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The Rabble Of Downtown Toronto
posted January 25, 2010


Creator: Jason Kieffer
Publishing Information: Old Boot Comics, softcover, 80 pages, December 2009, $10
Ordering Numbers: 9780986480904 (ISBN13)

The Rabble Of Downtown Toronto provides exactly what is promises: portrait after portrait of the homeless, lost, mentally ill and outright socially challenged denizens of the biggest city in Canada. It breaks down each poor soul into descriptive type in a way that even if you're not from Toronto you should recognize the individuals described. In fact, every town of more than 50,000 has a few folks that fit into this stratum; mine sure did. There are city maps of where these folks roam and arrows pointing a'plenty. Think "BN Duncan's Guide to the Marvel Universe," and you'll start to get into the spirit of things.

I'm very much for comics based on local circumstance. I've also always found these kind of privileged information booklets turned on their heads, the occasional "Los Angeles' Least Powerful People Issue of Publication X," to be a generally funny and useful way of making a point and having some fun wile doing it. I think the thing holding The Rabble of Downtown Toronto back is that Kieffer doesn't seem a very skilled or even interesting portrait artist. His art lies on the slightly incoherent side of broad visual depiction. Eyes are blank, body positioning sometimes feel familiar from earlier entries, details on each figure are sometimes only hinted at instead of depicted, sweat stains look like single-shade patches on clothing. Keiffer's art does the job, but only just barely, and doesn't add anything revelatory on its own. Given the obvious intelligence behind the project's conceptual aspects, I bet future efforts play more effectively to the cartoonist's strengths.