Sunday, 28 June 2015

American Elf 2012 by James Kochalka Review

This is the final year of James Kochalka’s diary strip, American Elf, which had been running since 1998. It’s also the only one that’s uncollected (at least my edition of American Elf Volume 4, the last book, didn’t include it) so you have to pick it up digitally. 

2012 sees James’ comic Superf*ckers developed as an animated show, his book Dragon Puncher 2: Dragon Puncher Island winning the Eisner Award for Best Publication for Early Readers at the San Diego Comic-Con, and, of course, realising that he doesn’t want to do American Elf anymore. 

The seeds of doubt were planted in the 2011 strips when he realised his publisher hadn’t planned on releasing a Volume 4, and gains momentum in 2012 when he notices so few people showing up for an American Elf reading/signing. That and the many people who approach him to try and get into his strip, and the nagging feeling that he’s revealing too much of himself in them. Also, will his kids hate him later on in life for including their development in the comics? 

His elderly father with Alzheimer’s passes away in September, as does Moebius, the cartoonist, in March; Obama is re-elected after going up against Mitt Romney; and Jason X-12 finally finds love! 

As ever, Kochalka includes a lot of his family’s daily goings-on as he tries to make his kids live more adventurously and his wife Amy is as charmingly laconic as ever:

James: Hey Amy… after dinner do you want to sign the tax forms?
Amy: Nah. Sounds boring.
James: !

The strips go from being throwaway (Kochalka standing on a dirt pile or simply drawing his shoe) to being quite melancholic: 

James: I don’t need to be any famouser. All I need is a sunset and my family. And when I’m dead and gone… it might be nice to be forgotten. 

The 2012 strips are as full of life as the others were and it’s a real shame the series is over. Anyway, it was a great experiment while it lasted. As ever American Elf 2012 is a lot of fun, recommended to all readers who enjoy slice-of-life comics. 

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