010


A Funny, Fractured Field Guide To A 'Wild Kingdom'

by Glen Weldon

A recipe for deep-fried squirrel brains comes with a warning: "May transmit Mad Cow Disease or mental maps of nuts." The table of contents lists such non-existent chapters as "Life and its Marvels," "The Mighty Thirst of Trees," "What the Glands Do" and "The Mask of Satan." Apocryphal apple varieties come under consideration (Lifesaver Gold: "Fairly tart and gorgeous…a blend of bone crush and goose flesh"). A field guide entry for a species of beetle reads: "Dangerous. Unite to form The Devastator. There is no you."

This is cartoonist Kevin Huizenga's The Wild Kingdom, a collection of short comics involving Huizenga's alter-ego Glenn Ganges, a po-faced young everyman of the suburban Midwest. "Collection" doesn't quite capture the playful narrative experiment Huizenga has constructed here — "juxtaposition" might do it better. Huizenga enjoys playing with the gaps between stories, and between panels, inviting the reader to supply (or at least look for) meaning to connect his images together.


Kevin Huizenga
Kevin Huizenga, (self-portrait above), is also the creator of Curses and Or Else.
Read An Excerpt:

'The Wild Kingdom'
Thus a parody of pharmaceutical ads morphs into a brief meditation on the plight of famous ghosts. A throng of multi-colored revelers interrupts what can only be described as an existentialist toothpaste commercial. An examination of Belgian playwright/naturalist Maurice Maeterlinck's life and work is immediately preceded by seven panels of "Fancy Pigeons," which are exactly what they sound like.

Without something to tether them to the ground, experimental comics can quickly devolve into little more than willfully obtuse chronicles of their author's self-regard. On a surface level, what unites The Wild Kingdom is Huizenga's stylized, friendly art — you can easily imagine his dot-eyed Glenn Ganges staring up at you blankly from a Sunday comic strip.

More importantly, Huizenga builds The Wild Kingdom like a piece of music. His narrative, though fractured, builds steadily from spare, nearly wordless black-and-white depictions of Glenn's interaction with various species of wildlife — a mosquito, a squirrel, a pigeon, a cat, a beetle — into full-color entries from the Encyclopedia Britannica of an alternate, funnier universe. As this happens, themes and phrases recur like musical variations: Walt Whitman. "I was saved from my own life." Famous ghosts. Schematic diagrams. Passages from Maeterlinck's 1901 apiological treatise The Life of The Bee. The (often violent) clash of man and nature, climaxing with series of images that mirrors and intensifies the book's gradual and relentless accretion of detail.

Narratively tidy it is not. Neither, for all its humor, could The Wild Kingdom be considered a light read. Instead, what Huizenga has created is a collection of spiky, intellectually adventurous stories that fit together at odd angles. The result: a mordantly funny field guide to a very specific and modern species of dread.
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Wild Kingdom




D+Q at SPX!

Updated September 22, 2009


Bethesda Marriot North. Saturday Sept 26th & Sunday Sept 27th. On hand will be Publicity Coordinator Jessica Campbell and U.S. Envoy Alison Naturale. Kevin Huizenga, John Porcellino and R. Sikoryak will be signing books. We will be debuting MAP OF MY HEART by John Porcellino to celebrate King-Cat's 20th anniversary!

Here is our signing and event schedule!
Saturday, September 27th
11:00 am- convention opens
11:30-1:00pm- John P signing
1:00 pm- R. Sikoryak spotlight in White Flint Amphitheater
2:00 pm- John Porcellino w/ Zak Sally, White Flint Amphitheater
2:00-4:30pm- R. Sikoryak signing
3:30-5:30pm- John Porcellino signing
5:00-6:00pm- Kevin Huizenga signing
7:00 pm- convention closes
9:00 pm- Ignatz awards

Sunday, September 28th
12:00 pm- Convention opens
12:00-1:00 pm- R Sikoryak signing
1:00 pm-3:00 pm- John P signing
1:30 pm- Source Based Comic w/ R. Sikoryak, Kate Beaton, Paul Karasik, Ed Piskor
2:00pm-3:00 pm- Kevin Huizenga signing
3:00-5:00pm- R Sikoryak signing
4:30 pm- The Aesthetics of Mini-Comics w/ John Porcellino, Dan Zettwoch, Jason Miles, Dina Kelberman
6:00 pm- Convention closes

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Featured artists

Kevin Huizenga
John Porcellino
R. Sikoryak

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Curses
Map of My Heart




  KEVIN HUIZENGA interviewed by The Daily Cross Hatch, pt 2

Updated February 27, 2009


Interview: Kevin Huizenga Pt. 2 [of 2]
23dec08
DAILY CROSS HATCH

Kevin Huizenga is a difficult artist to pin down, and the cartoonist, it seems, wouldn’t have it any other way. At any one moment, Huizenga is in the middle of a handful of a series for a handful of publishers. The combination of artist’s talent and seemingly endless output have made him one of the most visible indie cartoonists working today.

His creative restlessness, however, has assured that, while he’s got any number of on-going projects serialized at the same time, there’s little conceptual overlap from one to the next, even when—as is often the case—they star Huizenga’s empty vessel protagonist, Glenn Ganges.

In this second and final part of our interview with Huizenga, we discuss the magic of zines, writing about religion, and why you can’t please all the people, all the time.

[Part One]


When I was waiting to talk to you, some guy approached you with an [Will] Eisner quote—something about the importance of knowing ever yfacet of the book industry. You weighed in on the other side of that. You’re just interested in creating art and eating.

Yeah, well, it depends on what you need. I think if you’re someone who comes out of poverty and you come out of a background where you really need to fight your way up to the middle-class, then I can understand that attitude of hustling, where you’ve gotta know and work the deal and so forth. But I live relatively cheaply, and I’m lucky in that. I don’t have to worry about money too much, so, for me it’s like, if you start letting those worries about whether things will sell enough, if you start letting that enter into the process whereby you’re trying to be open to your personal inspiration and your personal muses—if you start letting the economic considerations into that process, it’s going to mess everything up.

Is there still that desire to appeal to as many people as possible?

You know, there used to be. I think, when I was starting out, I wanted to have a wide variety of readers who could understand and enjoy my work. And that makes sense. When you’re starting out, you’re always asking whether you’re doing stuff right. But in the last couple of years it’s changed so that I have enough confidence in myself now that I can just enjoy what I’m doing. I’m not as concerned that everyone likes each project. I’m just concerned that I like each project. I know that each project will have its own audience. Some people don’t like my Fight or Run strips, because they just don’t get it. Other people don’t like my wordy strips. Other people like my stuff that’s more abstract. So, I’m happy to just please myself. I can’t control what people like or dislike.

You pulled out a handful of minis earlier. Are you still actively producing those?

Yeah, for [SPX] I went to the copy shop and made two new zines. I still like that a lot, making my own zine. When I was in high school and came across that whole world of making your own comics and minis and zines, that saved my life. For me, it still has that excitement. I hope to keep doing that.

You’ve a few books for Drawn & Quarterly, but it seems like you bounce around a lot between different publishers.

It’s boring stuff. It’s not like there’s a grand scheme or plan. It’s just like someone happens to mention that they’d like to publish a certain thing, so I’m like, “yeah, okay.” There’s no scheme to have publishers answer to me, rather than me answer to them or something. Something comes up and it sounds like good idea and I go for it.

Are you producing the books first, or are the publishers approaching you to write a book for them?

At this point it still the case that the projects are suggested and then I fill the container. I’m not at the point yet where I’m driving everything. I like the idea of doing a series and having issue 6, 7, 8, and 9. I really like that idea. I just happen to have several series happening at the same time. But I like that, because I don’t think that the audience that like my sermon zines, I shouldn’t put it all Or Else. I try to keep it all separated into conceptual containers that make sense.

Was it ever hard to broach a topic so loaded as religion? Were you second-guessing yourself a lot?

Second-guessing, for me there’s always second-guessing—18, 20 guesses on every project. For me, the way I was raised, I’m not very confrontational at all, so I’m very much not out to cause any big splash or upset anybody, or anything like that—to a fault, probably. My attitude, a lot of times, is, ‘I would like to see that stuff published by someone else that I like.’ It’s kind of like a golden rule situation. I’d like to see other people’s sketchbooks and notes to themselves and stuff like that, so I feel okay to publish it myself.

In terms of putting roughs out there?

Yeah, roughs and sketchbook stuff and kind of unfinished stuff and the sermon doodles and stuff like that. I like that kind of stuff when I see it from other cartoonists, so that’s how I justify it.

What’s next on the schedule?

Well, I drove out here by myself, hoping that I would mediate on Ganges #3 and that didn’t happen on the ride out here. Maybe it’ll happen on the ride back. I’m working on writing that, and Or Else 6 is about half done, so I’ll put that to bed. That should be out pretty soon.

Does stuff come easier when you’re not forcing it?

There’s no hard and fast rule. Sometimes you have to force it and sometimes it just comes. It’s a mystery.

–Brian Heater
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Curses
Or Else #5




KEVIN HUIZENGA interviewed by The Daily Cross Hatch, pt 1

Updated February 27, 2009


Interview: Kevin Huizenga Pt. 1 [of 2]
16dec08
DAILY CROSSHATCH

Kevin Huizenga isn’t quite a household name in the world of the indie comics, but these days it seems nearly impossible to walk into a comic shop or convention without spotting the artist’s work, be it in Drawn & Quarterly book form, tucked away in the pages of an anthology, or gracing the cover of some piece of comics-related promotional material.

His style in steeped in the classics, owing heavily to the works of forebears like E.C. Segar and Herge, but Huizenga has molded their aethestics into something altogether different, best personified in his seemingly ever present everyman, Glenn Ganges.

In our first part of our interview with Huizenga, talk about the role of the character as a storytelling vessel and the importance of artistic consistency.

I noticed you were drawing pictures of Glenn Ganges for people on the inside cover of their books. Is that default mode, or do you get requests to draw specific things?

That was default mode. I don’t get a lot of requests to draw specific things.

Do you ever get sick of him?

Do I get sick of him? No, because I don’t feel constrained to do one thing or another. Right now I’m using him in Or Else 5 for a completely different story. It’s like an alternate history story. It’s got top hats in it and it’s going to have a section in it that’s kind of science fiction. I don’t feel constrained. It’s kind of the way a director would use a certain actor over an over.

It’s a character, though. Are there certain aspects of him that you have to stay true to?

No. That’s not how I’m treating him. Other characters I might want to keep consistent, but Glenn is empty enough that I try to keep him kind of nebulous and vague so I can do a lot of different things with him.

Could you describe him to someone who asked what Glenn Ganges is all about?

Well, I guess, in the sense that he’s a character with a name and a particular kind of look, but he’s not a character in the sense that he has a complex psychology and a particular set of behaviors or things like that, that you can nail down.

If there’s nothing concrete about him, aside from aesthetics, why keep coming back to him?

Um, I guess because it’s nice to have a landmark you know. You know that part of it when you start.

A starting place in terms of where the story is headed.

Yeah. Like if I were a composer and I liked a certain chord and always wanted to use that chord just as a start. And then the variations all come out from the same starting place.

He’s more of a starting place than a destination.

Yeah. I don’t have any plans to turn him into a complex, full-bodied, real character, at this point. At this point it’s like a how a cartoonist always draws panel boards a certain way and a certain width and he doesn’t vary that because he’s not interested in varying that. It’s similar to that. Drawing comics is really hard, and you have to make a lot of decision about whether this looks like this and does this change or stay the same? It’s helpful to have some certain decisions made for you, when you start out.

Does the existence of a nebulous character make it more difficult or easier for readers who have already read your stuff to enter a new story?

I have no idea what’s more difficult or easy for the readers. It’s never a good idea to try to guess what your readers’ experiences are going to be like. I always try to have an ideal reader in my head. The ideal, intelligent, sensitive, tolerant, open-minded. That person is in my mind, and I hope that person enjoys it. everyone else, I can’t predict how they’re gonna react. Sometimes people have only read my newest work. Sometimes they’ve read everything since my very first, embarrassing college comics. I can’t predict what they’re going to be like.

Is there a good entry point to your work?

I guess Curses. That’s the most under one roof, and I still think I’m working in the same sort of way.

I remember reading an anthology a few years back and seeing Glenn Ganges for the first time. When I found your work later, it was immediately clear that this the same artist. Is it important to you to have something of a consistent aesthetic?

I don’t know that I think of it in those terms. For me it’s more that that’s what I like. I keep coming back to what I like, and that’s why it’s so consistent. It’s not consistent because that’s good marketing or branding or anything. I like that in other cartoonists.

You mean consistency?

To an extent. But then I also like curveballs and things that you totally don’t expect. I like to do that too. I like to keep the reader on their toes. I hope that people don’t think a specific kind of story is a Glenn Ganges story. I would hope that each Glenn Ganges story would be weird. “I wasn’t expecting him to go so far down that alley.” That’s a goal I have.

–Brian Heater
 
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Kevin Huizenga

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Or Else #5




  OR ELSE #5 reviewed by Sean Collins

Updated November 26, 2008


Comics Time: Or Else #5
Kevin Huizenga, writer/artist
Reviewed by Sean Collins
October 13, 2008
Attentiondeficitdisorderly Too Flat

Or Else #5 is one of Kevin Huizenga's least showy comics in recent memory, as well as one of his most openly autobiographical; all of that is true despite it mostly being about living in a war-ravaged post-apocalyptic dystopia. The centerpiece story, "Rumbling," is based on a prose work by writer Giorgio Manganelli, and sees Huizengan everyman Glenn Ganges inserted into a Handmaid's Tale-esque scenario of warring religious factions as an ambassador from a country "where wars of religion are not waged." (Amusingly, Ganges later reveals that his homeland fights scientifically rigorous wars of atheism instead. Bill Maher Is Watching You!) I think you can see a little bit of C.F.'s Powr Mastrs (Huizenga's a fan) sneaking in here, with the strips emphasis on the lavishly constructed uniforms of the various factions' soldiery and its relatively straightforward pacing and use of genre. The autobio elements slip in through a pair of strips about animal intrusions into the Huizenga/Ganges household--first a turtle in a strip that (I think) openly stars Huizenga rather than his stand-in, then a longer strip about various spiders and wasps that have infested and done battle in Ganges's house, where the long, lighter-colored hair Ganges is sporting makes him look more like the cartoonist himself than ever. The back-cover photograph of one of the bug battles depicted in the comic adds another real-world/fiction crossover element. The package is rounded out by several strips that focus on picayune details--sentence diagramming, "How Are We Spending Our Tuesday?", the structure of a conversation between two people represented solely in gibberish, and so on--to such a degree that their meaning is all but lost, like a word repeated into incomprehensibility. Need I mention the effortless cartooning--a loosening line used to connote flashbacks, the military precision with which Huizenga uses grays? It's not the knockout blow that some previous Or Else issues have been, but as an exercise in Huizenga's trademark juxtaposition of the quotidian with the universal (and frequently the philosophically troubling), it's solid; as a unit, though, I'm not sure why it begins and ends where it does and contains what it does.
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Kevin Huizenga

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Or Else #5




CURSES reviewed by Pretty Fakes

Updated June 25, 2008


Kevin Huizenga, Curses: The Pretty Fakes Review With Bonus MP3 action!
By: Professor Fury
PRETTY FAKES
June 19, 2008

Kevin Huizenga. Curses. D+Q, 2006. I’m glad I finally overcame my indifference to Kevin Huizenga’s work. It was based on that one issue of Or Else that I read a while back. There are two main stories in that comic, both included in this volume (and both of which benefit from being placed in a broader context): One in which Huizenga juxtaposes text from real adoption records with drawings of landscape to no particular effect, and another one whose fragmentary dialogue, elliptical transitions, and gentle surreality mark it as a tribute to Ben Katchor’s wonderful Julius Knipl comics. (OK, the fact that it’s set in a diner called “Katchor’s” also was a tip-off.) I closed that comic with a shrug: The first story seemed like a formal exercise that didn’t really go anywhere, and the second seemed content to play in Katchor’s sandbox without really articulating a voice of its own.

But a few recommendations from trusted sources later and I decided to give Curses a shot—and I’m glad I did. Douglas Wolk’s essay on Huizenga in Reading Comics thoughtfully and eloquently captures Huizenga’s gift for estranging the everyday, for revealing the secret and epic histories of mundane pleasures and annoyances, and for depicting characters who desperately want to make a difference in a sublimely sprawling world. As Wolk puts it,

In Huizenga’s comics, everything has an intrinsically interesting story of its own—even junk-mail ads and suburban sprawl and annoying bird noises, things that most people do their best not to perceive at all, become crucial parts of a grand and gradual narrative. (329)

Curses accomplishes this most explicitly in the stories that adapt traditional folklore to suburban settings, and I urge you to turn to your Wolk for discussions of those pieces. My favorite story in the book, though, is its last: “Jeepers Jacobs,” which features recurring protagonist Glenn Ganges, an atheist or agnostic, his liberal theologian brother, and two conservative evangelical profs at the local seminary. The unlikely foursome come together from a shared love of golf and end up, inevitably, debating matters religious, especially the question of the existence of hell.

When Glenn accepts a ride home from one of the conservative evangelicals, the titular Jeepers, and is treated to several minutes of right-wing talk radio, I resigned myself to reading a story in which Glenn’s inquisitive nature and his brother’s patient tolerance won over the more hidebound traditionalists. I probably would have endorsed that story’s theology but wouldn’t have found it very convincing. To my delight and surprise, it turned out not to be that sort of story at all: Glenn shuffles to the margins for the bulk of the story, which focuses instead on Jeepers as he works on an article about the question of hell. Is Hell (as he believes) really a place where sinners are tormented forever, or is it (as Glenn’s brother believes) simply a metaphor for separation from God?

In addition to the sympathy—rather, empathy—with which Huizenga treats Jeepers as he wrestles with this question, my favorite thing about this story is how beautifully Huizenga evokes the heteroglossic process of writing—especially scholarly or academic writing. We speak metaphorically of our having a dialogue with other authors and their books, but sometimes it can feel vividly literal, especially when we are deeply invested in a body of scholarship crowded with contending voices.

Allies and antagonists take on personalities and voices of their own and hector or encourage us as we gingerly seek our footing in their terrain; firmly held convictions are suddenly and disorientingly malleable at the moment of composition (even if we end up sticking with them anyway). And a great idea or a breakthrough can feel as exultant as any athletic triumph. Huizenga captures this beautifully in a panel depicting Jeepers coming up with a clever bit of wordplay for his article as he writes in his basement office; aside from three panels of Jeepers golfing, this is the only panel that stretches the entire width of the page. Coming after a series of small, crowded panels depicting a phone conversation, this image manages to convey a sense of release that we don’t traditionally associate with windowless underground rooms.

The other most impressive feat of “Jeepers Jacobs” is that it actually convinces me for its duration that golf is truly a transcendent, luminous, pastoral escape—something I’ve never quite been able to believe, perhaps because I’m not very good at it. My only qualm about the story is that I’m ambivalent about Huizenga’s final page, which I won’t spoil here. It’s not that he doesn’t prepare us for it, but I couldn’t help somehow feeling cheated. I suspect, however, that my reaction was simply motivated by my intense desire for the story not to end just yet.

What I did when I finished Curses: Went to the Fantagraphics site, ordered copies of Ganges 1 and 2.

Ideal background music for reading Curses: Yo La Tengo, . . . And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out.

MP3: Yo La Tengo—“You Can Have it All”
 
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Kevin Huizenga

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Curses




  CURSES in The Comics Journal

Updated April 25, 2007


Curses
THE COMICS JOURNAL
Written by Dirk Deppey
Sunday, 11 February 2007


I really pity any critic who has to review work by Kevin Huizenga in five paragraphs or less. I say this because I'm here to review Huizenga's Curses in five paragraphs or less, and boy, am I ever in a self-pitying mood right now.

There's a strong temptation to reduce Huizenga to comparisons with the closest similar, like-minded artist, which feels like a mistake. First and foremost, it's damned lazy. Second, it limits the understanding readership to those familiar with the artists being compared. Third, it does a disservice to Huizenga, who after all is a unique enough artist to make his differences with the compared creators as interesting as the similarities. Finally, since there's no one fellow traveler to whom the artist in question can be easily compared, there's a further temptation to cross-reference a number of vaguely similar creators in the hope that one can find Huizenga somewhere in the middle. He combines the formalism of Chris Ware with John Porcellino's quotidian subject matter, all masked by many of Eddie Campbell's narrative strategies. Art? Somewhere between E.C. Segar and Shary Flenniken, I'd say. Express all this as a mathematical formula, and you see the problem. Indeed, the fact that you can express it as a mathematical formula demonstrates the problem with such comparisons:

Chris Ware + John Porcellino
Eddie Campbell + Shary Flenniken E.C. Segar

See what I mean? The results are as mundane and uncomfortable as a handjob from Doodles Weaver. Note to critics: Don't do this. Also, avoid references to obscure mid-20th century B-movie actors such as Doodles Weaver... and for God's sake, never use the words "handjob" and "Doodles Weaver" in the same sentence. Ewww.

Narrowing the scope from artist to work in question doesn't really help, either. Curses is simultaneously true to Kevin Huizenga's central vision and all over the map, and it's difficult to describe the book's formal complexities without losing sight of what a smooth reading experience it provides. In theory, Huizenga's work centers around suburban environments and the exploration of everyday life... which is as functionally useless a description as they come. In this volume you'll find King Henry IV, zombies, hallucinatory animals, an enchanted gas station, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, a feathered ogre, Adolf Hitler and, of course, the Hot New Thing, whatever the hell that is. In the course of these pages, you'll see what begins as a meditation on lost children morph into ruminations on Sudanese war refugees, whose folk tales will then inform a magic-realist fable about cheating infertility, which will then turn into a discourse on how starlings came to be such a plague upon the American landscape, and all of it will be woven around the life of Huizenga's nominal stand-in, Glenn Ganges, and his wife Wendy, residents of a sleepy little community where the only magic available is what you bring to the proceedings. Which, in Ganges' case, is plenty.

This faculty for threading disparate topics and imagery into a smooth, single narrative gives Huizenga a generous mix for his stories, of course, providing him with the ability to let revelations arise from the juxtaposition of otherwise unconnected images and themes. But it also allows him to do the reverse, as well: Huizenga's approach to comics also allows him to zero in on single themes, turn around and look outward from unexpected angles. Take the story originally printed in Kramers Ergot #5, "Jeepers Jacobs," for example. It's the story of one of Ganges' golfing partners, a seminary professor writing an essay on the literal truthfulness of the Bible's depictions of Hell, and most of the story is told through the composition of his essay. Jacobs is concerned for Ganges' soul after discovering that he fell away from religion, and the creation of Jacobs' essay is presented as both an explanation of his concern, and a look at how faith in the supernatural shapes one's worldview. It's an insightful and nuanced story; what might have become a jeremiad against the folly of religion in another artist's hands becomes instead a fascinating immersion into the mindset of a good, heartfelt religious believer, written without condescension or judgement. Moreover, Huizenga uses the conflict between spiritual aspiration and the anguish of the material world to turn ten pages of Biblical analysis into a fascinating comics scene — no mean feat, that.

To accomplish these marvellous feats of storytelling, Huizenga has assembled an intimidating collection of formal narrative tricks. He's especially adept at dividing the text and visual "tracks," letting one hold the story in place while allowing the other to lift off on imaginative flights of fancy, then stopping briefly for a traditional comics interlude before once again setting to sky in another direction — the "Lost and Found" episode is a particularly good example of this technique in action. It works because the setting is nicely grounded in the real world. Glenn Ganges serves in many ways as a fulcrum, an imaginary base to which a seemingly infinite number of odd and intriguing images and ideas can be tethered.

Every once in a while, Huizenga will indulge himself in pure formalism, as in "Case 0003128-24," breaking all ties to the larger surrounding narrative and seeing how far the base principles of comics storytelling can take him. He handles it well, but perhaps it's for the best that he only takes off for the outer reaches every once in a while. It's the mundane base of the everyday world that anchors his work, and without it, Huizenga just wouldn't be as interesting an artist.

Kevin Huizenga is a deceptively direct yet deeply challenging artist, his considerable talent brought to bear against one of the most intractable problems faced by storytellers: to make the reader approach the everyday world from a new and fascinating set of eyes, an endless stream of metaphors for the endless stream of days... and making it work. That Huizenga succeeds at this task is a testament to the thoughtful approach and carefully deployed craftsmanship that he brings to his enjoyable and enriching comics tales. Curses may well be the best edition of cartoon short stories issued in 2006.

Mission accomplished. Now, if only I could whittle it down to five paragraphs...
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Kevin Huizenga

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Curses




SFist recommends Bell, Huizenga and Nilsen tour

Updated April 5, 2007


SFIST.COM
February 13, 2007
SFist Tonight

Catch Drawn & Quarterly cartoonists Gabrielle Bell (Lucky), Kevin Huizenga (Curses), and Anders Nilsen (Don’t Go Where I Can’t Follow) at the Booksmith (1644 Haight St), the SF stop on their West Coast book tour. The cartoonists will be presenting a slide show of their work, answering questions and signing their latest D+Q releases. Kevin Huizenga's short story collection, Curses, promoted Huizenga as "one of the brightest, most interesting new comix authors to appear in the last five years" by Time.com. In drawings featuring a sly, understated line, Huizenga offers an insightful portrayal of life's mundane drudgery as well as its philosophical complexity. The lead character in many of Huizenga's stories is Glenn Ganges, a suburban everyman. Gabrielle Bell's Lucky chronicles the downs and outs of the hipster-artist lifestyle.
 
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Featured artists

Kevin Huizenga
Anders Nilsen
Gabrielle Bell

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Curses
Lucky (hardcover)
Don't Go Where I Can't Follow




  Seattle Weekly highlights Bell, Huizenga and Nilsen tour

Updated April 5, 2007


SEATTLE WEEKLY
Saturday 2/17
Graphic Art
Drawn & Quarterly

Despite the success of adult-themed graphic novels like the Pulitzer Prize--winning Maus and Craig Thompson's Blankets, a first-love story that won raves in 2003, going public about your love of graphic novels still might make you feel dorky and weird. (Unlike in Japan, where businessmen and schoolkids read manga on public transit, we seem to associate the graphic novel with neurotic collectors). Three artists from Montreal-based publishing house Drawn & Quarterly may hold the power to turn the reputation of the graphic novel around. Endearing N.Y.C. cartoonist Gabrielle Bell imparts her woes, wins, and daily happenings in Lucky, a collection of three editions that span one year from May 2003 to 2004. Whether she's chronicling her romantic struggles or the frustrations of paying the bills, the minimal text paired with the simple, sweet illustrations conveys more even than other more long-winded forms of literature. Anders Nilsen, the man behind the heartbreaking Don't Go Where I Can't Follow, evokes unavoidable swells of emotion as he takes the reader through his fiancée's losing battle with cancer via postcards, notes, drawings, and writings. And Kevin Huizenga's Curses twists the everyday tightly with the out-there, exploring territory that ranges from evil monkey hallucinations to hunting down a giant bird whose feathers hold the key to curing infertility. D&Q has sent these comic genuises out on the road together, spreading the gospel of the graphic novel to the masses.
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Featured artists

Kevin Huizenga
Anders Nilsen
Gabrielle Bell

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Curses
Lucky (hardcover)
Don't Go Where I Can't Follow




Willamette week spotlights Bell, Huizenga and Nilsen tour

Updated April 5, 2007


WILLAMETTE WEEK
Drawn and Quarterly Artists at Reading Frenzy Tonight
February 15th 2007

Three comics authors with new releases from the excellent Canadian publisher Drawn and Quarterly will present their work at Reading Frenzy at 7 pm tonight. They're on a West Coast tour together, during which, I'm assuming, a lot of self-deprecating jokes are cracked and a lot of awesome portraits are drawn. Hopefully they're selling a lot of books, too, because all three artists are touring on some pretty nice work.

Kevin Huizenga's Curses finds the author's flagship character, Glenn Ganges, doing battle with starlings and (literally) fighting for his fertility. Huizenga's stories are understated and suprisingly well-researched, and his art maintains the simple elegance of a Sunday strip, while at the same time hinting at a vastness that extends far beyond the book's pages. It's deep stuff.

Anders Nilsen's new book, Don't Go Where I Can't Follow, is a heartbreaking mixed-media memoir that both ruined my day and inspired me to call my mom. It's short but dense, and really moving.

I haven't finished Gabrielle Bell's comic journal, Lucky, yet, so don't spoil it for me. She has a good observational sense of humor and the rare ability to translate those observations to ink without cluttering a page and confusing the eye.

Tonight's event is free, but plan on spending $15-20 per book. Reading Frenzy is at 921 SW Oak St.
 
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Featured artists

Kevin Huizenga
Anders Nilsen
Gabrielle Bell

           Featured products

Curses
Lucky (hardcover)
Don't Go Where I Can't Follow




  SF Weekly makes Huizenga, Nilsen and Bell tour a top pick

Updated April 5, 2007


West Coast Slide Show & Discussion Tour
Tuesday, Feb. 13
Drawn Out

In his book Curses, Kevin Huizenga again dips into the life of Glenn Ganges, a suburban Everyman flirting with mythology and spirituality, who bears resemblance to Dagwood Bumstead. In one tale, he drifts into a 19th-century ghost story about hallucinatory visions brought on by green tea; in another, a trip to the mailbox turns into a meditation on the "Lost Boys of Sudan." The work is so alive you can picture it -- actually, it's hard not to. Curses is a collection of comics put out by Drawn & Quarterly, the influential home of artists like Charles Burns, Chris Ware, and Adrian Tomine. On the publisher's West Coast Slide Show & Discussion Tour, Huizenga appears with Anders Nilsen, whose Don't Go Where I Can't Follow features an intimate collection of drawings, letters, and photographs in memory of his fiancée, and Gabrielle Bell, who reveals a Brooklyn twentysomething life full of bad apartments, bad roommates, and bad jobs in Lucky. Booksmith, 1644 Haight (at Cole) , San Francisco

Featured artists

Kevin Huizenga
Anders Nilsen
Gabrielle Bell

           Featured products

Curses
Lucky (hardcover)
Don't Go Where I Can't Follow




SFBG promotes Huizenga, Bell and Nilsen book tour

Updated April 5, 2007


San Francisco Bay Guardian
Gabrielle Bell, Kevin Huizenga, and Anders Nilsen

In his book Curses, Kevin Huizenga again dips into the life of Glenn Ganges, a suburban Everyman flirting with mythology and spirituality, who bears resemblance to Dagwood Bumstead. In one tale, he drifts into a 19th-century ghost story about hallucinatory visions brought on by green tea; in another, a trip to the mailbox turns into a meditation on the "Lost Boys of Sudan." The work is so alive you can picture it -- actually, it's hard not to. Curses is a collection of comics put out by Drawn & Quarterly, the influential home of artists like Charles Burns, Chris Ware, and Adrian Tomine. On the publisher's West Coast Slide Show & Discussion Tour, Huizenga appears with Anders Nilsen, whose Don't Go Where I Can't Follow features an intimate collection of drawings, letters, and photographs in memory of his fiancée, and Gabrielle Bell, who reveals a Brooklyn twentysomething life full of bad apartments, bad roommates, and bad jobs in Lucky. Booksmith, 1644 Haight (at Cole), San Francisco
 
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Featured artists

Kevin Huizenga
Anders Nilsen
Gabrielle Bell

           Featured products

Curses
Lucky (hardcover)
Don't Go Where I Can't Follow




  East Bay Express mentions Bell, Huizenga and Nilsen tour

Updated April 5, 2007


Three for the Road
High-profile cartoonists bring their troubles to Comic Relief.
By Kelly Vance

Gabrielle Bell’s Lucky series takes us into the life of an insecure New York graphic artist who frets about such things as having to kiss French people on both cheeks, and coping with an obtrusive documentary film crew – her own life, in other words. In the “Glenn Ganges Stories” collected in Kevin Huizenga’s Curses, nobody can pronounce the name of the poor schnook protagonist (Danzig? Genghis?) as he makes his way across a suburban wasteland trying to live the American dream. He may harbor Zen visions but he resembles Tintin’s slacker offspring. These comics characters are such navel gazers, so worried about everything, almost whiny. Recognizably middle-American 21st-century.
But then we come to Anders Nilsen’s Don’t Go Where I Can’t Follow, a diary-style account of the happy days he spent with his girlfriend Cheryl before she died of cancer, an ordeal which he also documents. It’s enough to break your heart. Then Bell’s, Huizenga’s, and Nilsen’s oeuvres come into focus simultaneously. All three graphic authors seem to arrive at more or less the same beaten, forlorn, yet hopeful juncture. Maybe that’s why their publisher, Drawn & Quarterly of Montreal, is sending them on tour as a trio to promote their respective D+Q books. All three are touted as the future of cartoon storytelling, and all three appear at Berkeley’s Comic Relief Sunday afternoon (3-5 p.m.) to show slides of their work, field questions, and sign their books. DrawnandQuarterly.com
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Featured artists

Kevin Huizenga
Anders Nilsen
Gabrielle Bell

           Featured products

Curses
Lucky (hardcover)
Don't Go Where I Can't Follow




Nilsen, Huizenga, Bell tour mentioned by LA City Beat

Updated April 5, 2007


ILLUSTRATE, MY LOVE

If the latest generation of cartoonists – those who illustrate the mundane, ironic, and quietly revelatory aspects of modern life – made valentines, what would they consist of? A toothpick and a glittery sticker? A scrap of found lace and a chocolate ladybug? Get a hint tonight, when Gabrielle Bell, Kevin Huizenga, and Anders Nilsen, three cartoonists published by Drawn & Quarterly, appear at Skylight Books. As part of a national tour promoting their books Lucky (Bell), Curses (Huizenga), and Don’t Go Where I Can’t Follow (Anders), the three will present a slide show, sign copies, and speak about their work and the passions that fuel it, whether existential, cathartic, or merely, deeply, poetic. 7 p.m. Free. 1818 N. Vermont Ave., Los Feliz, (323) 660-1175. Skylightbooks.com; Drawnandquarterly.com.
 
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Featured artists

Kevin Huizenga
Anders Nilsen
Gabrielle Bell

           Featured products

Curses
Lucky (hardcover)
Don't Go Where I Can't Follow




  Uniter reviews Curses

Updated March 28, 2007


Book review: Curses
Whitney Light
Comics by Kevin Huizenga
Drawn and Quarterly
145 pages

The first book by comic author Kevin Huizenga is a collection of his fantastic tales about Glenn Ganges. They are fantastic in two ways: the drawings are elegant with an element of retro style; and Huizenga tackles some fantastic subject matter. Myth, demons, and spirituality figure in several stories.

But the world of Glenn Ganges is our own. With wide open eyes and a receding hairline, Ganges looks like everyman living the Western suburban experience. Occasionally he shares it with his girlfriend/wife, Wendy.

Ganges' life, in fact, faintly echoes Huizenga's. Huizenga lives in a suburb of Saint Louis with his wife. His comics have received much high praise, including several different awards. The stories collected here come from Kramer's Ergot, The Drawn and Quarterly Showcase, his series Or Else, and Time Magazine.

Huizenga takes the mundane aspects of life---opening junk mail, dealing with incessant bird chirping, chatting late-night over coffee with the neighbours, playing golf---as pathways to insightful, sometimes humourous, telling of what it means to be human. Suburban shopping malls and chain stores, supermarkets, and bland neighbourhoods depict the surface of the modern world. But it is infiltrated by the darker world of the imagination, inspired by musings on the past and spirituality.

In the first comic, "Green Tea," for example, Huizenga draws Ganges as a college student who develops an obsession with his research project. Unfortunately, he also develops a persistent vision of a dog with a human hand protruding from its mouth. Stumbling across some archival documents, Ganges finds a parellel situation to his in the papers of a psychologist who investigated the case of a Reverand plagued by visions of an evil monkey. The comic is based on the story of the same name by nineteenth century ghost writer Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. A simple punch line takes the macabre tale swiftly back to real experience.

Clearly, Huizenga is a well-read and quite literary comic author. The text heavy "Jeepers Jacobs" even includes footnotes to several relatively recent theological writings. The story follows Jacobs, an acquaintance of Ganges and professor at a seminary, as he writes an article, "Is Hell Empty?," about the debate between annihilationists and traditionalists on the possibility of eternal conscious torment (ECT) after death. Smart and funny, the comic won the Eisner Award for Best Short Story.

Other comics let the pictures do much more of the talking. "The Curse" depicts Ganges' neighbourhood overrun by starlings. After a brief escapade into the history of starlings in North America, Huizenga simply draws strip after strip of plus, minus, and v-shapes to convey the soaring flock of birds.

Taken together, the stories leave one with a feeling of unease. The deftly drawn graphics with their well-timed text makes more than a satisfying read, but Huizenga brings forth those troubling aspects of life that cannot be easily resolved. And perhaps that is what makes this book so engaging. Those aspects are the endlessly interesting ones.
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Featured artist

Kevin Huizenga

           Featured product

Curses




Portland Mercury raves about Curses

Updated February 16, 2007


PORTLAND MERCURY
Curses by Kevin Huizenga

Despite the old adage, covers count for a lot—and that goes double when they're as gorgeous as the one for Curses. Huizenga's cover—a greenish sky at twilight, a stylized flock of starlings, and a silhouetted street—makes this hardcover flat-out beautiful, and thankfully, the book's content lives up to its first impression. Curses explores America's plebian Midwest, a land that occasionally veers into the territory of creepy ghost stories, weird folk tales, and religious philosophy. Huizenga's emotive, cartoony style is a welcome foil to his often-gloomy subject matter, and Curses never fails to be enjoyable, challenging, and impressive. ERIK HENRIKSEN
 
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Featured artist

Kevin Huizenga

           Featured product

Curses




  Kevin Huizenga interviewed by PW Comics Week

Updated February 7, 2007


Curses: A Blessing from Kevin Huizenga

This story originally appeared in PW Comics Week on February 6, 2007

by Chris Arrant, PW Comics Week -- 2/6/2007

Released late last year, Kevin Huizenga's short story collection, Curses, promoted Huizenga as "one of the brightest, most interesting new comix authors to appear in the last five years" by Time.com. In drawings featuring a sly, understated line, Huizenga offers an insightful portrayal of life's mundane drudgery as well as its philosophical complexity. The lead character in many of Huizenga's stories is Glenn Ganges, a suburban everyman whose calm and thoughtful engagement with life illuminates these stories and delights the reader. PWCW talked with Huizenga about the creation of his stories.

PW Comics Week: Curses collects stories from several minicomics and anthologies you've done in the past. How did you go about choosing which stories ended up in Curses?

Kevin Huizenga: It was a couple of different things. One, it was stories that fit the [physical] format of the book. I've drawn pages in a couple different sizes and formats, and you have to think about what's going to [physically] fit in the same book. Two, they're all sort of Glenn Ganges stories that seem to play off each other pretty well. There's the theme of trying to have a child. Then there are two stories about ministers who deal with their personal demons. They all sort of work pretty well together, I thought.

PWCW: After reading this book and the Ganges book from [Fantagraphics'] Ignatz series, I find your stories unassuming and matter-of-fact. They allow the reader's own experiences to inform the larger story. Would you agree, and if so, why have you decided to go in this storytelling direction?

KH: I've always been attracted to stories that were not driven by plot. I've always been more attracted to telling stories that arose out of the contingencies of everyday life. On the other hand, my life experience being as limited as it is, I'm not really able to tell stories that involve too much wide-ranging detail about different social strata or racism, classes and so forth. I've always been a guy living in the suburbs, and that's all I know, so that's what I write about.

PWCW: When you structure your stories, what are you trying to get across to the reader?

KH: There's always an initial germ of an idea--a scene, a line of dialogue or some idea that starts as the main idea--then once I begin work on the story, other ideas and other scenes start to change that idea, and the story takes on a life of its own, in an organic way. At least that's how it works for me. My original goal for the story is sometimes different than what ends up resulting after the working process is over.

PWCW: One of the most important stories in Curses is "28th Street," loosely adapted from an Italian folk tale. Your story follows Glenn and his wife, and they go through some fertility problems, which leads Glenn to resort to supernatural means to help him and his wife's situation. Going back to your explanation of a story's beginnings, what was the initial idea and how did it develop over time?

KH: Well, that's a perfect example of what I think I was talking about earlier. I thought that I would adapt an Italian folk tale from a collection by Italo Calvino that I happened to be reading. I originally had the idea that I would sort of adapt one of those stories to a modern setting. At first the story had two main characters, Glenn and one of his friends, and that changed pretty quickly, and I revised it to be just Glenn.

Once I started working on the story, I realized I really wanted to write about suburban sprawl and the "big box" retailers--stuff like that. Originally, I hadn't planned to write about sprawl at all. What I find is that it's good to get started on a story, and as I get working on it, it generates its own ideas, ideas that I wouldn't have from just sitting around meditating on "now what do I want to do a story about?"

PWCW: In the "Jeepers Jacobs" story, you have a theologian writing a tract about hell. As he's writing it, his viewpoint is informed by his interactions with fellow Christians and Glenn, who could be described as a lapsed Christian. How would you say the idea for this story started?

KH: Well, I had been reading about the theology of hell and became interested in these guys that defend the traditional doctrine of hell.

First, I became interested in the varieties of interpretations of hell, and was doing a lot of reading on that. Always in the back of [my] mind I'm thinking, "how can I do a comic out of this?" and figuring I'd do some sort of thing where I adapt some nonfiction about hell and draw some awesome pictures of Dante-esque landscapes with writhing bodies and so forth. But once I started reading these conservative defenses of hell, I became interested in the guys writing these books. I thought, "what kind person spends all this time defending the idea of eternal torment for the majority of the human race?" What kind of mental gymnastics do you have to do to defend something like that and meditate on something like that and not go a little crazy?

So I started really thinking about those guys, and I realized the story I needed to do wasn't fantastic drawings of hell, but a more mundane story about one of these guys who writes defenses of hell.

PWCW: Another story, "The Curse," points to a larger thread in your work that incorporates nonfiction passages in your stories. In this story, you describe the migration of starlings into North America and their mention in popular culture. What led to this story?

KH: I'd lived on a street in St. Louis where we were tormented by a flock of starlings, which would roost in Bradford pear trees along the streets. They'd literally wake me up in the morning with all their squawking, and if you were stupid enough to park underneath the trees, in the morning, your car would be coated with starlings' droppings.

So that was really the first time I really noticed starlings. At the same time, I think I had been reading a book by [writer] Annie Dillard in which she mentioned that starlings were an exotic species brought over to America by a well-meaning but foolish man and were first released in Central Park. That really got me reading about starlings.

PWCW: What led you to name the book Curses?

KH: When I started putting the stories together, it became clear that "curses" were a theme in the stories. There were negative forces at work in these stories that caused grief, whether it be hell, having a stillborn baby or being tormented by a ghost. I wanted to tie that all in with the flock of birds. Originally, I thought about calling the book "The Curse," after the story of the same name, but it seemed right to make that plural because of the variety of different curses in the stories.

PWCW: The lead character in all of the stories in the book except one is Glenn Ganges. He's been a fixture of your work since the late 1990s in your minicomic series Supermonster and has become a sort of a cipher that enables you to tell stories in comics. Although some people have said Glenn is just a stand-in, an alter ego for you, you've said in previous interviews that he is not. How do you relate to this character, and how does this character relate to you?

KH: Glenn is a way for me to write about my own experiences without getting caught up in the complexities of writing autobiography. I can abstract myself into a generic cartoon character, and I don't have to worry about Glenn's psychopathologies or neuroses. In our everyday lives, there's a lot of family history involved with the way people react to situations. It gets too complex.

If I were to write straight autobiographical comics and be true to my own experience, it would be difficult--I think I would have to distort my own experience to make a story out of it. Everyday life doesn't translate one-to-one to a good story. You have to distort it--there are the truths of what happens and the imaginative truths of a story. They're a little bit different, but they overlap.
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Featured artist

Kevin Huizenga

           Featured product

Curses




KEVIN HUIZENGA interviewed on Newsarama

Updated January 26, 2007


TALKING TO KEVIN HUIZENGA
by Daniel Robert Epstein

"Comic book artist, Kevin Huizenga, like famed King Cat creator John Porcellino is a mini-comics creator who was able to break into the mainstream. Huizenga has been putting out his comic books, Or Else and Ganges for years. Now, Drawn & Quarterly has collected the Glenn Ganges material into one beautiful hardcover book called Curses. Ganges is the character through which Huizenga explores the world around him, from domestic issues such as fighting with his wife Wendy over The Beatles to surrealistic stories where Ganges must get a feather from an ogre."

Click here to read the interview!
 
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Featured artist

Kevin Huizenga

           Featured product

Curses




  CURSES reviewed on Diagram 6.6

Updated January 26, 2007


Diagram 6.6
REVIEW

Kevin Huizenga, Curses, Drawn & Quarterly, 2006

"Many of the features that lead some people, and I count myself among them, to consider Kevin Huizenga the most exciting living maker of comics are on display in Curses, a new collection of short works."

"...this is a collection where again and again synchronicities of text and intertext, of image and word, are both formally exhilarating and emotionally rewarding."

--Matt Dube
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Featured artist

Kevin Huizenga

           Featured product

Curses




TATSUMI and HUIZENGA in Time's Top 10 of 2006

Updated January 5, 2007


COMICS
by Andrew D. Arnold


02 of 10

THE PUSHMAN AND OTHER STORIES & ABANDON THE OLD IN TOKYO by Yoshihiro Tatsumi (Drawn & Quarterly)

If you have seen and sampled the abundant supply of translated Japanese comics (a.k.a. manga) and dismissed it as a lot of saucer-eyed schoolgirls and sexualized robots, you need to look at Yoshihiro Tatsumi's two collections of short stories. As different from mainstream manga as Yasujiro Ozu's films are from Godzilla movies, The Pushman and Abandon the Old feature stories about the working class, urban denizens of 1970s Japan. Almost as unknown in Japan as he is in the West, Tatsumi's neo-realist tales feature mechanics, pornographic film projectionists and factory workers who struggle against the dehumanizing effects of a Japan on the cusp of becoming a major economic power. These tales of desperation achieve a poetic sense of despair in Tatsumi's accomplished hands.


07 of 10

CURSES by Kevin Huizenga (Drawn & Quarterly)

A top-ten choice last year [#5 - Or Else] as well as in 2006, Kevin Huizenga continues his very strong body of work by putting out a hardcover collection of short stories titled Curses as well as a pair of comic books (Ganges #1 and Or Else #4). Specializing in stories planted in America's suburban sprawl, Huizenga discovers the magical and cosmological possibilities hidden in plain site of "average" lives. In one story a plastic grocery bag becomes a "magic mask" that protects a young husband when he visits a feathered ogre to help his wife conceive. Another story features the only convincing and sensitive portrait of a conservative, religious-minded "red state" character I have ever seen in the medium.
 
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Featured artists

Kevin Huizenga
Yoshihiro Tatsumi

           Featured products

The Push Man & Other Stories
Abandon The Old In Tokyo
Curses




  BELL & HUIZENGA in the Harrisburg Patriot News

Updated January 5, 2007


GRAPHIC LIT
Friday, December 22, 2006

Huizenga rates in comic art ranking


There have been a number of up and coming cartoonists in recent years, all vying for the title of "best new comic artist."

Few of them, however, seem as worthy of that mantle as Kevin Huizenga.

Having spent a number of years toiling in the world of avant-garde anthologies and Xeroxed minicomics, Huizenga has produced an impressive body of work in a remarkably short time.

Recently he's bumped up to the "big time," (relatively speaking) with two new ongoing series, "Or Else" from Drawn and Quarterly and "Ganges" from Fantagraphics, part of their new Ignatz line.

Now a new book, "Curses," collects many of the short stories that appeared in those anthologies and minicomics, most of which feature Huizenga's twentysomething everyman, Glenn Ganges.

Like the author Nicholson Baker, Huizenga often uses everyday events to explore a character's stream of consciousness. In "Lost and Found," for example, Glenn reads a junk mail ad, which in turn leads him to contemplate the fate of abducted children, the Lost Boys of the Sudan and his own desire for a family.

Family, children and the longing for both play a big role in "Curses" as many of the stories focus on Glenn and his wife's attempts to have a baby.

Another reoccurring theme is the fragility of our own short lives, as the nature of hell and the afterlife is contemplated in several pieces ("Jeeper Jacobs," "Jeezoh"). In Huizenga's world, the sacred and the profane don't just intertwine, they are the same.

"My stories are about objects and ideas and landscapes, not just the dramatic relationships between characters." Huizenga said in a recent e-mail exchange. "I want to draw comics about more than characters solving problems in a series of scenes."

Huizenga's art is deliberately light, simple and proudly cartoonish, in the vein of artists like E.C. Segar ("Popeye") and John Stanley ("Little Lulu"). That goes a long way toward making some of the more heady and poetic aspects of his stories palatable. Glenn's face, for example, is little more than a few dots and curved lines.

Glenn, however, is not an autobiographical stand-in for Huizenga, though some of the viewpoints may be similar.

"Glenn has to become his own man. Right now he's like a generic, distorted version of me," Huizenga said. "In a way he's how I can write about my own experiences without getting caught up in the messy details and distortions that autobiography would require."

"Ideally I would like to create a cast of characters that could embody different aspects of myself but stand as individuals too -- something like Charles Schulz's relationship to the 'Peanuts' gang," he said. "But I've a long, long way to go."

The best story in the book is "23rd Street," an inspired retelling of the folk tale "The Feathered Ogre."

Here, Glenn goes on a mission through strip-mall America in search of a mystical item that will finally enable him and his wife to have a baby.

It's the author's ability to combine the transforming myth of folklore and our world of Wal-Marts and Mobile stations that makes the work take flight. (In one sequence, for example, Glenn has a transforming vision by squirting "enchanted gasoline" into his eyes.)

I'm not spoiling too much by saying that success does eventually come for Glenn and his wife, but, as the title of the book implies, it arrives with some tragic, unforeseen consequences.

In my own stumblebum fashion, I've only hinted at the skill displayed in "Curses." While many art-comics fans are no doubt already familiar with these stories, the book is a perfect introduction for those unacquainted with the artist and his ever expanding world.

'Lucky' Bell:

Another new cartoonist worthy of high praise is Gabrielle Bell, whose new book, "Lucky," (Drawn and Quarterly, 112 pages, $22.95) collects a number of minicomics she did a few years ago.

At first hearing, Bell's comics sound like the sort of stereotype one automatically thinks of in regard to indie cartoonists: Autobiographical tales, focused on mundane details and events filled with heavy narration and a smidgen of angst. Dull news to some of you, no doubt.

But Bell's dry sense of humor, combined with her thin, sparse, yet graceful artwork belie any preconceived notions you might have about her work. She's far too talented to be pigeonholed.

"Lucky" doesn't represent her best work. You'd have to turn to the new "Drawn and Quarterly Showcase" to see that. But it is an entertaining collection and underscores the notion that Bell is a cartoonist to watch out for.


CHRIS MAUTNER
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Featured artists

Kevin Huizenga
Gabrielle Bell

           Featured products

Curses
Lucky (hardcover)




Gabrielle Bell, Kevin Huizenga & Anders Nilsen West Coast Tour in February!

Updated January 4, 2007


Gabrielle Bell, Kevin Huizenga & Anders Nilsen West Coast Slide Show & Discussion Tour

WHO & WHAT:
Drawn & Quarterly cartoonists Gabrielle Bell (Lucky), Kevin Huizenga (Curses), and Anders Nilsen (Don’t Go Where I Can’t Follow) will embark on a West Coast tour that takes them to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Berkeley, Portland and Seattle. The cartoonists will be presenting a slide show of their work, answering questions and signing their latest D+Q releases.

WHERE & WHEN:
LOS ANGELES February 8th 7 PM Skylight Books, 1818 N. Vermont Avenue

LOS ANGELES February 9th 8 PM Secret Headquarters, 3817 West Sunset Blvd, NOTE: Anders Nilsen Art Opening, no slide show or discussion

BERKELEY February 11th 3:00-5:00 PM Comic Relief, 2026 Shattuck Ave

SAN FRANCISCO February 13th 7 PM Booksmith, 1644 Haight Street

PORTLAND February 15th 7 PM Reading Frenzy, 921 SW Oak St

SEATTLE February 17th 6 PM Fantagraphics, 1201 S. Vale St.

 

Featured artists

Kevin Huizenga
Anders Nilsen
Gabrielle Bell

           Featured products

Curses
Lucky (hardcover)
Don't Go Where I Can't Follow




  Publisher's Weekly First Annual Comics Week Critic's Poll

Updated December 21, 2006


The First Annual PW Comics Week Critic's Poll

This story originally appeared in PW Comics Week on December 19, 2006

Regular PW writers and reviewers were polled for up to ten of their favorite graphic novels. The results came in as follows with a listing in descending order of the books that received the most votes, followed by selected comments from the critics.

Participating in this year's poll were Chris Arrant, Chris Barsanti, Ian Brill, Steve Bunche, Johanna Draper Carlson, Kai-Ming Cha, Sunyoung Lee, Heidi MacDonald, Dan Nadel, Jason Persse, Calvin Reid and Douglas Wolk.

[D+Q mentions:]

Four votes

Curses by Kevin Huizenga (Drawn & Quarterly)

"Huizenga's stories feature spare but architectonic drawings that slyly explore philosophic quandaries, often through the eyes of Glenn Ganges, an everyman protagonist who offers an engaging and thoughtful wonder at life's complexities."


Two votes

Lucky by Gabrielle Bell (Drawn and Quarterly)

"Bell is has a wicked ear for dialogue and draws some of the most nuanced body language in comics. Her first book of mature work displays her talents to great effect. Despite the familiarity of the subject matter—20-something ennui—Bell makes it all new again with her eye for detail."


Honorable Mention:

Abandon the Old In Tokyo by Yoshiharu Tatum (Drawn & Quarterly)

Ed the Happy Clown by Chester Brown (Drawn and Quarterly)

Or Else 3 by Kevin Huizenga (Drawn & Quarterly)



In addition to giving us their picks, a few critics were offered the chance to comment on the year in comics.

Dan Nadel

Despite all the interest and activity from major publishers, this year once again demonstrates the virtues of small, brilliant publishers like Drawn & Quarterly and Fantagraphics. Nurturing unique artists, growing with them, and releasing quality work remains the best (and oddly unique to these two companies!) business model. All the hype and money in the world can't beat it.

And, it's been a great year for reprints. I kept them out of my list to somehow make it easier. My favorites are Jeet Heer and Chris Ware's superlative Gasoline Alley series and Dark Horse Comics'edition of Russ Manning's Magnus Robot Fighter. About as far apart on the spectrum as you can go, but why not? Frank King and Russ Manning both understood body language and space extremely well, but put it in service to, um, very different content. Drawn and Quarterly's Moomin book and Tatsumi series are also favorites, as well as Fantagraphics' Popeye book.

Douglas Wolk

No getting around it: this was the best year for English-language comics ever. There's so much good stuff, new and old, coming out, because there's an audience for it like there's never been before, which means that there's an economic scaffolding to support it, and that scaffolding is not going away. My other career is writing about pop music, and not much music this year has impressed me; at one point, I worried that my taste was just ossifying as I got older and nostalgic about the records of my youth. Then I looked at the stack of new graphic novels next to my desk and realized it was just that music in 2006 paled in comparison to comics. The golden age is right now.

Jason Persse

The graphic novel has been a "legitimate" art form for a while now. Does that mean we can start calling them comics again? With the average cost of a single comic book at around three dollars, it has become cheaper for collectors and casual readers alike to await the trade paperback of even the most common super-hero stories.So what does this mean for the very definition of "graphic novel?" Do serialized stories count? Is there such a thing as a graphic novel purist? Is there an existing orthodoxy for a medium that is, by its very nature, unorthodox? Well I'll just go ahead and champion the loose-constructionist view and say that, from super heroes to the most iconoclastic "art" comics, the graphic novel is just a longer, more expensive comic book.It's also the most exciting frontier in the publishing industry.

Featured artists

Kevin Huizenga
Gabrielle Bell

           Featured products

Curses
Lucky (hardcover)




CURSES and LUCKY reviewed in Orange County Weekly

Updated December 18, 2006


People We Know

The characters in two graphic novels remind us of ourselves
By Cornel Bonca
Thursday, December 14, 2006

Most novelists wouldn’t dare to launch their careers with a book about the little things that happen to them on their way to trying to launch their careers as novelists, but Gabrielle Bell’s [Lucky] (not quite a graphic novel but a collection of graphic novelettes and short stories) is so modestly simple in its conception and in its graphics that it disarms any criticism that she’s narcissistic.

Though blatantly autobiographical, especially in a first section which is written in the form of daily diary entries, Bell’s Quarterly entry, “Lucky,” gives us a sweetly fragile world that’s doubtlessly familiar to that army of post-collegiate urban and suburban bohos who wear thrift clothes, string part-time jobs together to pay the rent, hang out and get depressed, and write (or paint, or act, or whatever). Bell’s main character, Gabrielle, spends her days and nights helping her friends move from one tiny overpriced Brooklyn apartment to another, modeling nude for arts classes (which she hates doing, crying afterwards in the changing room), going to performance art shows or museums with friends, coping with roommates who communicate via refrigerator note, tutoring annoying 12-year-old boys, whacking bugs that crawl up her bedroom wall, and negotiating her relationship with her boyfriend, Tom, whose career and apartment situations get him so paralyzingly depressed that at one point he altogether goes limp and “plays dead”: Gabrielle has to carry his full weight from a couch back to their bed.

Luckily, Tom doesn’t weigh very much. Nobody in this book does, actually: they’re all slim, slump-shouldered, shapeless, sexless. Though Gabrielle’s friends are all artist types, they’re not particularly liberated: there’s little drinking, no drug taking, and nobody seems to have the energy or disposition for lust. It’s a Calvinist bohemian scene—much more an East- than a West Coast thing—where a bunch of young men and women devote themselves to the hard work of making art, and care little about money, success, or conventional forms of pleasure. When it comes to anything but art, they’re meek as mice, afraid to call landlords about holes in the bathroom wall, and nonplussed when confronted with people who express powerful emotions. Bell conveys it all with a tender honesty that makes us feel protective toward her characters. Bell’s ink drawings are endearingly primitive, especially in the diary section: everyone’s eyes are simple little dots, and it would be difficult to tell characters apart if it weren’t for their hair. The characters tend to stand apart from each other, as if they’re suspended in space or are afraid to touch, and a striking loneliness (even among friends, even among couples) pervades the drawings. The book gives off the same quality of wistful lonesomeness that so much of 1980s culture specialized in: indie films or R.E.M albums and the stories of Raymond Carver or Frederick Barthelme.


* * *


Kevin Huizenga’s Drawn and Quarterly contribution, “Curses,” is set not in bohemian Brooklyn but deep in Wal-Mart country (the actual setting is Grand Rapids, Michigan, but with its planned communities, strip malls and fast food joints it could just be Anyburb, USA). Huizenga’s ambitions are so much greater—and his graphic talents so much more developed—that the book transcends its blighted settings. It in fact is transcending one’s boring world by burrowing into myth, history, folk tale, even science and theology—into imaginative and intellectual pursuits that can help link us all through the separations of time and space. This is a hell of a debut, and announces the coming of age of a writer who could in time approach the achievements of his obvious hero.

This book of graphic short stories centers around Huizenga’s alter ego Glenn Ganges, who lives in a quiet tree-lined suburb with his wife, Wendy, but the stories unlock themselves from realistic time and place as soon as something catches hold of Glenn’s obsessive consciousness. In “Lost and Found,” Glenn’s trip to the mailbox to get his mail becomes a prolonged meditation on lost and displaced people. Fixating on those “Have You Seen Us?” cards that come almost weekly in the mail detailing lost and kidnapped children, Glenn goes into a reverie about these children’s lives. But while he’s meditating on that, he sees two black young men go by, whom he identifies as Sudanese refugees that the town has lately taken in.

Through Glenn’s consciousness, Huizenga recounts their horrible history, characterized by war atrocities and loss of family, while the drawings show the refugees walking bewildered through Target-like superstores bursting with merchandise. The story makes the 20 steps to and from the mailbox a postmodern sociopolitical adventure of the most painful and disorienting sort.

Another story begins with Glenn speaking directly to the reader: “Well, I certainly don’t expect you to believe me, but here goes,” and launches into the story of how as a college student he became obsessed with the subject of “vision,” which led him to research and study so intense that it appears he began seeing things. Right on campus he kept seeing a dog that had a man’s severed hand in its mouth. It stalked him everywhere he went.

Was it a real vision, like those experienced by American Indian teenagers who were attempting to contact the Great Spirit? Or just hallucination caused by stress and overwork? He thought the latter until four years later, when he came upon nearly 200-year-old letters brought to him by a neighbor, letters that recounted the experiences of a Reverend who was so disturbed by increasing visions of being followed around by a monkey that he finally killed himself. These letters are a conduit into a long-gone history that illuminates Glenn’s fragile psychology.

One story uses the actual language of a boy’s adoption papers—presumably Huizenga’s, though that’s not clear from the text—and puts them into frames that simulate Japanese watercolor paintings of waterfalls and moss-covered crags. The story of the boy’s parents and their “reason for relinquishment” is ordinary—the mother is a factory girl impregnated by a man who didn’t stick around. But juxtaposed against images of nature’s enduring stillness, the history of these parents is told under the aspect of eternity and takes on a sort of melancholic universality as a result. Other stories include “Jeepers Jacobs,” about a fundamentalist theology professor writing a (thoroughly researched and argued) paper on the existence and quality of Hell, in between playing golf with Glenn and his other suburban buddies; and “28th Street,” an adopted folk tale in which Glenn enters a magical world in order to overcome the curse that’s prevented his wife from getting pregnant. The sight of Glenn wandering through the suburban Waste Land—the story resolves itself literally in the basement of a shopping mall—in a search for fertility pointedly recalls and updates T.S. Eliot in a provocative way. Huizenga is a major talent.


LUCKY BY GABRIELLE BELL. 111 PP. $19.95.
CURSES BY KEVIN HUIZENGA. 145 PP. $21.95.

AVAILABLE AT WWW.DRAWNANDQUARTERLY.COM
 
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Featured artists

Kevin Huizenga
Gabrielle Bell

           Featured products

Curses
Lucky (hardcover)




  CURSES reviewed in the Austin Chronicle

Updated December 18, 2006


DECEMBER 8, 2006
BOOKS

Readings
BY WAYNE ALAN BRENNER


Curses
by Kevin Huizenga

Drawn & Quarterly, 145 pp., $21.95

With a simple drawing style reminiscent of TinTin's Hergé, Kevin Huizenga uses the comics medium to brilliant effect. He wouldn't have to, considering the subtlety of his characterizations, the natural (but naturally weird) unfolding of his plots, the way a narrative often goes deep enough to be mostly interior: He could be just another pictureless writer exploring that intersection of the quiet suburban drama with the phantasms of magical realism, the sort whose name you'd see in the tonier literary journals, whose face you'd glimpse across the room at some publisher's soiree, and whose first book, although critically acclaimed, would sell poorly and be remaindered soon after its release. But that's not Huizenga. Huizenga has a mastery of scope and definition and renders his narratives, with impeccable rhythm, into sequential drawings, as well as words. Huizenga is the man who's given us Glenn Ganges, his major character, whose life (and the lives of those around him) is captured in the stories of Curses, the excellent new hardcover from Canada's Drawn & Quarterly. Witness ye the tale of a Victorian priest haunted by an animal spirit and how it relates to Ganges' own life; the incorporation of a dozen million starlings, an enchanted gas station, and a Sudanese folk tale into Ganges' search for a cure to his infertility; and, in the full-color "Jeepers Jacobs," the internal struggles of a theology professor who writes about hell and loves to golf. Witness also, as a treat for your design sense alone, the mirrorlike juxtaposition of roadways and tree branches in the two bottom panels of p.51, the nearly kinetic depiction of nighttime bike-riding on p.104-105, and the entire arc of "Case 0003128-24" with its unpopulated landscapes like those of the Ming Dynasty's Chen Zhou. Witness, hell: Buy this book of thoughtful, well-told stories for a friend. That way you, too, will be using the comics medium to brilliant effect.
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Featured artist

Kevin Huizenga

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Curses




Kevin Huizenga mentioned in the Wall Street Journal

Updated December 8, 2006


WEEKEND JOURNAL
By Sam Schechner
1 December 2006

The Wall Street Journal
W2


Books

Also out: Kevin Huizenga's "Curses," a graphic novel that arrived in stores last week, follows a young, suburban man through the philosophical musings that punctuate his everyday life, invoking Mozart, the nature of hell and a feathered ogre that lives under a strip-mall superstore. Publishers Weekly recently named it one of the best books of the year.
 

Featured artist

Kevin Huizenga

           Featured product

Curses




  New and recent titles from D+Q reviewed in the Santa Fe New Mexican

Updated November 30, 2006


The Santa Fe New Mexican
November 26th, 2006

WEEKEND, SU-09

PANELHEAD: BEST OF THE YOUNG & RESTLESS
by BRANDON GARCIA

CANADIAN PUBLISHER'S QUALITY CONSISTENT IN STABLE OF ARTISTS

For years now, some of the best-looking books have been produced by a tiny Canadian publisher, Drawn & Quarterly. And by that, I mean the physical appearance of the books and not the enticing panels within. I'm not knocking their quality either: Drawn & Quarterly's catalog is the only one I browse, excitedly noting upcoming releases.

Many of their authors are foreign or young and often both. Take Kevin Huizenga, for example, who at 29 is only two years older than me. D&Q recently published Curses, a collection of his stories that live up to its namesake. It opens with philosophical musings on pagan superstition, juxtaposing modern and Victorian examples. Then it segues into contemporary stories about suburbia and infertility before changing themes and reconsidering the nature of curses altogether.

My reaction to Huizenga is mixed. His imitation of Victorian prose is eerily good, but the story is dull and I found myself skimming to the end. Yet his modern stories, told through the lens of folklore are much more entertaining, even if they lack the depth of the collection's opener.

As Huizenga has Glenn Ganges, our hero throughout the collection, meet his wife because of the pair's insomnia, I decided he's a big ol' softie.

Next up is Shenzen, Guy Delisle's account of his visit to the industrial Chinese city. Having already won acclaim with his journal from Pyongyang, Delisle seems determined to visit Asian cities that no one wants to visit.

Shenzen is a series of anecdotes without an overriding story. That doesn't trouble me much because I accepted the book as journalism. Shenzen looks filthy and forcibly isolated and those conditions plague. Delisle seems detached as he recounts translation problems and adventures with public toilets. The Chinese seem friendly and curious, but also distant, as does the author.

Delisle has a good eye for detail, like his sketches of shiny modern buildings amid the urban decay and his illustrations of how throngs of bicycles manage to maneuver without catastrophe. I'll also give him this: If he ate everything he claims to -- including goat lung and dog -- he has a more adventurous palate than I do, and I once applauded myself for eating veal kidney.

As brave an eater as Delisle is, I have to nod toward Julie Doucet and admit that drawing comics as discomfiting as hers takes some guts, too.

Doucet's collection, My Most Secret Desire, is mostly a series of dreams, many of them nightmares about femininity. (I guess Huizenga chose his title first.)

Here, Doucet recounts dreams of rape, menstruation and captivity. Her work is weird and sometimes repulsive. She also seems very fascinated by gender transformation, but in trite or narcissistic ways, as in the self-explanatory If I was a Man I'd Have to Shave and The Double, an ode to self-love. Most confusing was If I Was a Man, which could be read several ways, but where I think she reveals that she'd be a rapist. I don't know if its intent is to slander men for their supposed chauvinist entitlement or praise women for their supposed preening virtue.

Normally, I judge comics on entertainment value, but Doucet is aiming higher. I don't like what she has to say, but I grudgingly have to admit she's good at what she does. She challenges us while expressing an existential fear and loathing of humanity while maintaining a smile. It's quite a balancing act and I hope no one tries to duplicate it. One Doucet is enough.

Last month, I reviewed a group of anthologies, but I left one out for this column: Drawn & Quarterly Showcase No. 4, three stories by Gabrielle Bell, Martin Cendreda and Dan Zettwoch that provide a sample of the publisher's
taste.

Everything I've bought by Bell has been worthwhile, and this story is no exception. It's an ominous story about art and artists filled with self-doubt and a touch of self-loathing. But it's also hopeful, too, making the story an apt metaphor for the lives of artists I've known.

Cendreda matches Bell's strange mood with a story about kids and dogs running around separately during a sweltering summer with an unseen serial killer on the loose. Oddly, a grandpa and his Filipino superstitions hold the story together. I haven't managed to do it, but I think the key to this story is figuring out how all those pieces add up.

Zettwoch's story about the 1937 flood in Louisville, Ky. closes this collection. It's a straightforward story, but people who've never lived through a flood should check it out. All kinds of weird things happen that are well-suited to illustration and Zettwoch finds plenty of them for his story.

I started off by writing about D&Q's quality. Check out this sampler to see what I mean.

Contact Brandon Garcia at 995-3826 or at bgarcia@sfnewmexican.com.

Featured artists

Julie Doucet
Kevin Huizenga
Guy Delisle

           Featured products

Curses
Shenzhen: A Travelogue From China
My Most Secret Desire New Edition




Gabrielle Bell, Kevin Huizenga & Anders Nilsen in St. Louis & Chicago!

Updated November 30, 2006


Don't miss Gabrielle Bell, Kevin Huizenga & Anders Nilsen in St. Louis at Star Clipper Comics on Wednesday, December 6th and in Chicago at Quimbys on Thursday December 7th!

http://starclipper.popshoponline.com/

http://quimbys.com/events.php

Featured artists

Kevin Huizenga
Anders Nilsen
Gabrielle Bell

           Featured products

Curses
Lucky (hardcover)
Don't Go Where I Can't Follow




  CURSES in the Washington Post

Updated November 29, 2006


Sunday Source
Media Mix; A Quick Take on New Releases

29 October 2006
The Washington Post, M02


COMIC

Curses
By Kevin Huizenga

Drawn & Quarterly
$21.95

BASIC STORY: In seemingly normal observations and encounters, everyman Glenn Ganges grapples with existential questions of fate, fantasy and faith in nine short stories.

SAMPLE GRAB: "Every week two new faces and you imagine the scenes in between."

-- Glenn wonders at the scenarios behind the people depicted in missing-person fliers

WHAT YOU'LL LOVE: With art that ranges from clear-eyed cartooning to swirly expressionism, Huizenga takes his characters through poetic explorations of the profound.

WHAT YOU WON'T: The tales can leave readers feeling adrift in a sea of ideas.

-- Evan Narcisse.

GRADE: A-

Featured artist

Kevin Huizenga

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Curses




A bunch of D+Q books reviewed in the Globe & Mail

Updated October 25, 2006


The Globe & Mail

GRAPHICA
Nothing novel about these works
For NATHALIE ATKINSON, the fall's best graphic books aren't necessarily novels, but collections and anthologies

NATHALIE ATKINSON

In the recent harvest of graphic novels, no particular long-form work stands out. Marisa Marchetto's memoir Cancer Vixen (reviewed Oct. 7 in Globe Books) will be the most popular crossover title of the season; Pride of Baghdad, a story plucked from the headlines about Baghdad zoo animals freed by the stray bombs, sneaks into reviews like a lion in sheep's clothing but is simply a slight bit of well-executed genre action fiction (whoops! there it goes again); and the much-ballyhooed 9/11 Report, albeit a record of one of the most important government reports of modern times, is little more than a hastily cobbled info-graphic.

The most anticipated sophomore efforts are also light. Chicken With Plums (Pantheon, 84 pages, $22.95), Marjane Satrapi's first major work since her acclaimed graphic memoir Persepolis, is the story of her great-uncle Nasser Ali Khan, a famous tar musician in Iran. It recounts the eight days leading to his death and reconstructs the facts of his life in semi-fictitious flashbacks. It is an interesting story, but lacks the presence of a spunky young Satrapi that made Persepolis so compelling.

Similarly, Shenzhen (Drawn & Quarterly, 148 pages, $24.95) is another closely observed travelogue by Guy Delisle; while China has inherently more potential for humour than last fall's North Korea-set Pyongyang (as in a sequence where the animator abroad observes a man slipping on a banana peel), like Chicken, it doesn't have the topical hook.

No, the excitement this season comes not from a single long-form work, but from interesting anthologies and collections. The publication of two major graphic anthologies is a significant milestone for the medium, an indicator of critical mass, and both are just appearing in bookstores this week.

An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, & True Stories (Yale University Press, 400 pages, $32) is edited by cartoonist Ivan Brunetti, best known for his self-loathing comic Schizo. In this comprehensive primer, Brunetti fills every page to assemble a contemporary cartoon canon that occupies the comics position of the Norton Anthology of Literature (with a gorgeous dust jacket designed by Seth that even comix cognoscenti won't be able to resist).

He also reproduces a handful of short pieces that are not only essential, but extremely influential. Jaime Hernandez's perfectly crafted short story Flies on the Ceiling is an exemplary distillation of why Hernandez is among the best living cartoonists, and Here, by Richard McGuire, is a hard-to-find short comic often cited by Chris Ware as a key influence (it's a formalist experiment with time and panel structure).

Justin Green's Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary appears, as does Love's Savage Fury by Mark Newgarden, wherein, using Nancy and Bazooka Joe, he deconstructs cartoon panels while playing with the geometric elements of Nancy's composition. Art Spiegelman and Chris Ware's comics tributes to Charles Schulz after his death -- which simultaneously render homage to Schulz's characters and iconic style while cleverly embodying their own signature tics -- precede Schulz's own illustrated essay on developing a comic strip (first published in 1959).

For context, Brunetti provides small morsels of the most influential old material from comics history, like a Gene Deitch cover, Crockett Johnson's Barnaby (circa 1946) and a Harvey Kurtzmann. It includes a roll call of the new generation, like Kevin Huizenga, Gabrielle Bell and Lauren Weinstein, and overlooks not a single contemporary artist: there's Chester Brown, Carol Tyler, Lynda Barry, surrealist Mark Beyer (whole nihilist punk avant-garde is probably the most difficult acquired taste in comics) and, of course, several R. Crumb selections, including Uncle Bob's Mid-Life Crisis, in which the cartoonist lies in bed and ruminates on his neuroses, elaborate sexual fantasies and jazz. An Anthology of Graphic Fiction is a delicious brick of a book.

Alas, The Best American Comics 2006 (Houghton Mifflin, 293 pages, $29.95) -- the inaugural comics offering from the successful "Best American" franchise -- suffers by comparison. While accessible, it lacks both the design and vision of the Yale compendium, with a whole less than the sum of its parts.

Although guest edited by Harvey Pekar, there is little editorial point of view or mandate at work other than the strictures of year of publication. Highlights include Joe Sacco's reportage on the current war in Iraq from the Guardian, R. Crumb's Walk in the Streets and the inclusion of a few newcomers seldom seen outside of zines and comic shops, such as Canadian Rebecca Dart.

Drawn & Quarterly Showcase No. 4 (Drawn & Quarterly, 102 pages, $19.95) publishes the short stories of three emerging cartoonists (not one born before the first Star Wars movie). In the opening story, a stint in art school leads cartoonist Gabrielle Bell to a job teaching an awkward 12-year-old to draw and an emotional entanglement with him and his father; this single story is more polished than Lucky, a collection of her diary comics also published this fall.

In a personal narrative washed in olive and red tones, Dan Zettwoch recounts his father's escapades in the great 1937 Louisville flood in a homemade boat. It's intensely researched and evokes the architecture and layout of the city, while Zettwoch's diagrammatic cartoons captures details from makeshift bridges to his father's grumbling stomach.

Martin Cendreda's Dog Days conjures a hot suburban summer day where kids cheat the video game at the local liquor store, stray dogs fight after wallowing in cool water, and a childhood excursion is interrupted by reports of a serial killer on the loose.

Before Joe Sacco made a name for himself as a reportage cartoonist in war zones in Palestine and the former Yugoslavia, he was a long-haired rock-obsessed cartoonist, living the grunge life in Washington and touring Europe with Seattle-based neo-psychedelic rock band the Miracle Workers. But I Like It (Fantagraphics, 122 pages, $29.95) collects his comics of the same (with a CD of live music) as Sacco chronicles his days as a hanger-on and poster artist in Berlin; and in the best story, lays bare his Rolling Stones obsession.

The most notable collected Canadian offering is This Will All End in Tears (Insomniac, 168 pages, $21.95), the third book of collected stories by Montreal-based cartoonist Joe Ollman. Ollman's narratives aren't happy tales; in Big Boned, Charlene lives with her bossy mother, eats in secret, obsesses about her weight and nurses an unrequited crush on her pimply office-mate Donny. Other characters are burdened with sadness, alcoholism and unwanted responsibility as Ollman's characteristic cartooning captures the everyday grotesque. Ollman's increasingly complex storytelling also grows more assured with each book and it's an aptly titled collection.

Of the single-artist collections this season, Curses (Drawn & Quarterly, 144 pages, $24.95), by Kevin Huizenga, stands out as the most coherent and consistently articulate. The link throughout these disparate stories is recurring protagonist and everyman Glenn Ganges, a blank slate and stand-in for the cartoonist. Ganges's calming presence lends Huizenga's narratives a matter-of-fact quality, however fantastical or absurd the premise may be.

In Green Tea (A Glenn Ganges Remix), Huizenga adapts a Victorian suspense story by J. Sheridan Le Fanu in which Dr. Hesselius investigates the suicide of Rev. Jennings and combines strange psychic phenomena (visions of a phantom monkey, a dog carrying a severed forearm) with mundane details about college all-nighters. 28th Street is based on an Italian folk tale by Italo Calvino: Ganges and his wife Wendy struggle with infertility and he is dispatched by various strangers on a quest to pluck a plume from a feathered ogre. Navigating through the suburban sprawl cluttered with neon signs, 24-hour fresh marts and big-box stores on his quest, Ganges douses his eyes with "magic" gasoline, is presented with an enchanted Styrofoam take-home container and eventually dons a magic plastic bag to wear over his head to trick the ogre.

Using primarily a clear line style (think Tintin creator Hergé), Huizenga uses comics to articulate complex patterns, recurring motifs and connected relationships. In Lost and Found, Ganges imagines the stories that might lie in the space between photos and descriptions of abducted and abductor he reads every week on missing children's flyers, then associates this idea with a news item on the "Lost Boys" -- the bands of barefoot Sudanese orphans who crossed the desert on foot and eventually came to the United States as refugees. Here especially Huizenga is masterful at illustrating how the mind makes connections, and his ability to communicate this circularity, in comics form, is particularly elegant.

In Curses' title story, Ganges's neighbourhood is terrorized by insomnia thanks to a noisy winter roost of starlings. Huizenga mixes facts about a Mozart composition with the data that up to half the output of the starling flock (technically and evocatively called "murmurations") may actually consist of sounds related to automobiles (like the whine of power windows, traffic and screeching tires) because starlings, as cousins of the mynah bird, are outstanding mimics.

As a sleepless Ganges wanders through his sleepy neighbourhood listening for distant freight trains and the hum of power lines, the content of the starlings' word balloons slowly changes from notes to images of the sounds their song may emulate. In these panels, Huizenga's inventive use of the graphic medium's language is the quintessential example of a sequence possible only in comics.

Nathalie Atkinson is The Globe and Mail's graphic books reviewer.
 
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Featured artists

The D&Q Showcase Series
Kevin Huizenga
Guy Delisle

           Featured products

Curses
Shenzhen: A Travelogue From China
Drawn & Quarterly Showcase: Book Four




  CURSES by Kevin Huizenga reviewed in BOOKLIST

Updated September 27, 2006


Curses

1 September 2006
Booklist, 68, Volume 103; Issue 1; ISSN: 00067385

Huizenga, Kevin. Curses. Sept. 2006. 152p.
illus. Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95 (1-894937-86-4). 741.5.

Glenn Ganges' sober countenance has peered out from Huizenga's philosophical comics tales since his introduction to the graphics universe in the early 1990s. In Huizenga's largest collection featuring the blank-faced protagonist, Ganges is a quizzical mouthpiece for the artist's observations on the startling and surrealistic nature of the modern world. In "Green Tea," Ganges recounts an episode from university days, when a tea-fueled research project on hallucinations triggered his own visionary experience and had him digging through a nineteenthcentury psychiatrist's papers for explanations. "The Curse" follows Ganges' mission to steal the plumage of a "feathered ogre" and remove a curse that is keeping him and his wife childless. Other tales disclose hidden connections between missing children and Sudanese lost boys and unearth surprising details about starlings. Huizenga's masterful, multitextured drawing style proves equally suited to depicting rainstorms sweeping through mini-marts and landscapes in the style of classical Japanese paintings. Unlike many graphic artists whose self-written texts suffer in comparison with their higher quality drawings, Huizenga's scripts are consistently crisp, witty, and engaging.

-Carl Hays

Featured artist

Kevin Huizenga

           Featured product

Curses




Kevin Huizenga's CURSES reviewed in Publisher's Weekly

Updated August 17, 2006


Curses
KEVIN HUIZENGA. Drawn Quarterly, $19.95 (152p) ISBN 1-894937-86-4

Huizenga has created some of the most remarkable comics of recent years, and this volume collects stories published in anthologies and random comic books. Huizenga’s work, drawn in a deceptively simple and quietly expressive cartoon line, is marked by a focus on philosophical quandaries. Nearly all of his stories take place in an anonymous suburbia, and his everyman protagonist, Glenn Ganges, is a likable character possessed of a Charlie Brown–like calm. The strongest story in this book, “28th Street,” is a fanciful meditation on fertility in which Ganges turns to supernatural solutions for his all too corporeal problems. Another excellent story, “Jeepers Jacobs,” explores the nature of heaven and hell through the fictionalized work of a theologian protagonist. Another story, “Green Tea,” is an adaptation of a 19th-century thriller. It’s quite a range, and Ganges’s thoughtful wonderment at all of his experiences opens up the world to the reader. Huizenga is an inclusive, empathic artist who communicates without lectures—rather, he simply shows the world as it might be and allows us, through Ganges, to experience it with him. His excellent ear for dialogue and measured prose style accomplish this without flash. These are wonderfully considered, profound comics. (Oct.)
 

Featured artist

Kevin Huizenga

           Featured product

Curses




  CRICKETS reviewed by the Onion

Updated April 3, 2006


If Huizenga has a rival for the mantle of art-comics hero, it's Sammy Harkham, the L.A. DIY champion whose anthology Kramers Ergot has given the new movement a home. Harkham's new solo book Crickets #1 (Drawn & Quarterly) starts off with a lengthy sequence of a man running through the woods that's pretty much par for the course as far as crudely drawn, hard-to-follow modern art-comics go; but the second half improves greatly when the man (and his golem) meet a father and son traveling on a morbid mission. What happens next is blackly comic and genuinely shocking, and though Crickets may never live up to its first-issue climax, Harkham at least appears to know what he's doing… B+
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Kevin Huizenga
Sammy Harkham

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Crickets #1




OR ELSE #4 reviewed on Comic Book Galaxy

Updated March 15, 2006


Or Else #4
By Kevin Huizenga
Published by Drawn & Quarterly, $5.95 USD

Kevin Huizenga's latest issue of Or Else, entitled "the Wild Kingdom," is yet another fascinating exercise in comics experimentation. Whereas many of Huizenga's contemporaries tinker with the visual elements of cartooning in service of their characters' stories, Huizenga's latest book reads more like a series of loosely related character moments woven together into a narrative. While there is no single story per se, there are several recurring themes which give this book its contextual structure, including most notably the intersection between nature and humanity. The artist shows, through silent, perfectly paced scenes, a pigeon who, after eating some discarded french fries, is intoxicated and ultimately struck by a car, while in another related example, a squirrel is fed a half eaten apple, carelessly discarded by Glenn Ganges. These examples of how nature co-exists with suburban life, and the often times detrimental effects our careless lifestyle can have, are fascinating. While the first half of the book is almost completely silent, Huizenga slowly, and carefully, slows the pace by adding more and more text. First he introduces a series of fake parodies of television commercials into the narrative (see sample pages). At first, these feel like distractions, though they are so familiar to us, that one cannot help but notice Huizenga's social commentary about our TV obsessed culture. As the amount of text increases, the structure of the book also becomes more cluttered, as literally every panel becomes disjointed from its previous panel, until each page is a sequence of random images and messages without context. Yet to call this style chaotic would be misleading. Throughout this dense section, the recurring motifs of disconnection with nature and rampant consumerism exist, and it is perhaps Huizenga's greatest strength that he is able to carry the reader through such an experimental narrative structure without losing the thread. Throughout the final section of the book, entitled "Appendix A," Huizenga returns to silence, as he shows, quite cleverly, how this simple disconnection between people and their environment can lead to catastrophic results. This is one of the most creative and thoughtful books I've read in a long time, and one I have no doubt will reward multiple readings. To say that Huizenga continues to push the boundaries of what comics can be is an understatement, as literally no one, even among his celebrated contemporaries, has taken experimentation in thematic structure to such a degree. Grade: 4.5/5
 
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Featured artist

Kevin Huizenga

           Featured product

Or Else #4




  Sammy, Kevin and Anders On Tour!!!!!

Updated January 18, 2006


Drawn & Quarterly and Fantagraphics Present Sammy Harkam–Crickets, Kevin Huizenga–Or Else & Ganges and Anders Nilsen–Big Questions & Mome on Tour

Saturday, February 18th Rocketship, 208 Smith St Brooklyn NY 8 PM Art Opening
Monday, February 20th Center for Cartoon Studies White River Junction VT Class Visit
Tuesday, February 21st Casa Del Popolo 4873 Blvd. St. Laurent Montreal, QC 7 PM
Wednesday, February 22nd The Beguiling at the Revival 783 College Street West (at Shaw) Toronto, ON 8 PM
Saturday, February 25th Quimby’s 1854 West North Ave Chicago, IL 7 PM


Featured artists

Kevin Huizenga
Anders Nilsen
Sammy Harkham

          



D&Q wins 3 of TIME COMIX top 10 of 2005!

Updated January 3, 2006


Best of 2005: Comix
Posted Saturday, Dec. 17, 2005

TIME.comix columnist Andrew Arnold presents the top graphic literature of the year

- 4 -
Walt & Skeezix
by Frank King (Drawn & Quarterly)

Finally exposing the work of a nearly forgotten master cartoonist, Walt & Skeezix reprints the first two years of Frank King's deeply American comic strip "Gasoline Alley" in the debut of what will (hopefully) be an annual reprint series for the next twenty years or so. Famous for characters who age in real time, like Walt, the dedicated bachelor and his adopted son Skeezix, the strip amounts to a daily diary of an American family as it goes through the depression, WWII, the post-war boom and beyond. This first volume features many car gags, but they soon give way to King's fascination with the country life as Walt, Skeezix and the Alley gang go for a trip to Yellowstone. Every day they pass through a real town, with its name duly noted in the corner. Walt & Skeezix is a trip you won't want to miss.
A Bright, Well-lit 'Alley' 7/9/2005

- 5 -
Or Else
by Kevin Huizenga (Drawn & Quarterly)

Once only available as samizdat-style photocopied pamphlets, this year fans of Kevin Huizenga's comix have finally been rewarded with a regular, aboveground series. One of the most promising of a new generation of cartoonists, Huizenga's stories use a combination of the quotidian and the surreal to explore themes of science, nature, religion and family. One episode spends twenty pages interpreting a single moment when a character becomes blinded by the sun coming through a library window. Using whimsy to explore the metaphysical, Huizenga's Or Else, consistently surprises with its intelligence and artistry.
Get It 'Or Else' 4/1/2005

- 7 -
Pyongyang: a Journey in North Korea
by Guy Delisle (Drawn & Quarterly)

In 2001 Guy Delisle spent several months in North Korea's capital overseeing the production of a French animated TV show. While the show may be forgotten, his comix diary of the experience will not be. With a great deal of dry humor, Delisle examines the workings of the world's most hyper-controlled society, where the only lights in the city seem to be the ones focused on monuments to the "Dear Leader." Though it lacks the deep cultural penetration of some other memoirs, like Marjane Satrapri's Persepolis series and Joe Sacco's Balkan War books, Pyongyang provides a cartoon corrective to a place that too often gets characterized in "cartoonish" ways.
From Ming to Kim 9/23/2005
 
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Featured artists

Frank King
Kevin Huizenga
Guy Delisle

           Featured products

Walt and Skeezix: 1921-1922 (Volume One)
Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea (hardcover)
Or Else #3




  KEVIN H'S OR ELSE #3 reviewed by Comic Book Galaxy

Updated August 12, 2005


Or Else #3
By Kevin Huizenga
Published by Drawn and Quarterly; $3.50 USD

In the space of three issues, Or Else has become essential reading, and one of the most exciting and entertaining comics being published. In a world where we only get a new Eightball or Acme Novelty Library once every year or two, it's nice that a creator quickly proving he is as engaging, inventive and unpredictable as Dan Clowes or Chris Ware is regularly publishing. The implicit praise in the early notes that this title is the first regular series D&Q has launched since Optic Nerve has borne fruit: Or Else is the real thing.

There's a ton of stuff going on before you even crack this open. There's an amusing turn of phrase on the cover that brought a slight grin, only to return as full-fledged revelation once I read one of the stories within. If you're like me, you often check out the back cover before plunging into the book proper; the back cover is a blurry photograph. "Ah, Kevin's being arty." Well, sure, that too, but once you read the book, if you're like me, a second glance at the back cover will be enough to bring a tear to your eye.

Huizenga is an artist deeply in touch with his own emotions, and masterful at putting them on the page to share with his readers. The four page "March 6, 1999" near the front of the book holds enough genuine humanity and insight to make you thankful for the book's existence and Huizenga's gifts. But he's just getting started. "Al and Gertrude" is the highlight in an issue full of home runs: Huizenga recounts moving next door to an elderly couple. To say any more would spoil the tale for you. I promise, though, that it's one of the most moving stories you'll read, full of compassionate observation, and with a final panel that will have you reflecting on your own life and its likely path long, long after you close the cover. And when you close the cover, you'll see that back cover again, and you'll understand even more about why Huizenga created the story, and the experiences, curiousity and innate decency that inform his talents as a cartoonist.

"Fashionably Zen," is the other lengthy piece of the issue, and if it's a bit lighter in emotional tone than "Al and Gertrude," it is no less accomplished for its sense of verisimilitude. Huizenga is a guy who thinks about things, apparently all the time, as a good observational cartoonist must. "Zen," sees him thinking something very nearly to death, only to find, as we often do in real life, that he's not as crazy or alone as he thinks he is. You'll like the story, and then, if you're like me, you'll once again laugh in amazement when you see how it ties in to something seemingly unconnected elsewhere this issue.

What else can I say? This issue, as with the previous issues, absolutely blew me away: Huizenga grows with every passing story, sharing more of his talent and more of his thoughts and insights into his life and the world around him. We're profoundly lucky to have him working in comics, and to let Or Else slip past you unnoticed would be one of the great tragedies of your life, if you're like me -- someone who loves good comics. Grade: 5/5

-- Alan David Doane
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Featured artist

Kevin Huizenga

           Featured product

Or Else #3




D+Q is nominated for 5 Harvey Awards!

Updated June 28, 2005


Kevin Huizenga, Anders Nilsen and Seth have all been noted for their 2004 releases.


The Harvey Awards, named after pioneering cartoonist Harvey Kurtzman (co-creator of MAD magazine), are one of the comics industry’s oldest and most respected awards. The Harvey Awards recognize outstanding achievements in 20 categories, ranging from Best Letterer to Best New Talent to the Special Award for Excellence in Presentation. They are the only industry awards both nominated by and selected by the full body of comics creating professionals.


Best New Series
Michael Chabon Presents: The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist / Dark Horse Comics
Ex Machina: The First Hundred Days / DC Comics/Wildstorm
Or Else / Drawn & Quarterly
Owly / Top Shelf
1602 / Marvel

Best Letterer
Daniel Clowes / Eightball / Fantagraphics Books
Todd Klein / Wonder Woman / DC Comics
Seth / Palookaville / Drawn & Quarterly
Dave Sim / Cerebus / Aardvark-Vanaheim
Richard Starkings / Conan / Dark Horse Comics

Best Single Issue or Story
Batman: Room Full of Strangers / DC Comics
Black Hole #12 / Fantagraphics Books
Dogs and Water / Drawn & Quarterly
Identity Crisis #1-4 / DC Comics
Eightball #23 / Fantagraphics Books
Puphedz / Brillig Productions
Supernatural Law #101 / Exhibit A Press

Best Inker
Charles Burns / Black Hole / Fantagraphics Books
Danny Miki / Ultimate Fantastic Four / Marvel
Andy Parks / Green Arrow / DC Comics
Seth / Palookaville / Drawn & Quarterly
Steve Leialoha / Fables / DC Comics/Vertigo

Best Graphic Album of Previously Published Work
American Elf: Sketchbook Diaries of James Kochalka / Top Shelf / James Kochalka
Bone: One Volume Edition / Cartoon Books / Jeff Smith
Clyde Fans: Book 1 / Drawn & Quarterly / Seth
Locas / Fantagraphics Books / Jaime Hernandez
R. Crumb’s Kafka / ibooks/Komikwerks / Robert Crumb & David Zane Mairowitz



 

Featured artists

Seth
Kevin Huizenga
Anders Nilsen

           Featured products

Clyde Fans; Book One
Or Else #2




  TCJ Picks Dogs & Water, Babel & Or Else as Top Ten of 2005.

Updated February 28, 2005


The Comics Journal picks their top ten comic books of 2004, and D+Q lands three comics on the list!

Anders Nilsen "Dogs and Water"
David B "Babel #1"
Kevin Huizenga "Or Else #1"

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Featured artists

Kevin Huizenga
David B.
Anders Nilsen

           Featured products

Or Else #1
Babel #1




UTNE features Anders NIlsen, Kevin Huizenga, John Porcellino and the DQ Showcase!

Updated December 10, 2004


The February 05 issue of the UTNE READER features an article by Chris Dodge on "underground cartoonist to watch for" which features an extensive write-up on D+Q cartoonist Anders Nilsen and DQ Showcase #2 contributor Jeffrey Brown and lists Kevin Huizenga (Or Else), John Porcellino (Perfect Example -Fall 2005) as well as DQ Showcase 3 contributor Sammy Harkam as more artist to know about!
 
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Featured artists

The D&Q Showcase Series
Kevin Huizenga
Anders Nilsen

           Featured product

Or Else #1




  The Austin Chronicle Reviews OR ELSE & BABEL!

Updated December 10, 2004


HOME: DECEMBER 10, 2004: BOOKS: BIG BOOKS

Big Books

Gift guide
BY WAYNE ALAN BRENNER



From Kevin Huizenga's Or Else No. 1


New Comics

There's a goddamn slew of good new comics overflowing the edges of publishing's ink-stained cornucopia right now, just in time for your holiday shopping. Here are a few of what you and your visually literate friends and family will likely enjoy the hell out of.

Fantagraphics' Blab! No. 15, the latest in their annual Monte Beauchamp-edited anthology, is the usual sequential art gallery between two covers, gorgeously reproducing new work by Camille Rose Garcia, David Sandlin, Sue Coe, Nicolas Debon, and others; it's an oversized, full-color compendium of dreams and nightmares from some of the finest illustrators alive. In My Darkest Hour, also from the Big F, is a gritty portrait of a still-kinda-young Latino trying to find stability (or anything worthwhile) in his transient, bipolar life. The creator, Wilfred Santiago, possesses skills reminiscent of Dave McKean, and his expert collaging of photos into the mix will break your heart almost as much as his characters do.

Alternative Comics tempts gift-buyers with Joel Orff's beautifully rendered Waterwise, a subtle and moving evocation of friendship and shared memories. Published earlier this year by AC, yet still blazing in our mind's eye, is Rebecca Dart's RabbitHead; if we wanted to present a friend with a comic that'd intrigue her and, as the hippies would say, "fuck up her headspace," this innovative, wordless wonder would be what she'd get.

Not content to rest on their various Adrian-Seth-Julie-Chester laurels, Canada's Drawn & Quarterly has issued two new series. Babel by David (Epileptic) B. begins the story of a young boy's waking quest to find his dream-time King of the World; it's a two-color masterpiece of narrative and graphic design. Kevin Huizenga's Or Else No. 1 is a collection of short pieces ranging from the delightful scenes of "NST '04" to the bizarre mythos of "Jeezoh."

Or, you can get comics direct from their creators. And, especially when those creators have been recipients of a Xeric Foundation grant, you'll find the same high production values you'd get from company-generated books. Josh Neufeld's A Few Perfect Hours is a collection of nonfiction stories about Neufeld and his wife Sari's recent adventures in Southeast Asia and Central Europe. It's a volume like the very best travel writing – "Like Paul Theroux, but with pictures!" a friend said – and just the thing to gift someone who's going (or returning from) overseas.
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Featured artists

Kevin Huizenga
David B.

           Featured products

Drawn & Quarterly Showcase: Book One
Or Else #1
Babel #1




McGill Daily reviews Or Else & Dogs & Water

Updated November 29, 2004



Dogs and Water
Anders Nilsen
88 pages
Drawn and Quarterly

Dogs and Water is about a long, dangerous, and ultimately aimless journey; a journey undertaken across a series of barren and sinister landscapes by a boy who has “sort of a bad sense of direction,” a bit of food, some matches, and a teddy bear strapped to his back, the likes of which he muses to throughout the book. This is existential comic art at its best.

Dogs and Water’s narrative starts out a bit like a horror movie. When the main character turns around, wondering where the road he’s been hitchhiking down has gone, it’s hard not to want to yell “Turn back now!” like he’s a sexy teen about to open the cobwebby door of an abandoned mansion during a thunderstorm.

Nilsen maintains an atmosphere of quiet surreal anxiety throughout the book. His protagonist has brush after brush with death in its various incarnations, whether they may be packs of wolves or mysterious men with guns. Although the sheer frequency of these confrontations can seem a little ridiculous, they do prevent the reader from ever settling in too comfortably with the story.

The book’s design and artwork also work toward the same purpose. Dialogue is minimal, and the drawings on the page aren’t segmented into boxes like most comics, emphasizing the disorienting feel of the story. Dogs and Water consists mainly of painfully sparse black-and-white line drawings, with no grey tones and minimal shading. However, interspersed with the tundra-narrative are occasional pages printed in blue, illustrating the protagonist’s shipwreck in the middle of an equally vast and bleak expanse of water, just in case the disoriented sense of alienation needed reinforcment.

Dogs and Water is published by Montreal’s very own acclaimed independent comic book publisher Drawn and Quarterly (D&Q), so fans of other stylish D&Q comics like those of Chris Ware and Julie Doucet will most likely dig this book, too. Like so many of D&Q’s publications, Nilsen’s work is also breaking new ground.

Just as artists such as Art Spiegelman, author of the Holocaust-retelling Maus legitimized the comic book to a much wider audience as a means of social and historical commentary, comics such as Dogs and Water are now being recognized increasingly frequently as credible vehicles for interesting and philosophical stories and ideas. Like other intelligent, atmospheric comics such as Ethan Persoff’s A Man and His Elephant or Peter Blegvad’s Leviathan, Dogs and Water is a quick way of showing anyone not yet on this particular bandwagon that it’s been a long time since comics were limited to the antics of Superman et al.

–Lily Pepper


Or Else #1
Kevin Huizenga
34 Pages
Drawn & Quarterly

You don’t get a lot of high quality comics out of the Midwestern United States. Judging by those folks’ voting patterns, you’d have to assume that the entire belt was never introduced to the concept of irony. But an exception may have to be made for Or Else #1, a Drawn and Quarterly (D&Q) release of five shorts by Illinois native Kevin Huizenga.

Huizenga has been making a name for himself in the comic world lately. In October, he was given the Ignatz Award for “Outstanding Story” for one of his Glenn Ganges stories. The story, “The Hot New Thing,” was published in Time Canada. Needless to say, this is not your traditional Batman comic. D&Q doesn’t seem to publish anything with the word “superpower” in it. They’re more into the ultra-mundane post-modern. Following in the footsteps of Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan series, the artist and insomniac Huizenga writes sad little ditties about the unspectacular: awkward human interaction, bleak moments, and silence. You’ll love it.

The first two stories feature Glenn Ganges, an ordinary guy in a Midwestern U.S. town. We are introduced to Ganges through six riveting panels:

1. washing dishes.
2. weeding his garden.
3. taking out the garbage.
4. staring out into space as he waters his lawn apa- thetically.
5. disinterestedly reading his book.
6. staring out into space, mulling over a cup of coffee.

The everyday is also explained with pop culture references to music. A character hears someone humming. “Is that Wagner?” they ask. “No…Roxy Music.” Our personal obsessions are examined.

Developing on the post-modern, Huizenga employs a pastiche of our traditional western forms with other traditional arts. In one of his stories, the artist narrates through the persona of Chineese artist Chan Woo Kin and creates an “action” strip out of a minimal Chineese-style landscape. Written in high contrast to the peaceful twisty trees and waterfalls, Huizenga cleverly contrasts a very modern tale about an adopted child with an ancient art form.

In Or Else, Huizenga reworks the comic form as we know it. In one short strip, the dialogue boxes break free of their owners and attack one another. Another story is told through the tangle of wind that a bicycle creates. Each frame is obscured by thick black lines and swirls – like the impossibly oblique Matt Brinkman, Huizenga is part of a new generation of comic artists who don’t spoon-feed you their stories.

–Isodora Walsh, with files from Genevieve Jenkins

 
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Featured artists

Kevin Huizenga
Anders Nilsen

           Featured product

Or Else #1




  D+Q's Kevin Huizenga & Anders Nilsen in St. Louis 12/1 & Chicago 12/11

Updated November 24, 2004



WHO & WHAT:
Drawn & Quarterly's newest cartoonists Kevin Huizenga & Anders Nilsen will be signing their latest comics –their first solo projects for the company OR ELSE #1 and DOGS & WATER– in St. Louis & Chicago.


WHEN & WHERE:
Wednesday, 12/1/04, 4 PM
Starclipper Books
6392 Delmar in the Loop
St. Louis, MO 63130
http://www.starclipper.com/

Saturday, 12/11/04, 4 PM
Quimby's
1854 West North Ave
Chicago, IL 60622
www.quimbys.com


FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Kevin Huizenga is the cartoonist of the SUPERMONSTER mini-comic, which is being collected into his new series OR ELSE. He recently won an Ignatz for his short story GLENN GANGES in the DQ SHOWCASE BOOK ONE. Please visit http://www.usscatastrophe.com.

Anders Nilsen is the cartoonist behind the BIG QUESTIONS mini-comic which has been nominated for two Ignatz Awards. He won a Xeric grant for his graphic novel THE BALLAD OF A TWO HEADED BOY. Please visit www.theholyconsumption.com.








Featured artists

Kevin Huizenga
Anders Nilsen

           Featured product

Or Else #1




IGNATZ WINNER KEVIN HUIZENGA IN TIME!

Updated October 6, 2004


IGNATZ WINNER KEVIN HUIZENGA IN TIME!

Time Magazine Canada and Time.com feature a two-page original comic strip by D+Q cartoonist Kevin Huizenga, who this past weekend at SPX in Bethesda, MD took home the Ignatz Award for "Outstanding Story" for his GLENN GANGES story in the DRAWN & QUARTERLY SHOWCASE BOOK ONE. In addition, D+Q has just published Kevin's first issue of his new comic book series OR ELSE.

The strip, GLENN GANGES IN THE HOT NEW THING can be found here:
http://www.time.com/time/covers/1101041011/comic/index.html


 

Featured artist

Kevin Huizenga

           Featured products

Drawn & Quarterly Showcase: Book One
Or Else #1




  D+Q in NYC & Bethesda October 1-3

Updated September 24, 2004


Drawn & Quarterly will be in two places at once with your favorite cartoonists and comics next weekend October 1st-3nd!

Starting on Friday, October 1, D+Q will be at the Small Press Expo (SPX) in Bethesda, Marlyand through Sunday where we will debut new comics by Kevin Huizenga (Or Else #1), Anders Nilsen (Dogs & Water), David B. (Babel #1), Seth (Palookaville 17), and a new graphic novel by David Collier (Frank Ritza Papers)! R. Sikoryak, Kevin Huizenga and Anders Nilsen will be hand to sign anything you want!

On Sunday night at SPX are the Ignatz Awards where D+Q is up for Outstanding Artist-Chester Brown, Outstanding Graphic Novel- Louis Riel & The Fixer, Outstanding Story - Glenn Ganges In D+Q Showcase 1 and Paul In the Metro in D+Q 5, as well as Babel, Or Else and Dogs & Water being up for Outstanding Debut Award.

For more information on the festival, visit: http://www.spxpo.com/

On Saturday, October 2 and 3, D+Q will also be at the venerable festival New York Is Book Country in a new location - Washington Square Park, NYC. We will be right next to Jim Hanley's Universe on the graphic novel block. Adrian Tomine will appear on Saturday and David Collier will appear both days! We will be selling all of our brand new comics!

For more information on the festival, visit: www.nyisbookcountry.com

Come out and buy these brand new comics over a month before they hit stores!


Featured artists

Kevin Huizenga
David B.
Anders Nilsen

           Featured products

Or Else #1
Satiroplastic





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