Is That All There Is?Book |
A master by design.
The Dutch-born Joost Swarte, who began his career as an underground cartoonist in the 1970s, is best known for a clean style reminiscent of Hergé, one of his major influences. The recently published Is That All There Is? collects his entire oeuvre, including the early cartoons in which he took the aesthetics of The Adventures of Tintin and other popular comics and turned them upside-down. "Enslaved by the Needle!" from 1973, for example, is as much a globe-trotting lark as anything Hergé ever drew, only it centers on a two-bit con man drawn into a dangerous world of drug-dealing. Likewise, both "One Chance in One Hundred Thousand" and "Imago Moderna" feature clandestine escapes and slapstick violence; however, they also star Jopo de Pojo, a recurring protagonist of Swarte's who shares Tintin's youthful naiveté, but none of his courage or resourcefulness. The artist's later work includes more experimental and surreal pieces. "The Rubber Paradise," about an afterlife inhabited by anthropomorphized condoms, reads like a satire of PSAs, while "It Was a Dark and Silly Night" depicts an escalating series of accidents told with the logic of a dream. Through it all, Swarte's comics amply demonstrate his strength of design: the compositions of his larger panels are always rich with small details, while his cityscapes feature bold, dynamic-looking buildings. His plotlines are similarly well-constructed, often bringing his protagonists back to their initial starting point, albeit after comical twists and turns. While the title Is That All There Is? suggests that Swarte's cartooning career was brief, the contents of this collection betray a sophistication that many cartoonists with longer résumés could never dream of.