Monday, January 2, 2012

Two From Koyama Press: Comics Class and Gloria Badcock

Publisher Annie Koyama has a knack for providing homes for unusual projects that are somewhere between comic book, graphic novel and art object. Simply by publishing Michael DeForge's series Lose, her Koyama Press has attained instant credibility and importance. It's obvious that she has a discerning eye for talent, and is especially (but not exclusively) focused on the works of Canadians who might not have another publishing option for a shorter work.

Matthew Forsythe's Comics Class is a good example of this sort of in-between book looking for a home. Best known for his children's comic Ojingago (published by Drawn & Quarterly), this book is a quasi-autobiographical work that satirizes his own attempts at teaching comics. This was an interesting departure from the mostly sweet and clever Ojingago, a book aimed at children done in a very precise, labored style. Comics Class is satiric and heavily self-deprecatory, as Forsythe lampoons his own persona as artist and teacher on page after page. The art is much sketchier and heavily dominated by shortcuts like zip-a-tone effects; he was clearly going for something quick and punchy.

This is a funny series of events that falls outside of the art object aesthetic of Drawn & Quarterly. Forsythe's self-loathing sense of comic timing is sharp, like in a sequence where his supervisor is observing the class and his young students spit back his complaints at him ("You said you were a fraud....oh that you had writer's block"). There's another sequence where another supervisor tells him that some of his students were having nightmares of "Villages burning. Rape. Beheadings", and an excited Forsythe is simply glad they were paying attention while he was talking about Lone Wolf and Cub. This book is full of such comic beats and well-constructed gags. They tend to pound the same notes every time, but the brevity of the book (just 44 pages) allows him to wring every last bit of humor out of this scenario without outstaying its welcome.

Maurice Vellekoop's The World of Gloria Badcock is so frothy it fairly threatens to float away. This is a delightful, sex-positive romp that skates on genre as its narrative skeleton, but all of that merely serves to provide a platform for Vellekoop to draw various characters having sex in an assortment of positions and with an assortment of partners. His clear-line, cartoony style is backed by a rock-solid understanding of anatomy as well as a sense of how bodies (literally) relate to each other in space. This book is a perfect example of the niche that Koyama Press serves to fill. Vellekoop hadn't published a comic since the late 1990's, but I can't imagine his old publisher (D&Q) putting out this sort of comic. Koyama understands, that as a boutique publisher, she can afford to publish a boutique item like an old-fashioned porno comic book. Vellekoop is a perfect example of a Canadian alt-comics artist whose current work doesn't quite fit within the interests of other publishing concerns.

This comic is silly (the time machine runs on cole slaw, and it wasn't until the populace started the French Revolution that they got the cabbages they needed, thanks to those vegetables being thrown through a window), beautiful and unabashedly sexual. Each of the characters is having a good time, where it's a French count, fashion maven Gloria dreaming she was Dorothy and having sex with the Tin Man, or young Gloria getting off on images of Adam & Eve. There's not much else to say about this comic other than that it's porn with a healthy sense of humor about itself but that still is very much porn in execution and intent.

1 comment:

  1. Gloria Badcock's name and cover made me laugh so hard in the comic store I bought it immediately! Thanks for write-up! -JJ