Sunday, 21 February 2010

Review: Mats Jonsson's Hey Princess (Top Shelf, 2010)

"Hey Princess"
Story and art by Mats Jonsson
Price: $14.95 (US)
Black and white, 472 Pages Softcover
Published by Top Shelf Productions
Released: April 2010
Diamond Code: FEB10-1094
ISBN: 978-1-60309-051-3

Coming this April from Top Shelf, Hey Princess is a series of memoirs about writer/artist Mats Jonsson’s romantic development from university through to his career in the Swedish comic industry. Written retrospectively, Jonsson writes a candid warts-and-all confessional that leaves no stone unturned in detailing his most pathetic and awkward moments for the reader’s amusement/ discomfort/ empathy. Set to a 1990s Brit-pop soundtrack, the comic collects excruciatingly honest memories from one man’s journey through the world of relationships, casual sex, social validation, the Swedish indie music scene of the 90s, fashion-victimhood and more.

Covering the highs and (mostly) lows of Jonsson’s romantic travels, the stories in Hey Princess often straddle the gap between tragedy and comedy. As explained by Jonsson in a recent interview with us, it was important for him to wait years before writing about these experiences. Having the distance of time between living the events and writing about them gives Hey Princess a cathartic quality; often the pathos of the author's younger self is accompanied by the caustic humour of self-acceptance.

Just like a “greatest hits” of relationship disasters, there’s something in here for everyone: from the difficult experience of dating the university student who is desperate to experience sexual freedom, to the dreaded disintegrating long-distance relationship, to the unfortunate situation of dating a girl who reveals herself to be just seventeen a little too late.

"The Darkness of Love"

Jonsson has created a rarity in the field of romantically-focused autobiographical comics: a story that is both universal and personal. Whereas most entries in this subgenre simply focus of the universally relatable aspects of romantic/sexual relationships, Hey Princess takes the opposite route. Rather than limiting the exposition of his characters, Jonsson takes great efforts to imbue his supporting cast with personality. Ranging between subtle, caring recreations and unashamed caricatures, Jonsson’s girlfriends, friends and diabolical nemeses alike are brought to life in lengthy sections detailing their behaviour and interaction with the author.

Our personal favourite highlights from the book include: Jonsson’s time with his manic depressive Goth girlfriend, the vignettes featuring his aforementioned diabolical nemesis and love rival DJ Marcus Gerdin, and an unexpected cameo by then-child star Aaron Carter as he finds a vandalised poster of himself in the offices of Galago’s publishing house.

Aaron Carter as portrayed in "Crazy Little Party Girl"

Best read over time due to its episodic nature, Hey Princess  is a record of personal growth. It is appropriate then, that the comic gradually becomes more satisfying over time, in line with the development of Jonsson’s character. Beginning as disparate stories about adolescent sexual experience, an overarching set of themes begin to develop as the reader progresses into the book. Building on these themes, the book ends on a high-note, concluding with a final story (and epilogue) that serves to unify Mats' singular experiences into a collective whole. 

Being written and drawn by the current editor of Galago magazine, Hey Princess is a great introduction into the autobiographical arm of the Swedish alternative comics scene. Desperate at points, anxious at others, but always content to admit his flaws, Mats Jonsson is just the unassuming tour guide to introduce English-speaking autobiographical comic fans to the pen-and-ink world beneath the northern lights.

Hey Princess is available to pre-order now for all fans of drink, casual sex and melancholic heartbreak everywhere.

(On the T-shirt: "Where is Marc Dutroux?"
Marc Dutroux being an infamous serial killer and child molester from the mid-90s) 


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