You will have to employ a careful eye to catch all the detail packed into the panels of London native Marc Bell’s new book, Stroppy.
What this means is that the slender volume will reward multiple readings, even if the plot doesn’t get any clearer with each pass at the story.
Actually, there’s not much of a linear tale in Stroppy.
Truth be told, the factory worker of the title is a minor character in his own story, which is about evoking a mood more than a structured beginning, middle and end.
The joys of Stroppy are the same ones we all derived as children from reading the sentient-animal stories of Richard Scarry.
The twist is that in this graphic novella they seem to come by way of underground-comix pioneer Robert Crumb.
Pay close attention and you’ll find riffs on the likes of Gowan, the Canadian singer from the 1980s, as well as sitcom actor Alan Thicke and President’s Choice products.
Showing that he still has the Forest City on his mind, Bell — who was one of the featured artists during the inaugural edition of the Ting! Comic and Graphic Arts Festival in 2014 — even includes a mention of the City Lights Bookstore, the venerable Richmond St. retail outlet that has played such a prominent role in the history of this city — particularly when it was owned by the enterprising Marc Emery.
Seemingly random wordplay aside, Stroppy also functions as a satire of the music industry.
Bell pokes gentle fun at the way bands are marketed, suggesting the bureaucracy in the private sector is every bit as stifling as its public counterpart.
Released by Montreal publishing house Drawn and Quarterly, I recommend Stroppy for readers who want a diversion from the usual graphic-novel fare.
It’s not for everyone, but I think that may be the entire point.