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You're Just Jealous Of My Jetpack
posted April 9, 2013


Creator: Tom Gauld
Publishing Information: Drawn And Quarterly, hardcover, 160 pages, April 2013, $19.95
Ordering Numbers: 1770461043 (ISBN10), 9781770461048 (ISBN13)
imageI'm a minor-league fiend for Tom Gauld's cartoons and long have been. If there's a single book out there for 2013 that's pre-sold, at least as far as I'm concerned, both as consumer and critic, it's You're Just Jealous Of My Jetpack, a collection of the UK cartoonist's published work in (I believe) various mainstream magazines and similar sources. I want to mention this book in a review because I want people to know that it's out there and because I'm not all the way sure I understand what it is that Gauld does. This is very light material, in a sense; there's an animating principle, an element of criticism of excesses of expressed culture that's pretty standard for a lot of cartoon-makers. Some of the warmest cartoons are a nudge of an outsized but perhaps accepted practice or notion into a kind of seriously-taken absurdity -- it's a New Yorker construction, basically, without the self-satisfaction and outright branding that intrudes into that process. Whatever that quality may be, Gauld executes his version in I think pleasing fashion; there are almost no cartoons here that fall done the gag taking a stumble, and that isn't easy to do.

I suspect that the cartooning plays a significant role here, the way these cartoons look as opposed to how they're constructed in service to an idea -- which is an artificial distinction but one of those that we frequently use in comics due to the medium encouraging us to see its effects as a clash of elements rather than a synthesis of same. Gauld has one of those talents that reads at a significant reduction in size, allowing him to cram a lot of information into a tiny space. He also draws authoritatively -- if there's something with which his style cannot engage, he avoids drawing those things -- and with an element of humor folded into the basic design. By that last point I mean both that Gauld draws extraordinary objects in goofy fashion as a way of undercutting their self-importance -- there's a lot of Don Knotts in several of the portrayals -- and that Gauld also knows how to grind humor out of the ordinariness of objects, their mundane and unremarkable qualities. I enjoyed this book.