I like experimental and abstract comics and often find myself in awe of cartoonists who are willing to go beyond the obvious and try to think through an idea to its extremes, until there is nothing left but the pure narration, the pure visual effect or, why the hell not, the pure absurdist joke.
A Shadowgraphic History is a collection of single panel cartoons and one-page comics by Flemish writer, poet, cartoonist and soon-to-be librarian Rino Feys. Nearly all the stories feature a stylised “R” that moves around and does not a lot else, really. Feys starts from an idea and then commences reducing it to the max. He’ll make a page with thirty panels showing the R on a sunny day, with its shadow revolving behind it. And then, of course he’ll do the same page, but on a cloudy day, without any shadow. So basically, 30 identical pictures of the same R.
Feys is at his best when he is able to suggest a whole setting or situation with a few single lines. He will draw his page of little “R”s close to the borders of their panels, and call the page “Leaving places”, suggesting a whole range of situations and scenes. On another page, the panels only contain two or three lines, suggesting an elevator going up and down endlessly, without respite. It’s a page that would not be out of place in an avant garde art gallery.
Only a few of the single panel jokes are a bit far-fetched or too topical to really work in a collection (e.g. a story referring to the volcanic ash cloud of a few years ago). Overall, the book seems to be a very carefully selected selection of only the best variations on a theme. If Feys can do another one like this, he’s truly one of the masters.
A Shadowgraphic History was self-published by Rino Feys on a rather limited print-run. You can order your own copy from Rino for 7,50 EUR and shipping. And if it happens to be sold out, Rino’s promised to print more.