Tuesday

The Iron Wagon by Jason
Sshhhh! by Jason

This past weekend, I read The Iron Wagon and Sshhhh! by a talented Norwegian artist named Jason. Sshhhh! went quickly because, like the title suggests, there’s no writing in it (except for the occasional “tock tock” on doors and “ring ring” of phones). I love these kinds of stories because they essentially rely just on the images to convey plot and provoke emotions. I find that it is these “quiet” books that are usually the most moving. The stories in Sshhhh!! are taken from some of the author’s Mjau Mjau comic panels and focus on one male character (all the characters are different animals, mostly crows, cats and dogs). Vignettes of his sad existence are presented in the form of short stories, which as a whole, show years of his life. In one particularly puzzling set of pictures, the crow’s girlfriend has left him for another man. So he runs through various fantasies: the woman going down in a plane and just before crashing into the side of a mountain, she calls out his name (following the ‘no words’ format, her mouth is open and there’s a word bubble above her with a picture his head on the inside). In another fantasy, the new boyfriend smacks her around and the crow comes to her rescue (brandishing a gun). Next, he imagines her calling out his name (again, head in bubble) while in bed with the new boyfriend. All these fantasies are fairly emotionless. He appears neither happy nor sad to be thinking/doing these things; just… what if it happened, you know? What if she called out his name before crashing into a mountain? It’s not like he would ever know whether she had to not. It’s just something to think about. Well, maybe there is some satisfaction to be taken from imagining her consumed by a horrific death or imagining yourself as her hero again.

For The Iron Wagon, Jason has adapted and illustrated a 1908 Norwegian detective novel written by Stein Riverton. This is an old-fashioned whodunit in which someone dies of unnatural causes, a detective is called in and everything is explained in the end by the detective in a most pedantic manner. During the inspection, someone may ask the detective (over tea) if he has yet deduced who the killer is. He’ll then say thing like, “Oh yes, I of course know. I knew from the first moment I got here. I plan on drawing the perpetrator out, though.” During the story, one of the main characters hadn’t been getting very much sleep and when the detective spoke to him, half of the words were implied to be outside the panel:

How are you
on this fine
morning?

Looked something like:

How ar
on this
mornin

I particularly liked that. It was a clever way of showing that the character was only half listening and unfocused due to the imsomnia. I highly recommend this book. A very well done story.

If you’d like to find out more about Jason, check out mjau mjau (pronounced “meow meow”). Go back through his weekly comic archive, they’re very good.

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