“Do You See How the Story Exists Not in the Images But in the Conflict Between The Images?”
by Matthew Forsythe
review by BK Munn
Matt Forsythe’s Comics Class is my favourite kind of “educational” book: one that makes you laugh as it cunningly imparts little nuggets of wisdom and fact. The tiny book’s 55 pages chronicle the author’s fictional-ized short stint teaching a group of 11-year-olds a course in cartooning and comics history. The whole thing is played for laughs, with Forsythe usually the butt of the joke, hopelessly out-classed by the kids, who display a sort of divine combination of guilelessness, affected pre-teen cynicism, and boredom that would befuddle any sane adult. Originally a series of webcomics uploaded as sort of a steam valve pressure release, the book is structured in a gag-a-day format using mostly 4-panels per page/gag, with a few longer 2-page/8-panel strips thrown in for particularly traumatic or humiliating experiences.
Forsythe’s deadpan delivery is aided by his use of a sketchier style (using I think a computer stylus set-up?) than he employs in his webcomic-turned-graphic-novel Ojingogo (D+Q)), re-using stock poses and settings. In fact, Forsythe is so skillfully sneaky that it was only after a strip half-way through the book made reference to clip art that I realized the whole book is mostly made up of variations on only a dozen or so drawings, cropped and varied in size, with facial expressions slightly altered depending on need. Smart!
With its great pacing and storytelling chops, I recommend the book to anyone looking for a quick and humourous take on basic comics making, with stops along the way for discussions of the apocalyptic artistry of Japanese mangaka Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima, Hegelian dialectics and Marxist revolution, and, most elusive of all, the quest for “strong female characters.”