Notes on Couch Tag

Couch Tag
by Jesse Reklaw
-In this book there's a lot of pain and chaos in Jesse's memory and in his family. He uses an ironic scheme to organize the story of instability--playful, peaceful objects like games and animals and toys. On another level, in the book there's the thing where you try to figure out who you are in relation to the Others you bounce off—family, friends—and who shape you, and it feels like he's trying to triangulate himself in relation to these other people. It can be a difficult process in the best of times, but especially when your family has troubles. As you grow older you try to figure out yourself in relation to abstract ordering schemes you read about, like in comics, philosophy, or what it means to be an "artist." In the "Fred Robinson story" the friendship and creative collaborative relationship between him and another guy grows organically around some arbitrary organizing devices, and it seems like those were good times. Late in the book he twice tells anecdotes in which there are organizing schemes which lead to him taking the position of “nothing” (in psychological testing + Greek numerology) or adopting the nickname "Nothing." This instinct to sublimate life into metaphors and symbols is responsible for the book itself, and is a recognition of new possibilities for coping. In the final story he uses the alphabet, and his calm, quiet—almost too quiet—cartooning style gets noisier and frantically layered. There's this feeling like the manic energy is straining to break through the ordered arrangement of the comics grid and the storytelling devices. I'm not sure how to read that change in style, in terms of what it is an expression of. [later addition: looks like it's arthritis.] It threatens to bring the whole house down around it, or become something other than an orderly comics page. It’s a fun style to look at, in the sense that there’s a lot of new psychedelic levels through which to look at the panels, but I don’t think you want to go too far down that path, or else the comic as a readable balance of mark-making and symbol will start to break down. There’s a lot of energy hidden, pent up, in Reklaw’s older normal “square” cartooning style, and it’s starting to bust out and become unpredictable, more like he is in person. 
xposted from my bookblog 

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