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Kevin Huizenga


Page 45 Review by Stephen & Tom

One of Page 45's earliest Comicbook Of The Months back in 2006, Huizenga's CURSES now comes with a subtly different cover and some 30 pages of extras (see final photos).

So grounded is his character Glenn Ganges in his humdrum neighbourhood that the flights of fancy, no matter how mind-frazzlingly feverish, seem startlingly credible. And, just to blur the line between reality and fantasy further, the highly improbable history of the starling's introduction to North America is 100% true, including its devastating effect and moronic motivation (Shakespeare - you'll see).

But yeah, what I love about Huizenga is his lateral thinking - the extrapolation from the ordinary into the extraordinary, the revelatory - and his visionary talent for communicating it.

Is Glenn grounded or is he stranded in suburbia, surrounded by ever expanded sea of asphalt obliterating the last lingering remnants of nature in our lives? Look closely and that's a theme reprised again and again, visually, without sign-posting. See cover, I guess. And see starlings and Shakespeare.

Here's our Tom#s exceptionally prescient and almost impossibly eloquent original review back in 2006:

In a decade's time a bright, talented young cartoonist will emerge from some unknown town in mid-west America. Their comics will be funny, imaginative and rendered with a style already so precise - even classic - as to leave those who find their stories in awe of its execution. The few lucky enough to come across this comics progeny will take one look at their work and say, "They could be the next Kevin Huizenga!".

Although Huizenga shares traits with other great cartoonists - eye for detail, ear for dialogue and a need to push the mechanics of the medium - the Suburban Gothic tales of tested faith and superstition in this first collection of Glenn Ganges stories stand strong, unaided by such lazy comparisons. The three-part "Green Tea" sets the theme for the stories to follow. A homage to the story of the same name by Victorian horror writer J. Sheridan Le Fanu, Glenn recalls a horrifying apparition he witnessed after habitually drinking more Green Tea then is sensible. Using the tasty brew to get into the writing mind-set at college, Glenn soon finds himself run-down and a practical insomniac, burning the candle to a waxy puddle for an over-ambitious project on the subject (strangely enough) of visions. The apparition, a medium-sized dog with a limp, human hand dangling from its mouth, was enough to scare Glenn into changing his ways and, once the situation was over, he dealt with it in a rational manner: brushing off the dog as an hallucinatory side-effect of his exhausting lifestyle. Until, years later, while sorting through his landlord's old newspaper clippings, he begins to piece together the story of a Rev. Jennings and his all-too-familiar visions from the scattered remnants of letters written by Dr. Martin Heselius - the protagonist of Fanu's original, which was also written in the style of posthumous letters. For the remaining two chapters this sprawls into a dark account of the Reverend's "curse", which although creepy and bizarre remains grounded by Glenn's healthy cynicism - a character trait that's thrown clean out the window in the following short stories.

In "Lost & Found" Glenn extrapolates an "accidental graphic novel" from the Missing Persons cards he receives each week. The implied tragedy the limited data provides is represented visually by scenes wherein the cards' profile image is in place of the characters' heads. The narrator then explains that Glenn and his wife Wendy have been trying to conceive for some time with no success, a theme later picked up again in "28th Street" - possibly Huizenga's finest moment in this collection. It showcases what I mean when I describe this book as Suburban Gothic perfectly: a darkly comedic tale of how Glenn and Wendy turned to supernatural solutions after all manner of therapy and crazy scientific solutions fail to solve their infertility. At a loss, Glenn's Doctor (a blatant homage to Hergé's Captain Haddock) convinces the desperate man he's quite literally cursed and the only way to lift it it is to pluck a feather from the Ogre beneath 28th Street. Guess that's not available on the NHS then, huh?

Themes of insomnia, religion and loss permeate these early stories, but it's a testament to Huizenga's skill as a writer and artist that these subjects don't feel too heavy for digestion. Instead the profound nature in which they are coupled with his strong visuals and classic characters make for some of the funniest, thought-provoking and uplifting comics in years.