Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Review: Important Comics, Dina L. Kelberman (self-published, 2009)

Dina L. Kelberman | Digest, full colour, 54 pages | $12 | Available Now

The most suitable adjective that I can think of when attempting to nail down Dina L. Kelberman’s entertaining collection of doodle-figured strips is “experimental”. Not experimental in the obtuse, supposedly-arty sense,  though, rather in the playful manner in which they explore and bend the traditional form and conventions of gag strips. Deconstructing the framework of the medium with an improvisational yet engaging lo-fi style, it’s a fun little book that anyone who has ever drawn a comic at the back of the class room or in their work notes will be able to identify with.

Almost always absurd in content, Kelberman’s cartoons have a genuine quality of joyful exploration to them, primarily in the way she approaches visual construction.  Her style is so minimalist that it borders on skeletal, her characters and dialogue regularly and continuing beyond the terrestrial confines of panels. Ventures into typography occur throughout (which definitely appeal to an obsessive typesetting enthusiast like myself), giving the legitimate sense that Important Comics very much a ‘work in process’ to which the reader is invited. Often fortified with unconventional uses of colour and drawn using all kinds of media and materials, the comics take place on notepads and, at one point, even a receipt. Most strips appear to be completely unplanned, only being realised via the spontaneous process of creation itself.

The result of this creates a post-modern feedback loop that would make even Jean-François Lyotard weep tears of joy. Punchlines (if you can call them that) often arise as a consequence of the drawing process itself; for instance: on one page a shocked triangle inquires why a square is eating a “blue hotdog”, a seemingly happy visual accident used to form a perfect symbiotic relationship between image and joke. Slightly less “out-there”, though, is my personal favourite, the very simple and empathetic indifference of a strip drawn on the back of a cinema ticket stub deriding the attended film.

At least I assume it's a cinema ticket. "Sparco" sounds more like a budget hypermarket, don't you think?

The irony of it all is that although it appears all quite rudimentary and off-the-cuff, Important Comics relies quite heavily on the reader’s knowledge of comic language. More than a sum of its parts, it’s a reminder of the intricate sensibilities that inform comic creation in that it exposes them outright. Disorientating and all the better for it, this is comics anti-formalism that almost anyone that’s ever been exposed to the medium will ‘get’.

Held together with a sturdy improvisational backbone, Important Comics seems to invite the reader along on Kelberman’s road-trip of comics-for-comics sake in the full knowledge that they will arriving at destination at the very same as the author. If you can imagine a much less meticulous Chris Ware who has an interest in Dadaism and might have possibly been brainwashed by Monty Python’s Flying Circus, you’re probably half way there. Maybe. Interested North Americans should head over to Kelberman’s website to purchase a copy ($12), and Europeans to Samu.co.uk (£9.50). I’m off to eat a blue hotdog and draw all over my tax return.

Kelberman's got some serious fans out there.


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