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Death & Candy #1
posted July 21, 2010
Fantagraphics, comic book, 32 pages, 1999, $3.95
One of the things that worries me about the future histories of comics is that the move from publishers' emphasis on comic book series to graphic novel will be such an irresistible storyline that it will steamroll the chaotic details of that move. For instance, there was a period when the market was so chaotic and generally unrewarding that a few publishers tried comic book series featuring artists who made their North American debut. The best series to come out of this tangle of decision-making and sticky-thing-wall-tossing was Lewis Trondheim's The Nimrod
, as rewarding in its quirky reliability as just about any of the great series to come of alt-comics generation one. Another one from the same publisher was Death and Candy
, from Max Andersson of Pixy
graphic novel fame. Andersson was also an anchor of Kim Thompson's underrated late 1990s anthology Zero Zero
, with 59 pages and a cover across that series' first 19 issues, and has since placed work in Hotwire
. He's become enough of an obscurity that this series has yet to be cataloged by the Grand Comics Database, although it remains officially in print through Fantagraphics' wonderfully forgiving warehouse.
The first issue of Death and Candy
takes its the classic one-man anthology: three stories, a hand-drawn ad and a one-pager in color taking over the back cover. The first story features his most famous creation, "Car-Boy"; any of the three stories read like they could move into future installments. At the time time Andersson was the most pleasing of several cartoonists working in a kind of funky, grotesque style. Whereas some artists making pictures like Andersson made might trap the eye in amber in every single panel, Andersson's featured the strong cartooning elements required to make a tourist out of one's regard. The first two stories deal with parental issues: each protagonist is asked to serve the requirements of some family dynamic they can barely sense and outright reject as it become known to them. The third is a fable of self-value, as a barely functional young person stumbles towards acceptance and happiness through the application of a meager skill set. What speaks to this reader ten years later is how emotionally satisfying on a primal, child-like level these highly complicated and ornately drawn stories can be, how much easier they are to read now as opposed to then when it seemed Andersson was making some of the strangest comics on earth. He wasn't; he was making normal comics very strangely.