Little Nothings volume 4: My Shadow in the Distance

By Lewis Trondheim, translated by Joe Johnson (NBM/ComicsLit)
ISBN: 978-1-56163-523-8

With over 100 books bearing his pen-name, (Lewis Trondheim is actually Laurent Chabosy) the writer/artist/editor and educator is one of Europe’s most prolific comics creators: illuminating his own work, overseeing animated cartoons of adaptations of previous successes such as La Mouche (The Fly) and Kaput and Zösky or editing the younger-readers book series Shampooing for Dargaud.

His most famous works are the global hits ‘Les Formidables Aventures de Lapinot’ (translated as The Spiffy Adventures of McConey) and, with Joann Sfar, the Donjon (Dungeon) series of nested fantasy epics (translated as the conjoined sagas Dungeon: Parade, Dungeon: Monstres and Dungeon: the Early Years).

In his spare time, and when not girdling the globe from convention to symposium to festival, the dourly shy and neurotically introspective savant has written for satirical magazine Psikopat and provided scripts for many of the continent’s most popular artists – such as Fabrice Parme (Le Roi Catastrophe, Vénézia), Manu Larcenet (Les Cosmonautes du futur), José Parrondo (Allez Raconte and Papa Raconte) and Thierry Robin (Petit Père Noël).

He is a cartoonist of uncanny wit, piercing perspicacity, comforting affability and self-deprecating empathy who prefers to control scrupulously what is known and said about him…

A little while ago the well-travelled graphic self-critic began drawing a deliciously intimate cartoon blog wherein all the people Trondheim knows or encounters are rendered as anthropomorphised animals with him a dowdy, parrot-beaked actor/director. These marvellous meanderings have been periodically released as a series of enchanting full-colour albums. Page after page of whimsical, querulous and enticingly intriguing reportage deliciously rendered in watercolour tones has emerged since and now at last here’s another collecting his daily thoughts on 2009…

This collection focuses heavily on the global peregrinations of Trondheim, with and without his family, to such far-flung places as Iceland, America (for an extended and hilariously unsettling family vacation from New York to Las Vegas), Quebec and Canada, Germany, Prague, Madrid, Italy, Corsica, Argentina, Ushuaia, Antarctica and Africa, with all the attendant joys and night-terrors such voyages engender for him.

As ever he highlights the ways in which humans vary and yet remain intrinsically similar (although only my own German forebears could possibly have devised such a brilliant method of enhancing and yet sanitising men’s urinal experiences…) but also finds time and space to ponder the inevitable decline in quality of movie sequels, roaming credit-card charges, his health, travel etiquette and preparation, the pitfalls of snacking, airports everywhere, the urge to eavesdrop, the varying quality of hotels, weather and climate, forgetfulness, comics conventions, fans and professionals, personal space and getting old, skiing holidays, making your own music and what cats are good for, before concluding with an extended and rather grotesque episode covering his nasal polyp surgery and the inevitable overreaction to it…

These daily bulletins explore little events and really big themes and there are also purely visual moments that you just have to see to believe, whilst the ruminations, micro-dramas and amicably nit-picking pictorial monologues regularly range from his inability to de-clutter, toilet etiquette, gadgets, marriage, parenthood, computers, and getting old, which mercifully comes to us…

Little Nothings is easily one of the most comforting and compelling biographical comics series ever created; gently contemplative, subtly pleasing and ineffably something that no fan of any advanced or significant vintage would care to miss

I once more strongly suggest that if you need a little non-theological, un-theosophical yet hilariously existential spiritual refreshment you take advantage of this fortuitous collection toot da sweet

© 2009 Trondheim. English translation © 2011 NBM. All Rights Reserved.