10/04/2006

My book "Curses" is going to come out in a month or so, and reprinted in it are the 3 stories that originally appeared in Drawn and Quarterly Showcase Vol. 1. (The first of those stories is reprinted here.) Back when that book was being put together, before Anders Nilsen's story (what became Dogs and Water) grew too large for the book, Kelly Link was asked to write an introduction. After the book was changed around somewhat, Nilsen and Link were left on the cutting room floor.

So, for the first anywhere, here's the last part of what she wrote:

(Spoilers)

...Lastly, there’s Kevin Huizenga’s three stories about a character named Glenn Ganges, who lives with his wife Wendy in suburban Michigan. I love Kevin Huizenga’s work, although I think those aliens would have a fair amount of trouble deciphering it [refers to something earlier in the intro obvs]. He reminds me of a deadpan, slapstick, surreal, suburban Herge. These are magical stories. “The Curse” manages to conjure up deafening noise, acrid stench -- the two senses that you wouldn’t think a graphic artist could capture. “28th Street” is one of the best fairytale retellings I’ve ever read. The third story, about lost children, says more sensible things about pictures and narrative than I’ll ever manage. “You can’t help but try to form a story in your head,” the narrator, Glenn Ganges, tells us about the pictures of missing children on advertisement fliers. “It adds up and becomes like an accidental graphic novel, whose story is mostly hidden, though sprawling landscapes and tragic scenes are hinted at. Every week two new faces and you imagine the scenes in between.”

Like the fliers, which are full of imagined transformations, helpfully depicting children who have aged -- even while missing -- listing information about parents and locations, Huizenga’s panels are signposted with words and names. There are the suggestive, diminished names of stores -- there’s Eden’s, and Paradise Bagels -- and slogans on t-shirts, newspaper stories about Sudanese refugees, historical and observational data about starlings and suburban sprawl. There are wordless transformations, too. Pictures of the missing children suddenly lift into the sky and become a murmuration of starlings. A curvy suburban road branches off and in the next panel it’s a tree full of noisy bird -- starlings again. A Mega Mart is a President’s Palace, or possibly the entrance to the feathered ogre’s subterranean cave. Squirting gasoline from the pump straight into the eyes, rather than the tank, brings on visions that change a strip mall into a scene out of Hieronymus Bosch, with Lovecraftian beasties, Native American-style totem animals with wings and hooves and staring eyes, and even those uncanny ghosts from Ms. Pacman. The panels begin to seep and drip darkness, like a kind of smog out of which appear starlings, a moon like an enormous egg, and finally, the strangest thing of all: Eden’s, the Mega Mart.

Like the other two artist/writers in this anthology, Kevin Huizenga is writing about a quest, a journey. Along the way, the narrator discovers a styrofoam take-home container is an enchanted, battery-operated doggybag of plenty. A monster explodes with rage, and breaks into dozens, hundreds, thousands of starlings, all of them croaking curses (except for one, which says “cheep”. After all, they are in the basement of the Mega Mart.) The stories are crammed with other visual jokes and references, like the guy with a moustache in the advertisement on the back of a missing children flier, paid to appear “thrilled with modernistic carpet cleaning”. He looks familiar to Glenn. He looks familiar to us as well -- maybe he’s the neighbor, Karl, from down the street in one of the other stories, “Curses”, who recommends using a bottle rocket to get rid of the starlings. And of course, maybe getting your carpet cleaned will help locate a missing child, the way praying to Baal, or stealing a feather from the ogre will break the curse so that Glenn and Wendy can have a child of their own.

Meanwhile, while Glenn is fretting about the missing children, the Sudanese refugees -- the “lost boys” -- who have been brought to America, are lost again, right under Glenn’s nose. They’re trying to navigate their way through the suburban landscape. It isn’t easy. So why do you even bother?

It all comes back to whether or not Glenn and Wendy will manage to have a baby. In the end, will everyone’s problems be solved? Sure. The waitress, the gas station attendant, the Sudanese clerk at Eden’s, Glenn and Wendy, everyone gets a piece of what they need. But even when you’ve stolen the ogre’s feather to break a curse, and you’re all set to live happily ever after in the suburbs, there are still difficulties. When you break a curse, it just breaks into smaller pieces, after all. The new baby won’t stop crying, and all the starlings (little, black curses) have come home to roost in the trees in your yard. But, as the narrator reminds us, the starlings aren’t just a curse. It isn’t just noise. They sing. They’re performance artists. They can mimic cell phones, dogs barking, car alarms, Latin and Greek and Mozart: all the same kinds of things, both magical and decidedly unmagical, that an artist/writer can draw on. In “28th Street,” it’s a starling who gets to have the last word of the story -- “The End” -- but it’s Kevin Huizenga who set him to sing.



-Kelly Link, from the unpublished introduction to Drawn and Quarterly Showcase #1.

(I highly recommend her wonderful short stories, especially the title story of her collection Magic for Beginners. Many stories from that collection made a big impression on me and have really burrowed into my head.)

7 comments:

Men7 said...

I am waiting for Curses long time ago. I pre ordered from amazon 6 months ago. The only story i didn´t read is "Green".
I bought the CCS booklet.
Can´t wait to get it.

I have a new blog with worthless strips. Take a look.

Kioskerman

Jean-Marc from France said...

Hi,

I've just read the "french version" (a little bit different, with five stories) called 'maledictions' edited by Vertige Graphic / Coconino Press and it's fantastic. Great stories, great narration, keep on going !

Peter Hollo said...

Can't wait for it! I'm looking forward to getting your stuff that I ordered the other week, and now there's "Sermons 2" and Curses, it's all happening!

And yes, Kelly Link is a wonderful writer. Magic for Beginners was one of my fave books (and stories) from last year.

Men7 said...

Dear Mr. Devlin:
In response to the today post in the Drawn and Quarterly blog:

I do think Kevin Huizenga is one the best cartoonist of the world.
Why? Because que uses his own forces and because he is a curious mind.
For some time (as i read in a recent interview) Huizenga worked at xplane, a company which explains different process using graphs and words. When you read his comics you notice he is using that knowledge he learned at work.
Most of us, when doing comics, we are getting influence from other comics, novels, film, or any other "artistic" source. If we have a day job counting money in a bank, for example, we will try to forget everything about that, when we sit at the drawing table at night. But Huizenga would use it in his own benefit, perhaps telling a story constructed around a mathematical formula, or something like that. He may get his inspiration from an enclyclopedia, from a religous book, etc.
Look at his blog, "The Baloonist" and you wil understand what i am talking about. And i think that it is what makes him so interesting. He is being himself every time, he is true to his interests. While some people (including himself in early days) are doing comics about their own life, he is doing comics about his experience in with general - well documented - knowledge. It is not strange that Ganges frequently goes to the library in his comics or appears reading a book.
Huizenga is a person who may analize the panel construction and design from a single page in Tezuka´s Metropolis or investigate the life and death of a strange african insect nobody knows about.
That doesn´t mean he is making intelectual comics. I think he is making more like "academic" comics, but very heartful. They are not cold stories only full of facts. He is making of every story a journey of of knowledge: the one that you may find in a library, but also the kind o knowledge you learn by your own experience in the street . It may sound lame, but i think that´s what makes his comics so special and turns him into one of the best cartoonist of his generation.

Pablo Holmberg
(Buenos Aires, Argentina)

Nicolas said...

Hi,
I've just discovered Glenn Ganges, with Ganges, 1 published in France by Coconino.
I love your work !
I'm trying to find how to buy other stuff around Glenn : Mal├ędictions, of course, like jean-marc said, but Curses too, and... and... and...
I've mentionned Glenn Ganges right here !
Bye,
:)

Nicolas said...

I have noticed that there is a new post on this blog. So I wonder : don't you ever answer to the comments readers let you ?
In France, these days, there are lots of very good designers who publish their blogs, and when they have around 20.000 visits per day, they continue to answer the comments... to meditate...
:/

Kevin H said...

I hardly ever reply to comments because I don't have much to say. I appreciate everybody's comments, though and the nice things people say.