Monday, January 24, 2011

Something Norwegian This Way Comes!

I feel like I often start posts with something along the lines of "have you heard about this?" This time, I'm just going to say that I love graphic novelist Jason, and local publisher Fantagraphics (for doing the Lord's work and publishing his books here in the States).

While perusing the staff recommendations of a bookstore some years ago, my friend K. and I came across something that looked promising recommended by someone we'd come to trust implicitly. That something promising was Low Moon, graphic short stories written and illustrated by Jason (it's a pen name, by the by).

What immediately struck me (dare I say, both of us) was the simple, clean lines of his work. Every single line not only had a reason to be there, but it felt absolutely essential. While he occasionally makes use of color, he traditionally uses a pallet of simply black and white. His style is really, in every way, something of a shock to the system for me. I'm used to highly detailed works where artists are flexing a bit, really trying to show you what they're capable of. With his minimalist style, Jason impresses in a more understated way, but in a way that sticks with you. His anthropomorphic creations express so much with so little. Even in their failure to emote, they pull feeling(s) from you, the audience.

Appropriately, his art style isn't the only thing about Jason that makes him so distinct. His stories and the way that he chooses to tell them manage to somehow surpass the inherent beauty of his illustrations, which, in case you're skimming, is no small feat. With titles like I Killed Adolf Hitler and Werewolves of Montpellier, the former of which includes a spoiler in the title while the lattermost involves something of a werewolf battle royale in France, you can tell he's going in some fantastic directions. Even so, he manages to build worlds with rules and logic that you just understand. Aliens, Elvis impersonators, cavemen, zombies, pterodactyls, and pop culture references all fit perfectly into Jason's worlds. While at a glance the art could be seen as simple, the stories are anything but. You'll find highly nuanced short stories, collections of silly comic strips, and ultimately highly rewarding literary experiences awaiting you in his oeuvre.

As an aside, it should be noted that Jason will 'learn ya' things you wouldn't expect to learn. For example, did you know Dolly Parton originally wrote "I will always love you," a song that has been attached to Whitney Houston since The Bodyguard? This is something I gleaned from Why Are You Doing This? If you're a fan of this brand of random knowledge gain, I'd also recommend checking out the author's blog (with a name like Cats Without Dogs, how could it be bad?).

It should also be noted that much of Jason's work is brilliantly wordless. I can't stress how much I love, admire, and respect illustrators talented enough to pull off such an undertaking. As a fun little project, you should totally write a story, then convert it into a series of illustrations. While you do that, I'll be stroking this computer monitor, which is canvassed with pages from Jason's forthcoming short story anthology, Athos in America.

Oh! And to anyone who thinks they're too literary for an artist such as Jason: climb down from that horse! It's just so high. You might like The Left Bank Gang, as it features Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Pound, and Joyce as graphic novelists. They also pull off a serious robbery. Some of them die. Gertrude Stein's there, too.


1 comment:

  1. Fascinating. These sound so rich - I'll have to try 'em!


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