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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Jason Comics and Books

We never really see any work by Norwegian cartoonist Jason (John Arne Sæterøy) in the UK, much. Although, history tells us, with his recent comic, Low Moon, appearing weekly in The New York Times that before long either the Independent, the Observer or the Guardian will soon 'discover' him and run the comic along with a five-page article.

It is irritating that the British press have little or no idea what is actually going on in the world of cartoons, but it's hard to blame them. I suppose they resort to large articles about the cartoons of French cartoonists like Sempe and US cartoonists like Chris Ware because they don't see an equivalent in Britain itself - but then that's really because they have no idea where to look. Let's face it, the cartoonists they employ to draw the little single-panel cartoons and the like are not really 'cartoonists' they are 'gag drawers' - they don't create lasting work of any substance. At least not any that the British public gets to see. Behind the scenes though, some of those same cartoonists, who have to make a living producing the sort of inane rubbish the British press puts on its pages, do actually produce 'real' quality work - comic strips, mini-comics and even books - but it remains, thanks largely to the culture, hidden from view.

Hopefully, when the Independent or the Observer does finally 'discover' Jason, perhaps this time at least, the end will justify the means. That's because Jason almost always refers to himself as a 'European cartoonist', and that may well alert Britain's press to the fact that Europe, including Britain, houses cartoonists who do produce interesting work. And that 'cartoons' can be so much more than those ghastly little throwbacks to a by-gone age, the single-column gag cartoons (these are different from 'magazine cartoons'.

There is no such problem in the US however, where Fantagraphics have long championed Jason's work and the next month or so will see the award-winning cartoonist signing his new book in Canada and the US, and attending several other events including the annual MoCCA Festival Kick-Off Party, art show.

I think, on the whole, even though the line-up has been somewhat predictable with Jaime Hernandez, Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes, Megan Kelso, Seth, Jason, et al, that the New York Times Funny Pages has been a resounding success. Over here it did lead to a large newspaper reprinting Chris Ware's Building stories and that was good news because the papers had started to put the public off the idea of cartoons by publishing the drawings of people like David Shrigley, which merely mimic substance.

Anyway, just in case the British press haven't looked in on the Funny Pages at The New York Times recently, here's a look at some pages from Low Moon. You can download them here, at The Funny Pages, in pdf format, and you can also grab the opportunity to register for free and become a regular visitor.

Jason's latest book, Pocket Full of Rain, is, as usual, published by Fantagraphics who broke Jason's work in the US with the American edition of Hey, Wait..., which was nominated for two Harvey Awards, as well as being cited as the second best comic of 2001 by You can order up some marvelous Jason titles from Fantagraphics, here:

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