James Sturm’s Off Season is a powerful piece of work, although I am puzzled by the cartoonist’s methods. Sturm’s tale of an American couple coming apart as Donald Trump rises to power left me feeling glum. At the end of the 213-page graphic novel, there doesn’t seem to be much hope for Mark and Lisa, or for the United States. In Off Season, the personal and the political are closely aligned. Mark is a former Bernie Sanders supporter who, unlike his wife, can’t bring himself to back the eventual Democratic nominee in 2016. “Hillary is just more of the same old crap,” he muses. “Not that I’d vote for Trump, but at least he’s his own man.”
A carpenter who can’t seem to get ahead, Mark’s disgust for Clinton is mingled with his resentment for his wife. While he struggles to make a living, she seems to have all kinds of time to volunteer for the Democratic campaign. Do politics really have such an impact on affairs of the heart? I guess they must, for some people.
But what puzzles me more about Off Season is how this comic creator’s cast of characters is depicted as dogs. They walk upright, they talk, they wear clothes, they do human things, but they are canines with floppy ears and snouts. I can’t imagine what was gained by this choice. Sturm is an able artist, why not just draw them as people?
Regardless, I recommend Off Season, because it will help to build empathy. And we could use more of that in our fractured world.