The Pleasures of Mark-Making: New Comics From Joseph Lambert & Jose-Luis Olivares

Posted by on July 31st, 2010 at 5:58 AM

Rob reviews Polite Fiction 2, by Jose-Luis Olivares; and Tantrum & Everyday, by Joseph Lambert.

Polite Fiction 2, by Jose-Luis Olivares.  I’ve noted before that Olivares is one of the most interesting artists to emerge from the Center For Cartoon Studies, in part because it’s hard to pin him into a particular comics tradition.  Coming from a fine-arts background, one can sense that training coming to bear in the way he emphasizes image above all else.  Olivares’ comics have a visceral quality that’s an exemplar of the mark-making school of comics.  That said, he’s fully embraced the temporal and narrative aspects of comics, fusing them with a vividly crude line that creates a remarkable immediacy of experience.

“Running Bird” and “Tree-Island Birds” are motion and figure experiments, using simple Keith Haring-style figures (and Ron Rege’ style panel progressions) to get across the joy and horrors of water, respectively.  The latter story is in color, which further serves to establish mood and the stakes of survival on a desert island as a man engages in battle with birds.  Olivares shows off his acidic wit with “Dear Diary Comics”, a story that’s about the ways in which he’s trying to engage the world of comics and a self-deprecatory poke at his attempts at same.  His “god of comics” that came down to lecture him was an especially hilarious poke at didactic attempts at explaining what is obvious.

Everyday and Tantrum, by Joseph Lambert.  Lambert is probably the greatest draftsman to emerge from CCS, but what he’s learned to do lately is tone down the pyrotechnics and embrace a more spontaneous, even scribbly, kind of storytelling.  Tantrum is a marvelous, tiny mini that is a pitch-perfect depiction of the way a child might fantasize about the effects of their temper tantrum.  The scrawled-out child is such a great design because it’s made to look like a child drew it with a crayon, yet Lambert is able to imbue this figure with precisely the sort of facial expressions (like a quivering lip) that an angry child might make.

Everyday expands on this theme in this comic about two quarreling brothers who are kicked out of the house by their mother every day of the week.  One of them manages to pick a fight with the sun (an anthropomorphic character) each day.  Once again, Lambert captures the rhythms of childhood anger and blows them up to fantastic proportions.  It’s also a clever way to explore a child’s perception and exploration of summer, as the sun manages to “kill” the kid every day–until he gets revenge on the final day of the week so as to cozy up to the moon.

Lambert is an artist who’s continuing to develop his voice, staking out territory in telling stories about and from the point of view of children.  These comics are cute, but they have a visceral edge to them as well.  Blowing up the rage of children in a fantasy setting is a vivid way of exploring the way children often wish they could have a more powerful sense of agency.  Young children are unfettered ids, restrained only by the authority of their parents and their lack of physical & social power.  Lambert has a knack of picking up on that energy and running with it, and I’ll be curious to see if he continues to explore and expand on this idea in his future work.


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One Response to “The Pleasures of Mark-Making: New Comics From Joseph Lambert & Jose-Luis Olivares”

  1. [...] to Rob Clough for the recent review of Polite Fiction 2. You can read a story from PF2 called Tree Island Birds here. “Olivares’ comics have a [...]