Friday, September 05, 2008

Welcome to the Dahl House.

welcome to the Dahl House by ken Dahl
as read by austin english

I read ken dahls new book on my lunch break...I work at forbidden planet in new york city and can literally pick ANY comic to read at lunch. ANY single comic...I could have read the new scorchy smith collection or the new al jaffee book. but i wanted to see this new ken dahl book (aka gabby schulz) above anything else on the stands.

As i was reading it, my cowokrer nate doyle (and talented young cartoonist) described ken as a "real" cartoonist. I agree...and I must admit that i am not a "real" cartoonist. My characters don't act out in pantomime the emotions they're going through and I have an awfully hard time drawing a character from panel to panel and making them look the same. I don't scoff at the ability to do that. In fact, i admire it a great deal. That really is REAL cartooning, if you ask me. A lot of people can do that but not a lot of people can do it well. I cant do it well...but I love comics so I try to forge ahead doing whatever it is I do the best I can.

Ken Dahl can cartoon in the real way as good as any one else. His characters act...they act so well that you don't notice him pulling the strings. And hes that rare example of someone who can draw stylish, pleasing characters that are still iconic enough that you get sucked into his stories. he makes aesthetic character designs that are exciting but somehow stripped down enough that they're not showy.

There's this core of seething anger in Dahl's comics, but whenever one of his mouthpieces acts out, they don't get to relish their anger. They're immediately ashamed of letting their resentment over how things are out. Someone described Dahl's comics as "rant" Zines to me, and that's completely wrong. We all want to rant, but if we have any decency in us, we force ourselves to play devils advocate. Dahl's comics do this to an insane degree---so insane that the practice of playing devils advocate becomes high art.

Sometimes I dont understand why some things get insanely popular and other things remain only popular with a half dozen dedicated followers. To me, Dahls comics have it all---skillfull drawing, sharp writing and PASSION. Somehow, 3 page comics by dahl seem as good as anything else---closer to the emotional pull of a great PROSE novel then an overly ambitious GRAPHIC novel. I believe comics can do great things by emulating the scope and ambition of prose epics...but we shouldnt forget that the casual feel of a inky three page comic in a weird zine is its own hallowed art form and dahls comics in that form and pretty hard to beat.


dylan sparkplug said...

Man, great words indeed. I totally agree. Gabby is such a natural cartoonist. I also love that you call out his cranky style. Shawn Granton and Janelle and Trevor and a few other people are really capable of pulling that stuff of. I've been thinking a lot about how so many comics are done to be so pleasing and intellectual. I like both but I love cranky punk rock comics so so much. Wonderful.

MZA said...

i just read Dahl House, too, and you say a v. good thing here about acting--he does a real good job on acting in this book

Another thing I read recently was Mine Tonight by Alixopulos, which shares a lot of similar politics w/ Dahl House but is less didactic and even more engaging ...