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Little Nothings: The Prisoner Syndrome
posted June 3, 2009
 

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Creator: Lewis Trondheim
Publishing Information: NBM, softcover, 128 pages, January 2009, $14.95
Ordering Numbers: 9781561635481 (ISBN13)

So many folks fixate on conception over execution in comics that I'm frequently confused as to the exact reason why. Part of it, I suppose, is that the concept or idea is the thing of value most transferable to more lucrative arenas for entertainment. I would guess that in some circumstances it allows the writer or any other creator not as involved with the drawing end of the endeavor (an editor, a publisher) to gather some glory unto themselves. The end result is endless discussions about the core appeal of, say, the original Lee/Kirby run on Fantastic Four (family, exploration, science) that somehow always manage to leave out the fact that it was a funny, imaginative, well-drawn comic.

I can't make the case for Lewis Trondheim's on-line autobiographical comics Les Petits Riens in a way that will convince anyone that's decided they're allergic to comics that fail to evoke the thrill of pulp or that fall short of honoring the heroic ideal. Trondheim's autobiographical stand-in shuffles around and acts cranky as a wide variety of life's discouraging minutiae forms around him. I find the life of a successful cartoonist fascinating, but I can't say that's a specific thrill that a lot of my friends share. Trondheim is also careful not to stress the obvious themes -- like his occasional efforts in opposition to the aging process -- that might win him a New York book publishing house contract. What distinguishes Les Petits Riens is that Trondheim's cartooning is so very effective. The pictures invite you to drink them in, and many of the gags amuse. It also looks about ten billion times better than the on-line previews in English I've seen, and as Trondheim reportedly uses this effort in part to work on his watercolors, the work here looks better than the material in the last volume.

This is one of those books where you either find it charming or you don't. My understanding is that work like this is not only castigated as boring by one faction of comics fans, it's also assaulted for its less-than-significant attention to issues of importance by another. All I know is that derive great pleasure in watching Mr. Trondheim walk around, temporarily inflating before deflating, or deflating before a sudden positive realization. I hope that now, a few months after its release, no one all the way forgets this book is out there.

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