Rock star and indie comics savant Kochalka (Monkey vs. Robot) is back with his second collection of "sketchbook diary entries" from his popular Web comic. Some strips depict a working cartoonist's life: signings at comic book stores, teaching at the Center for Cartooning and cleaning up eraser dust before company comes over. But most are sharply observed vignettes that magically, day after day, grow into an offbeat but affecting story of family life in Burlington, Vt. Kochalka is at his best chronicling the various coughs, cold sores and warm, throbbing ear fevers he and his child contract, wondering where the cat has thrown up this time and coping with the consequences of a vow he makes never to be unhappy again. (It wasn't his fault-he got carried away while shoveling extra-fluffy snow.) Kolchaka's art takes advantage of the fact that these strips are supposed to be entries in a "sketchbook diary." It's rough and kinetic, using vivid colors and surreal figures (his best friend is a dog; an acquaintance may turn out to be a cyclops). The result is surprisingly realistic, but also versatile, able to handle poop jokes and late-night worries with equal weight. (Feb.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
KLIATT - George Galuschak
American Elf is a daily comic strip that chronicles the life of James Kochalka, father, husband, author, and lead singer of the rock band James Kochalka Superstar. Kochalka began drawing his illustrated diary in 1998, and it has been going strong ever since. The cast includes the author, his wife Amy, Spandy the Cat, and baby Eli, who is growing up fast. Kochalka doesn't attempt a chronological narrative, but over the course of two years we learn a lot about his life. The strips can be funny, boring, sexy, gross, touching, wretched and downright weird. My personal favorite, set at the dentist's office, features Kochalka wondering if the X-ray machine will activate his latent super powers. American Elf, Book Two is heavily influenced by Matt Groening, the creator of The Simpsons and a less well-known comic strip called Life is Hell. The art is a mixed bag. Kochalka writes strips when he's drunk, half-asleep, and on an airplanehis March 12, 2005 entry is called "Strips That Sucked." If you want to see Kochalka's artwork for yourself, go to his website (americanelf.com) and take a look. I reviewed the first volume of American Elf two years ago for KLIATT, and I continue to be impressed by the fact that Kochalka can take his dayswhich are full of the usual clutter that make up a lifeand produce art. American Elf, Book Two contains nudity, vulgarity (F-bomb) and toilet humor (literally) and is highly recommended for collections for adults and older high school students.