Always nice to see something you once held in your hands as a hastily put together self published comic turn, thanks to the art publishing skills of Nobrow, into a rather tasty looking A5-ish hardback, of the sort often found frequenting stockings at Christmas, albeit usually not as fine as this, either in production or content.
I reviewed Richard Short’s Klaus back in February 2011. And this Klaus book contains much of what was in there, and the new work is very much of the same style, so you’ll forgive the laziness of the repeated review this once…. highlights from that Klaus review:
“When I first read Klaus I knew I instantly liked the look of it – it reminds me somewhat of Jason’s work – and in more than just the cat character. But that initial reading just failed to really engage me, it felt too bitty, too episodic, and each episode didn’t really seem to have any connection with the next. But a re-read has let me view it in a different light. My initial problem with Klaus comes from the nature of their creation – these strips were originally posted online through October 2009 and as such “represent more of a themed collection .. rather than a proper story”.
And he’s absolutely right, this collection does contain a story of sorts, but it’s one that he’s interspersed with seemingly random strips. Seemingly being the important point – because it’s not random at all – the strips all go towards producing a rather sweet, yet slightly dark and definitely surreal tale of adoptive fatherhood, weird parenting and the pain of letting go.
But as the comic goes on, themes start to develop, patterns emerge, plots are revisited. Essentially it’s all about Klaus the Cat taking home an egg of uncertain origin and adopting the little chick that hatches. Between moments of surreal interjection (dream horses, nightmarish closeups of insects) we watch the pair bond and grow, until eventually Klaus decides to release the bird. But it’s fate is left hanging, almost disturbingly so.
Like I said right at the start I really like Short’s artwork – clean, simple lines, interesting characters. His storytelling takes some getting used to perhaps, but this one deserved and repaid subsequent readings.”
And yes, everything I wrote back then applies here. But the thing that’s most noticeable with this collection is the humour that Short really starts employing most effectively from the second section onwards. There’s a delicious sense of timing and visual gags all through the pages, often a funny downbeat payoff, or more accurately, the moment just before or immediately after the actual payoff. You do the work, Short just delivers the means to connect the jokes…
The difference being with a longer collection of his work those themes and those patterns I was talking of have even more time and space to develop. This 68-page collection contains Short’s personal selection of previously published material and all-new work. The egg story I talked of in the prior review is all covered in just the first of four sort-of themed sections; “On Conscience”, “On Liberty”, “On Justice”, “On Desire”, and “On Nature”.
Each utilises Short’s clean, simplistic loooking artwork to spin his little moralistic tales of Klaus and his freedom loving alternate Otto; the black cat to Klaus’ stripes. Otto is more of the Garfield to Klaus’ Charlie Brown, the maverick, rebel type, more of the party animal, more prone to getting into trouble, but just as likely to muse philosophically on any situation……
And over the course of the book the gags continue to work, the themes develop, and what you get in the end is some strange mutated traditional comic strip. It’s impossible not to make the obvious comparisons when presented with this much material; sure, the characters and style looks a little like Jason, but the tone, the pacing; that’s pure Peanuts meets Garfield going on.
With it’s laid back, contemplative philosophising, it’s an attractive and enthrallingly entertaining read. Klaus is a pocket sized delight of a work. You could do far, far worse than to try it as a surprise stocking filler.
There’s a lovely poster that came with the first 500 orders at the Nobrow site as well…. as good a visual summary of Richard Short’s work here as you may find: