by David King
Sparkplug Comic Books
David King has created a book in which the art and dialogue unite almost at random. It’s a kind of comics poetry, and it’s done well.
The “av” elements spend most of their time on the page like twins separated at birth — alike and related, but with personalities completely informed by their disparate environments and experiences.
The art is g-g-g-gorgeous. King’s little characters, with their miniature limbs and classic, but over-the-top hairstyles and outfits, are easy to spend time with.
There’s no real plot, just a current of ache that moves through the book. The characters wear bewildered expressions, lack confidence, and almost treat each other like objects in a room passing time rather than as friends or lovers. It lays a strange mood on the reader, and even though I’ve re-read this book enough times to know what that mood is, I can’t quite put a finger on it. It’s really unique.
I’ve seen people try without success to reach this level of dull malaise, but in Danny Dutch, King is the first cartoonist I’ve seen in awhile who really nails it.
The art and handwriting and word blocks and balloons marry nicely in each panel. The page layout is set up as a four-square grid, and dialogue flows between panels and pages, never really stopping to conclude, or mark the beginning of something new. I’d love to tell you what the book is about, but the truth is that it’s not about anything in particular beyond tidbits and musings on life.
Danny Dutch was published by Sparkplug Comic Books, and I’ve gotta say, they craft some fine books. The art looks clear on the page (No bitmapping! Hooray!) and the uncoated pages have a nice, substantial quality. The size of the book is somewhat unusual (8″ square like the Kochalka sketchbook diaries), but I love that size, and with the uncoated cover and interior pages, the whole handling experience is really enjoyable. The colors used on the cover are interesting, and post-apocalyptic in a way: lime verging on yellow tinged with a grapefruit-inspired pink. Strange and foreboding and not unlike what you’ll find inside.
I’m not fond of the endpapers, which have kind of an argyle pattern that skews the author’s commentary to a strange right-sloping angle on the back page, but overall it’s just an excellent book, or a really successful experiment. I’m a die-hard fan of self-publishing, but I really appreciate seeing a book that has clearly been assembled by a company of people who know what they’re doing and took care to represent someone else’s work well.
Danny Dutch is 28 pages long and costs $5.50 from the publisher.
- Sarah Morean