I recently read a collection of old Chester Gould Dick Tracy strips which had a great quote from Art Spiegelman on the back cover, and part of that quote read: ‘Gould understood better than anyone that comic strip drawing isn’t really drawing at all, but rather a kind of diagramming.’ I was reminded of that quote while reading this, the third issue of cartoonist Kevin Huizenga’s Ganges, part of Fantagraphics’ Ignatz line, and the same quote wouldn’t be out of place on the back of any of Huizenga’s often brilliant comics. Here, Huizenga attempts to diagram the trouble his everyman character Glenn Ganges has sleeping after drinking too much coffee and the many things going on in his head. While the physical Glenn lies still in bed, the mental Glenn goes for a stroll up the side of a tree, contemplates the back and forth relationship between thinking and doing, wonders whether or not women burgle, and eventually manages to fall asleep (briefly) after trying some relaxation exercises (note to Glenn: it’s called ‘progressive muscle relaxation’). The best part of the strip, for me, was the part where the mental Glenn wandered around shooting at various thought balloons in attempt to clear his mind, which was very clever stuff and not something that could easily be achieved with computer lettering. In Huizenga’s comics / diagrams, the word and thought balloons are an essential part of the artwork.
The comic is divided into two stories but the second (shorter) story is really just a more humorous continuation of the first. After failing to remain asleep, Glenn eventually decides to get up and try and get some letter writing done. However, he can’t focus on writing without music playing so he puts some noise cancelling headphones on his sleeping wife, puts some music on, pushes the volume levels he can get away with to their limit, and eventually receives a visit from the police. Result: funny.
I didn’t enjoy this issue quite as much as I enjoyed Ganges #1, but then Ganges #1 was one of the best comics I have ever read. This was still very enjoyable, also very clever, and well worth the £4.75 I paid for it on eBay. All three issues of Ganges seem to be available from Amazon (etc.) for a similar price. I would also strongly recommend the Curses hardcover, published by Drawn & Quarterly, which collects a whole bunch of Kevin Huizenga strips, most of which first appeared in various anthologies. I believe that book is now out of print but there seem to be plenty of used copies available on Amazon, some of them at very reasonable prices.