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Matthew Forsythe's JINCHALO

Updated June 13, 2012


Ready to take a trip?
Let Matthew Forsyth's Jinchalo take you on a wordless nonsensical adventure

By Amanda L. Shore, Assistant arts editor
The Concordian
February 28th, 2012

How do we illustrate? Let me count the ways: with our bodies, with our hands, with a brush or with a pen. Before language and the written word, there was illustration. We told stories with our bodies and with images drawn on cave walls. Today, we continue to use the technique of illustration when words fail us, but would you read a story without any words?
Before you make a decision, you may want to consider picking up Matthew Forsythe's Jinchalo. Based on Korean folktales about parental loyalty, this 120-page paperback is made entirely of wordless drawings that tell the story of a little Korean girl, the gluttonous Voguchi, and her adventure with a shape-shifter.
After eating all the food in her father's house, she's sent to the market to buy more. In the market, Voguchi buys a large egg, and as she's leaving she collides with Jinchalo, who is holding the shape-shifter egg. In the resulting chaos, the eggs get switched and Voguchi walks off with the shape-shifter egg. On her way home, the egg hatches and adventure ensues as she chases the shape-shifter through a tumult of nonsensical and fantastical worlds.
It may seem daunting to read a story completely in pictures, without any words to guide you. However, Forsythe draws crisp, animated images that perfectly illustrate the characters' emotions and actions. The sequence of events and the exact nature of the plot are less concrete and hinge on the reader's ability to interpret and formulate the narrative based on the illustrations. As a result, it's possible that every reader will be reading a different story, one that is perhaps entirely different from Forsythe's conception.
Forsythe, however, doesn't see this as a disadvantage, but the opposite. The great thing about nonsense and surreal works is that they leave you space to interpret things however you want and it isn't patronizing to the reader or the audience,” he said. “The audience participates in it.”
Forsythe has worn many career hats in his day and interestingly enough, being an artist wasn’t originally one of them. He studied political science with a minor in religious studies at McMaster University. He’s been a part-time professor at Concordia’s department of journalism and he’s taught English as a second language. However, unlike many children who draw as a pastime and then stop, Forsythe has been drawing since he was a child and has continued to do so despite the different paths he’s explored.
While teaching English in Korea, he was inspired by the graphics, cartoon culture and comics of the country to draw his own comics based on the nonsense logic and aesthetic style of Korean comics.
“It was really fresh to me. There’s a sort of nonsense logic in a certain strain of manga, just sort of surreal comics for kids. I was teaching kids and I noticed that they weren’t afraid of nonsense, because it’s so much fun and it’s a different way of looking at the world, so that really inspired me. I was drawing with my kids in class and we would tell each other stories and make up stories, so it came out of this experience,” said Forsythe.
The title Jinchalo means “really” in Korean. Forsythe explained that oftentimes he would be in a conversation, speaking in Korean, but he wouldn’t quite understand what was going on, so to appear as if he did know, he would ask, “Jinchalo?” and his conversation partner would reply, “Yeah, Jinchalo.”
This can be paralleled to how some readers might react to this book, not quite understanding everything, but sort of nodding along as if they did. Jinchalo is also a character in the book. He is the mysterious fate figure that sets the plot in motion, but by the end of the story we are still left with the question of who he is.
Voguchi is funny and lovable; her personality jumps off the page. Other characters, such as the furry rectangular monster that comes begging for food, are harder to interpret, but this oddity simply adds to the nonsensical fun. Jinchalo is a delight both artistically and narrative-wise. Spend an hour with this book and you’ll feel like a little kid again—free, playful and joyous.

Jinchalo is available from Drawn and Quarterly and other fine book retailers. For more information, visit comingupforair.net.
 
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  Macleans: JINCHALO "poignant"; a world "as strange, intricate and... profound" as a Miyazaki film

Updated February 28, 2012


REVIEW: Jinchalo

Book by Matthew Forsythe
by Nicholas Köhler on Thursday, February 23, 2012 10:15am - 0 Comments

REVIEW: Jinchalo

Forsythe is 35, lives in the Mile End section of Montreal and has a dog. Somehow from that workaday world he’s generated a fairy-tale land that draws together all his preoccupations as an illustrator, cartoonist and children’s author: Jinchalo, a wordless comic strip printed almost entirely in monochrome and set in a magic version of ancient Korea, begins with a magpie dressed in hat and tunic and armed with a walking stick, and ends with a terrifying metamorphosis that brings the story full circle. At bottom it is a poignant look at innocence versus the mayhem of experience.

The hero is Voguchi, a little girl who commits transgressions, disappoints her bent-backed granddad and tries, desperately, to make amends. Her adventures introduce her to a furry monster with a funny hat much too small for him, odd landlocked sea creatures with one eye, robots, lush market scenes where the produce stares back at you, and a mysterious shape-shifter who, once hatched from a strange, large egg, rules her life.

An award-winning cartoonist whose first children’s book, My Name is Elizabeth, was last year a New York Times Notable Book, Forsythe here creates a world as strange, intricate and as ineffably profound as those in animator Hayao Miyazaki’s films. But where Miyazaki borrows from the folklore of Japan and works in Japanese anime, Forsythe’s Jinchalo is a mutt of influences—from underground comics (Jinchalo is published by alternative comics powerhouse Drawn & Quarterly) to manga, Korean mythology and menacing demons out of Hieronymus Bosch.

Indeed, the book is every bit the shape-shifting trickster that little Voguchi’s nemesis turns out to be. Forsythe once taught English to kindergarten students in South Korea, and Jinchalo feels like nostalgia for a lost country, reimagined from a Montreal walk-up; he also toyed with becoming an ornithologist, and the characters of his bird world—the commanding magpies and seagulls in robes and tall hats—are like emissaries from a place one can never see again.
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"Rising artist" Matthew Forsythe interviewed by Comic Book Resources

Updated February 28, 2012



Matthew Forsythe Asks "Jinchalo?"

By Alex Dueben
Comic Book Resources
Feb. 16th, 2012

Matthew Forsythe had a great autumn. In 2009, Drawn and Quarterly published Forsythe's debut graphic novel "Ojingogo," but last fall saw the release of two very different projects from the Montreal-based artist. The first was "My Name is Elizabeth," a picture book illustrated by Forsythe which was named a notable book by the New York Times Book Review and led to Forsythe being signed to a two book deal by Simon and Schuster. The second was "Comics Class," published in the fall by Koyama Press, a not entirely autobiographical tale of Forsythe's personal experiences as a teacher.

Forsythe's latest book, his second full-length graphic novel, is "Jinchalo." Inspired by Korean folk tales, the wordless volume is strange and playful, a truly dream-like book that moves from the monstrous to the confusing to the hilarious. The book has just been released and Forsythe will be appearing in Montreal tonight (February 16,) and in Toronto on Sunday (February 19) to promote the book. CBR News spoke with the rising cartoonist to talk about his books and the transition to being a full-time artist.

Story continues below

CBR News: Let's start with a simple question: What does the word "Jinchalo" mean?

Matthew Forsythe: Jinchalo is Korean for "really?" As in "seriously?" When I lived in Korea, I used to say it all the time to pretend I understood the conversation I was in. The book features a trickster magpie, and that's his name.

Matthew Forsythe's "Jinchalo," a loose follow-up to "Ojingogo," is in stores now

How do you come up with the story for something like "Jinchalo?" On the one hand, there's a simple way to describe the plot, but that doesn't really get at what the story is.

It's true. I don't really know what it is either, and I don't think that's a bad thing. The story -- which has elements of Korean folk tales, "Super Mario Brothers 2" and Jack and the Beanstalk -- really followed the drawings and not the other way around, which makes it difficult for people (including me) to get their head around. I think the book suffers a little for this -- and I hope it might also be considered interesting for the same reason.

"Jinchalo" features the same lead character as your previous book, "Ojingogo." Why did you bring her back?

When I finished "Ojingogo," I just kept drawing this character in various situations. Eventually, a narrative seemed to develop. The process was a lot like I imagine sculpting to be. At the end I just stood back and was probably as bemused as anyone else.

Why did you tell the story without words and what are the challenges specific to telling wordless stories in comics?

In wordless comics, it's difficult to convey situations that are more than physical comedy or slapstick on the surface -- which is fun and fine on its own, but some of my favorite artists, like Blutch or Sempé or Moebius, can take physical situations and make them strike at something more profound. The height of this sort of thing comes across in Chaplin's films. A film like "The Kid" is full of physical comedy on the surface, but is so moving and has a lot of heart. It's what I'm trying to do, sometimes, but I'm not sure it ever works.

I was wondering if you could talk a little about "Comics Class" and how you got involved with Koyama Press.

"Comics Class" was a kind of fun little catharsis from the anxiety of actually teaching a comics class -- which I really had no business doing. It was very much inspired by Jillian Tamaki's amazing online strip, "Mutant Magic Academy," and Kate Beaton's looser Twitter comics. I wanted to do strips in one sitting that were fun and super-quick on my Wacom tablet. The strip was so much fun to do. I posted the strips online and Annie generously asked if I was interested in putting it out as a mini-comic.

Last year, you illustrated the picture book "My Name is Elizabeth," which is something a lot of comics readers may not be aware of. What did you find interesting about the book and what was it like collaborating with a writer.

Forsythe is holding several launch parties to promote his new book

I posted a strip called "Dogwalk" about my girlfriend and our dog and an editor called me and asked if I was interested in using the character for a script she had. I've always wanted to do picture books -- at the time I was working full time as a manager at the National Film Board of Canada -- and didn't have time to write one, so I thought illustrating one would be a fun compromise.

The script was fun but I was naive about how much time a kids' book would really take and the number of restrictions there are in working in that medium. There was no collaboration with the writer -- I just received the script and got to work. There was a lot of back and forth-ing with the editor, who I am learning are really the conductors in the kids' book orchestra.

To what degree do you think that there's a shared, for lack of a better word, grammar, between picture books and comics?

I'm really still learning this sort of thing, but I think it's important that the illustrations don't directly repeat what the text is saying, but instead build on it or oppose it in a way that creates a sort of friction or juxtaposition. That space in-between is an exciting place for the reader to hang out -- and I think it's what makes my favorite kids' books or comics re-readable.

You recently quit your job in order to become a full-time artist, which is a big decision. I wondered if you could just talk about what that's meant personally and professionally.

Where do I start?

It's great. I was worried money was going to be the main challenge with going freelance. It was for the first year, but I'm pleased to report that it's not anymore. It's always a concern, but time is still my greatest concern.

The other thing is that now I have no excuses for when my work doesn't meet my standards. There's no day job I can blame, so it's a character-building exercise. But it's always fun because I'm always learning and trying to get a little better. No more watching the sun set on a parking lot. No more sitting in four-hour meetings while my life passes me by. My morning commute is now a walk through a park to a really great studio filled with artists I admire.
 
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Matt Forsythe

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Ojingogo
Jinchalo




  "Nature nerd" Matthew Forsythe's imagination "clearly in overdrive": Interview by the Gazette

Updated February 28, 2012


The comic book adventures of nature nerd Matthew Forsythe

By Tracey Lindeman
Special to The Gazette
Feb. 14, 2012


MONTREAL - Illustrator Matthew Forsythe has always been a nature nerd. As a kid, he drew a comic aptly named Comical Wildlife in which he’d make “really bad jokes” about animals’ features and characteristics.

“It was kind of like Animal Crackers, but more obscure,” the Montrealer says. He recalls drawing muskoxen – known to herd into outward-facing circles when threatened – literally turning into circles.

Now an adult, sipping tea in a Mile End café, he recounts the joke with a shy smile, shaking his head. He had forgotten about those comics; he’s embarrassed by them. Though he may have learned something about subtlety since childhood, it’s clear Forsythe’s love for animals still informs much of his illustration work.

Jinchalo, his second comic for local publisher Drawn and Quarterly, begins with a mysterious bird. Decked out in a hat, backpack and collared robe, the bird fends off a pack of vicious wolves with a walking stick-turned-snake and returns to its equally mysterious egg, nestled safely in a tree – only to accidentally lose it to Voguchi, the comic’s flawed protagonist, when they get tangled up at the market.

Voguchi is a gluttonous and short-tempered little Korean girl whose Jack and the Beanstalk-inspired adventure begins when the egg hatches and a shape-shifting bird named Jinchalo emerges.

With an imagination so clearly in overdrive, it’s hard to believe Forsythe ever suffered from a lack of inspiration, but before embarking on a journey to South Korea to teach English in 2003, he said he had lost interest in conventional cartooning. “I stopped illustrating before I went to Korea,” he says.

The creative drought was quenched shortly after landing in Seoul. He began drawing Ojingogo, a web comic featuring Voguchi and a squid, in response to both the culture shock and the long hours spent in the classroom.

“The teaching work was really hard work, so I had to do something I loved,” he says.

Ojingogo’s nominations for Eisner and Expozine awards in 2005 and 2006 grabbed Drawn and Quarterly’s attention; they published it as a graphic novel in 2008.

“I loved Matt’s first book, Ojingogo, so it was a real pleasure to publish his follow-up, Jinchalo,” says D+Q publisher Chris Oliveros. “One of the things that struck me about Jinchalo is just how far Matt has come as an artist and, overall, as a cartoonist.”

Both books pay homage to Korean comics – the pages are without panels, the stories are steeped in Korean folk tales and, save for a few bursts of Korean onomatopoeia, the books are basically wordless.

But as good as it’s been drawing Voguchi comics, Forsythe is moving on to children’s books.

Last year, he illustrated My Name Is Elizabeth!, which earned the distinction of being named a New York Times notable children’s book. Based on its warm reception, American publisher Simon & Schuster sought Forsythe out and signed him to a two-book deal. The first will involve illustrations for a book about monkeys written by someone else, but the second will be all his own.

It was perhaps serendipitous, then, that on the first day of a recent trip to India, after signing the book deal, he found himself in the middle of a monkey migration along the Ganges. Later, at Kukkarahalli Lake in South India, a chance encounter with two ornithologists and their children led to an afternoon spent birdwatching. An admitted “big fan of birds,” Forsythe couldn’t believe his luck. He came home with an entire book filled with sketches and notes.

He may have refined his illustration skills since his Comical Wildlife days, but he’s still an animal-loving nerd at heart.

Matthew Forsythe launches Jinchalo Thursday at 7 p.m. at Drawn & Quarterly, 211 Bernard St. W. For more details, see drawnandquarterly.com and Forsythe’s site, comingupforair.net.

Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/entertainment/comic+book+adventures+nature+nerd+Matthew+Forsythe/6150800/story.html#ixzz1nhreHTlB

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Ojingogo
Jinchalo




Korean food, Super Mario Brothers 2, and paintings found in Siberia: JINCHALO artist on inspiration

Updated February 28, 2012


ARTSWEEK: Korean chronicles

By Rupert Bottenberg
The Montreal Mirror
Feb. 16, 2012

Back in 2008, the Mirror front-paged the D&Q “petit livre” Ojingogo, gathering the fantastical funny business of the webcomic Montrealer Matt Forsythe had begun while teaching English in Korea. The fragmentary nature of Ojingogo’s online iteration didn’t favour a conventional story, but suited the capricious capers of its petite protagonist Voguchi and her goblin associates.

Forsythe says his new follow-up D&Q book, Jinchalo, “was developed the same way, only offline. There was only the loosest of outlines even towards the end.” Inspiration for the book, he says, came from “Korean food and folk tales, Super Mario Brothers 2 and a painting I found in Siberia of a walking bird wearing a very small hat.”

As oblique as the book’s arc may be, Voguchi has been sculpted into a clear, strong personality—and not always the most honourable or gracious. “There’s a sequence in the book where she rolls out of the comic, drags me into the strip and yells at me, berating me for showing her in a bad light. That pretty much sums up our relationship.”

Forsythe launches Jinchalo at Drawn & Quarterly (211 Bernard W.) tonight, Thursday, Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. Free.
 
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Featured artists

Forsythe
Matt Forsythe

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Ojingogo
Jinchalo





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