20 October 2014

Review: Convesation 1 by James Kochalka and Craig Thompson

I was intrigued by the concept of James Kochalka's Conversation series: For these books, Kochalka taps a fellow cartoonist with whom he has a conversation via cartoon panels. As the book summary says, the authors, "draw together, trading the pages back and forth, adding to each others drawings as the conversation turns in unexpected directions."

In Conversation 1 Kochalka (American Elf, Marvel) teams up with colleague Craig Thompson (Blankets). The pair talk about art, the universe, their profession, imagination, and more.

The conversation opens with Kochalka asking about the meaning of the universe, which takes them on a trip to the depths of the sea and into the woods. They talk about the power of art to help explain life's mysteries, the difficulty of being a cartoonist, the purpose of comics, and even a little bit about God. The world the two travel through is fantastical, and the authors interject a little humor whenever the text seems to be getting too heavy.

Although I liked the art and the premise, I didn't really love the result of Kochalka and Thompson's joint work. I think the principal issue is that I'm not really the target audience. I bet a book like this would have much more appeal to die-hard fans who are intimately familiar with each comic artist's work. I have a feeling that there were inside jokes and references to the authors' other comics and novels that were lost on me.

On the other hand, I liked the drawings, and it was fun to see how the two artists drew together, sometimes even in the same panel, as shown in the two scans here (pp. 20 & 24; click to enlarge).

copyright James Kochalka and Craig Thompson

Conversation 1 would appeal to readers who are familiar with James Kochalka's and Craig Thompson's styles and work and to those who are curious about how two graphic novelists carry on a conversation in the cartoon medium.

If you want to read more in this series, see Conversation 2, in which Kochalka gets in an argument with Jeffrey Brown about the interplay among art, comics, and real life. I plan to read it, despite my disappointment with Conversation 1.


Daryl 10/20/14, 7:29 AM  

interesting to me because for a time many years ago my husband who loves to 'toon played a game with a young friend .. one of the would start a drawing and then the other would add to it .. back/forth they would go .. some of it was silly sophomoric but some of it was brilliant .. and it was sweet to hear the young friend now a father himself plays this 'game' with his daughter ..

Katherine P 10/20/14, 8:47 AM  

I'm intrigued by the premise but don't think I'm the target audience for this one either. I think I'd want some one else to read it so I could look at it but I don't think it's a book I'd really enjoy. Thanks for sharing!

bermudaonion 10/20/14, 9:01 AM  

I love the concept too - too bad it wasn't executed better.

Hillary 10/20/14, 9:02 AM  

This looks interesting. I will see if my Library has it. I am not big on graphic novels but willing to give this one a try.

rhapsodyinbooks 10/21/14, 7:26 AM  

I love the idea of a conversation too, but I didn't like Blankets, so I haven't been tempted to explore more of Craig Thompson.

Literary Feline 10/21/14, 1:16 PM  

I love the concept, but I can see your point about this appealing more to people familiar with both artists' work, which I'm not. I will have to see if my husband is interested though as he might know them both.

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