Did You Miss Me? The Number 73304-23-4153-6-96-8
Written and illustrated by Thomas Ott
If you have followed Thomas Ott through previous books there won’t be anything here that really surprises – apart from the fact that this is one long story rather than a number of short ones as in most (all?) of his previous books. It’s always a little difficult to judge the art as by how I understand the craft of ‘scratchboard’ art – lines scratched through an ink layer to reveal the white clay lines beneath (if you want to be overpowered by the work that must go into Ott’s work take a look at this brief explanation of the technique) – you will just be amazed by the sheer technical proficiency of the whole thing.
Ott’s art has always, for me, had a certain understated beauty and here I think he has reached a peak, each panel looking like a photograph manipulated through a Photoshop filter, composed as something which should and does exist on its own terms as a miniature work of art. That they then also combine to tell a story just adds to your admiration for the artist. The story itself is reasonably simplistic – if neatly composed – following the concept of something like Luke Reinhardt’s ‘The Dice Man’ – the numbers leading the protagonist to decisions already, in effect, made for him by fate, just as the throw of the dice decides decisions in Reinhardt’s book. It has a lovely circular motif which means somewhere the events of this book are always being made – maybe one day starring you.
(one of the interior pages showing the painstaking scratchboard art, borrowed from the Fantagraphics Flickr stream)
The book itself has the usual understated stylings of an Edition Moderne Ott book (EM are Ott’s Swiss publisher and the book’s originator), classic black and white interiors and covers, heavy hardback cover stock and heavy internal page paperweight with an unusual semi-gloss finish. All in all a beautiful book. If you like Ott already you will enjoy this latest wordless outing if you don’t, or don’t know his work, take a look at this new Fantagraphics edition – the longer story length might just convince you even if the mastery of the art doesn’t.
(this review originally appeared on the Blank Slate Books blog)