James Kochalka

American Elf Volume 2: The Sketchbook Diaries of James Kochalka [Top Shelf Comics]

Books Reviews James Kochalka
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James Kochalka

Every day for nearly eight years, graphic novelist and self-proclaimed rock star James Kochalka has drawn a four-panel comic about something that happened during his day.

This volume collects the years 2004 and 2005, and Kochalka is disarmingly honest about the details of his life—sex, diapers, career anxiety and all-rendered here in vivid colors that accentuate his sense of joy in the mundane. When Kochalka and his wife had a child, family became the strip’s focus; at one point James notices his son playing with a sunbeam: “just like a goddam Hi and Lois comic strip!”

American Elf is no Hi and Lois. It’s at once more complex (in content and aesthetic) and human than any syndicated “family” strip. At turns conventionally funny, poignant and simply absurd, the compelling thing about an American Elf book is that you hold someone’s life in your hands.