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Ganges Is Awesome

April 14, 2010

As I mentioned in my MoCCA report last weekend, I picked up Ganges #1 and 3 from the Fantagraphics booth to go along with my #2 written and drawn by Kevin Huizenga. Holy crap, I love these books. Huizenga has this amazing way of writing and drawing comics that hit me in the soul, either directly reflecting an experience I can relate to (having trouble falling asleep in #3) or a feeling (like missing the good old days of a group of awesome work friends). Plus, his art style is this amazing mix of surreal and everyday imagery that mimics the daily weirdness of being a creative, introspective person and also takes on the look of a classic comic strip (Glenn’s nose reminded me of Popeye for some reason).

Before getting into the details of why I liked each issue, I want to comment on the actual format of these comics, as they’re not your average floppy (I still can’t tell if I hate that term or not). The three issues of Ganges are the fifth, 27th and 35th installments of Fantagraphics Ignatz series, which are 8.5×11-inch comics printed on card stock-like paper, come with a dust jacket (the covers you see in these images) and cost $7.95. Huizenga’s art definitely benefits from the larger page size, but I’m not really sure what the benefit of having a dust jacket is. Wouldn’t eliminating the jacket bring the cost down? I’m sure a lot of readers are like me and will balk at $8 for a 32-page comic by someone you might not be familiar with.

Now on to the actual issues themselves. The basic premise is that each issue stars Glenn Ganges who lives with his wife Wendy. We don’t know much about Glen’s background, but it seems as though he works from home (he used to be employed by a dotcom startup) and his wife is an animator or graphic designer. The first issue is made up of more smaller strips than the other ones with five in total with topics ranging from litterers to trying to get to sleep. Of all three issues, this is my least favorite, not that it’s bad by any means, but it didn’t hit me like the other ones did. I can relate to Glenn’s tendency to get completely lost in his own head and really lose himself.

I also appreciate the drawings of Beatles songs. I’ll be honest, I didn’t catch on right away, but after I did I went back and read through it again with a smile on my face. That’s one of the great things about these books, they demand repeated readings or at least another look through just to check out Huizenga’s art.

The second issue is all one story, though it starts with 11 pages of crazy drawings set in the video game based on Wendy’s designs. Being my first issue of Ganges (and one of the first indie comics I ever read) this kind of blew me away while also confusing me. I had no idea what this book was about or what these little guys were, but I was completely drawn in and compelled to devour the images which just get more and more intricate and crazy as you go on.

But it was the rest of the issue that really got me and hit me in the nostalgic gut when I read it late the other night. Glenn’s thinking back about some after hours video game shenanigans at his old dotcom job. It really reminded me of the early days of Wizard, though I came a few months late for the marathon Halo sessions, in which a lot of really good dudes were doing some really good work and having a good time doing it. There’s kind of an “us against the world” mentality.

I just finished the third issue tonight while the missus was watching America’s Next Top Model (I can’t even be in the same room when that show’s on). This one focused entirely on Glenn’s difficulty falling asleep. While in bed a mental version of himself tries all kinds of things to actually fall asleep. Man, I can relate to that like crazy. I’ve had nights where I just can not get to sleep because my mind is racing too much. When I worked a traditional job it used to plague me fairly regularly and even back when I was in school, specifically on Sundays. You’d think it would go away now that I can stay up as late as I want and basically get up in the same fashion, but I can still think of a few recent times when I sat in bed, hoping for sleep but it didn’t come. I enter a kind of in-between sleep and dream state where time passes, but I’m still kind of awake, especially when the power went out a while back. Anyway, Huizenga nails my personal experience which is impressive.

Maybe it’s just me and if you haven’t had these similar experiences the books might not strike such a chord, but I would definitely recommend these books to anyone who’s looking to dip their toe into the indie comic scene. I’ve got to check out more of Huizenga’s work and can’t wait for the next issue of Ganges. Anyone know what he’s working on next?

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