Thursday, March 05, 2009

Two Books of Wordless Comics by Guy Delisle

Guy Delisle doesn't just do cartoon books about his trips to oppressive Asian countries -- though, after Pyongyang, Shenzhen, and Burma Chronicles, it would be easy to think so -- he also does books of wordless comics stories.

Well, he has done wordless comics stories -- these two. I have no idea is he's doing any more, or will be collecting them. (These books pretty much cover the territory they've claimed, with no need for more in this particular area.)

Aline and the Others has 26 stories, each about one woman and titled with her name. Albert and the Others does the same with 26 stories about men. And if those number look familiar, take a bow -- there's one woman, and then one man, for each letter of the alphabet, and their names reflect that. (And let's see if I can spend this entire post merely stating obvious things.)

The stories are all short -- no more than a few pages, and are, as I said above, completely wordless. (If I were a comics publisher, I would love wordless books, since they are so much easier to publish internationally. But I suspect that they're less popular than books with words, because some people will think they're for kids, or that something's missing.) These are all cartoony stories -- a bit like Bill Plympton's animations, in their physical transformations and casual nastiness -- and nearly all of them are about the battle of the sexes, in one way or another.

Delisle's characters torment and transform each other (and themselves) with the physical pliability of a '20s cartoon -- it starts from the obvious metaphors (vagina dentata, the thin person struggling to get out of the fat one, etc.) and goes on and on from there, with a lot of very inventive ideas and some frankly unsettling ones. (These people are never satisfied with each other, and have lots and lots of ways to change themselves and each other.)

These two books are funny, in a manic, almost hysterical way -- they might be deeply depressing if taken seriously and looked at from a studious, psychological point of view. Luckily, I don't intend to do that.

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