Kevin Huizenga

Ganges 5 (February 2016)

Ganges #5Huizenga. Ganges. It’s been ages. I don’t even think I’ve read the previous issue.

An issue of Ganges operates on many levels. There’s what Huizenga is doing as a cartoonist, what he’s doing with the art. But then there’s why he’s doing it. This issue has a history lesson and a science lesson. Huizenga should probably just do a bunch of science books. They would catch on. He’s great at presenting these complex ideas in welcoming, understanding artwork.

Still, it’s not just information for the reader, it’s information for the protagonist, Glenn (Ganges). Glenn is reading some of this history book to his girlfriend, he’s also just reading some of it to himself. Huizenga takes those distinctions seriously. The story whirls the reader around, even during the longer sequences. Glenn has a busy mind (the premise is he can’t sleep because he can’t stop thinking) so the comic itself has to be busy. It also has to be methodical and reasonable because Glenn’s mind is reasonable to itself. Presumably.

It’s a wonderful comic. Huizenga always delivers. Whether it’s the history lesson, the science lesson, the physics lesson, Glenn and his girlfriend almost fighting, a funeral, whatever–Huizenga delivers magnificent scenes and sequences. Ganges. Huizenga. Phenomenal.

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Kevin Huizenga; publisher, Fantagraphics.

The Half Men (March 2013)

Halfmencover2The Half Men is peculiar. Kevin Huizenga has three stories for it; the first involves this mythical land where every written word is transformed into the landscape. Very odd stuff. He doesn’t make it “realistic” so much as imaginative. The end may or may not imply it’s the brain.

Then he does two stories retelling old comic books. The first is about a family of explorers–updated to include Huizenga’s familiar protagonist, Glenn Ganges, but as an older man–off to save the Aboriginals. They end up on a lost world type island, which kicks off a caveman adventure thing. It’s striking because Huizenga retains the… politics of sixties story, which seems like it should be at odds with his sensitive art. The friction is wonderful. Some particularly lovely panels here.

The finale is strange hollow earth sci-fi but about sad men thing. It’s underwhelming; the story’s too simplistic.

CREDITS

Writer, artist, colorist and letterer, Kevin Huizenga; publisher, USS Catastrophe.

A Pocket Guide to the Pocket Guide to Series (2013)

Pocketguides3It’s fitting Kevin Huizenga loses it in his pocket guide, The Pocket Guide to Series. Not loses it in a bad way, but loses any pretense he isn’t just having a laugh with the form. The skill and talent comes from how well the laugh goes.

Series is ostensibly a guide to all Huizenga’s pocket guides–the last page, with ordering info, reveals all of the guides mentioned in the guide are out of stock, except the two actual other guides, which he doesn’t mention. This “index” is a cross between meta text about the reader reading and something like Borges’s potential literature. Maybe eighty-twenty, since Huizenga could never turn any of the indexed guides into actual guides; the point is their description here.

It’s a really breezy read; Huizenga had me grinning by the first actual page.

One reads it, smiles, laughs and marvels at Huizenga’s artistic processes.

CREDITS

Writer, artist, colorist and letterer, Kevin Huizenga; publisher, USS Catastrophe.

A Pocket Guide to Pleasure (2013)

Pocketguides3By the third page of A Pocket Guide to Pleasure, it becomes clear Kevin Huizenga is having fun. He’s not messing around and not doing work, but he’s having fun. The guide doesn’t really include any tips on what kind of form and content give pleasure, except this guide does give pleasure so maybe one should emulate it.

But mostly what Huizenga does is constantly amuse the reader. He turns the form–a 2 x 3 or so ink jet printed mini book–into a kind of performance piece. He’s performing for the reader with the work, which isn’t the same thing as telling a good story. Pleasure is a written, illustrated, designed monologue.

Huizenga frequently tells the reader to keep the guide in his or her pocket for a constant return to pleasure. It’s a funny little thing, with rather deep implications.

Very glad it’s paper, not an app.

CREDITS

Writer, artist, colorist and letterer, Kevin Huizenga; publisher, USS Catastrophe.

A Pocket Guide to Objects (2013)

Skitched 20130630 203648What’s A Pocket Guide to Objects about? Guess what, not objects. Not really. Sort of. Maybe.

The pamphlet or comic or book is itself an object, which Kevin Huizenga wrote while listening to Beethoven. A lot of the concepts he actually does discuss–I thought when he said “objects” he meant something simple like how to organize one’s mix tapes from the late nineties–regarding form and content tie into his experience listening to the music. So it’s a narrative. It’s non-fiction, first person narrative about his thoughts about making comic books (without saying comic books) while listening to Beethoven.

According to the back of the guide, Huizenga made this book on his inkjet printer. It runs approximately sixteen pages; I’m probably counting the covers. On the front cover Huizenga writes, “Keep it for Future Reference.” Definitely.

His ideas perplex and engage, but his execution of his thoughts inspirits.

CREDITS

Writer, artist, colorist and letterer, Kevin Huizenga; publisher, USS Catastrophe.

The Wild Kingdom (2010)

WildKingdom.jpg
I’ve read Huizenga before, but apparently having read his Ganges series does not prepare one for The Wild Kingdom. While Ganges–Huizenga’s everyman–appears, he pretty much shows up, goes to the post office and then goes home. His last appearance as the protagonist is maybe halfway through the book.

Then Huizenga spends the rest of the time doing a very deliberate and cultivated riff. There’s some progressive, narrative logic to it, but he’s riffing. There’s a bunch of stuff about modern America, about commercials, about technology fetishes (I’d love to see Huizenga do illustrated coverage of an Apple press conference), about war, about religion, about everything one can think of. Except, maybe, protagonist Glenn Ganges.

What’s so great about it being a structured riff is how many places Huizenga can lead the reader. He’s not taking the book places, he’s taking the reader some very specific places. A great deal of the book is spent going over, on a sort of realistic “natural” level, everything Ganges encountered in the traditional narrative part of the book. It’s all very lovely and exquisite. The artwork is fantastic, which I expected, but I didn’t expect Huizenga to have such a fluid narrative style. It reminds me, though it’s completely unlike it, early Love and Rockets collections.

The conclusion is something of a wonder too. Huizenga’s lovely pacing gives the ending a peaceful feel, even though the conclusion is a momentous tragedy.

I don’t often say things are must reads, but Wild Kingdom is one.

CREDITS

Writer, artist, colorist and letterer, Kevin Huizenga; publisher, Drawn & Quarterly.

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