Funny how I start reading this book directly before the Ignatz nominees for this year’s SPX were announced. Michael DeForge has not one, but two different books on that list for 2013, for Lose in the “Outstanding Series,” category, and Very Casual in the category of “Outstanding Anthology or Collection.” Rightfully so, it has earned that nomination as a solid collection of strange works by admired cartoonist, Michael DeForge.
The man has worked on numerous webcomics and strips, but this counts as his first full-fledged trade paperback. It’s also worth the buy for any comic book collector or indie comic artist/reader/admirer. It’s a damn beautiful comic book.
It’s also a very strange piece of work. It’s avant-garde. It’s innovative. It’s weird. It’s beautiful. It’s hilarious. It’s extremely colorful, mysterious, oddly funny, imaginative, and it’s absolutely all over the map of where comics can take you, and further. Needless to say, I love it.
The book opens up with a 23-paged narrative documentary on a deer animal DeForge made up called a “Spotted Deer,” parodying nature shows and using captions to explain this strange creature. We see how the deer is portrayed in the media, along with it’s weird penis and how it reproduces, and we also see a behind-the-camera look at the man who is obsessed with this weird animal. That can also be a metaphor for DeForge himself, or even a parody of the comic book/media world altogether. It’s a thick piece of thought for such a brief story, only featuring two-panels per page and using dark, vivid colors on every section the illustrator could.
DeForge‘s stories are dense. Or sometimes they’re not, or they are and I just can’t tell. There’s a sense of me not getting something or understanding exactly what DeForge was aiming at in some stories. It’s like Tim & Eric humor when I was first introduced to the duo.
There’s a short comic that’s beautifully illustrated in which a slice of pizza runs away from a sleeping man and the man catches it. There’s one where a man pops a tiny palm tree that’s on his arm as it were a pimpe, and is told “Don’t pop it! They’re just gonna spread,” by an unknown source. There’s another where a man is watching a filthy channel on television and watches a woman pull poop from her butt that turns into weird, colorful tubes that fill the entire panel up in gooey brown substance and yellow pipes. Sometimes I don’t get it, other times I do.
And if I don’t understand it, I still appreciate it and am left with an odd chill of coolness. Michael DeForge‘s art style is so on-point and pretty to look through, just peering from panel to panel can make anyone interested in his deranged, psychedelic cartooning.
The pages of Very Casual are unique, to say the least of the title. When reading a book from Daniel Clowes or Charles Burns, you can easily pick up their style from a mile away, simply by seeing which color palette Clowes would choose or how thick Burns‘ lines are in illustrations. Well, Michael DeForge has easily garnered a distinct method of illustrating and storytelling that’s more abnormal and deranged than others today, yet still expertly polished to a point of total control only DeForge can sustain. That’s saying a lot in the comic world, but that means miles to the underground.