Dear Beloved Stranger

By Dino Pai (Urban-Fairy Tales/Top Shelf Productions)
ISBN: 978-1-60309-271-5 (TPB)

The search for love is a primal drive in almost every human being, but so are the equally obsessive, transcendent passions to find one’s station in the world and accomplish great deeds. What happens when none of those quests seem to be progressing or, even worse, when they seem to be implacably at odds?

In 2013 this stunning, Xeric Award-winning debut comic tale addressed just such thorny issues in an intimate, candid and introspective manner. Solitary, intense, dedicated Dino has just finished art school and ponders where his now directionless life is heading next. His search for work and zeal for aesthetic creation hasn’t left much time for a social life so he developed a novel coping mechanism. Moreover, now that he’s truly on his own, inspiration also seems to have died…

Somewhere “Out There” is a soulmate: “His Girl”, patiently waiting to be found. Until that happens, Dino writes notes sharing his life, thoughts and dreams, folds them into paper airplanes and trusts the breeze and fate to take them to where they need to be…

One directionless day when he’s restocking drawing supplies, he finds former classmate Cathy temping at the art store while she saves up for fashion school. The chance encounter makes him realise everyone is progressing but him and Dino resolves to try harder to make and enact choices.

… And somewhere across the city, Cindy finds a crumpled-up paper plane in the street…

He meets Cathy again at an art show and her casually spoken neutral words somehow inspire him. Returning home, Dino stares at the picture of the beautiful Japanese pop star on his wall and starts to create a story: a comic book tale of a boy’s journey…

It starts with a siren song calling him. He hears and climbs through a keyhole, following ever-onwards through strange, perilous and uncanny regions. Along the way are friendly animals who help him survive unnatural perils.

As the work laboriously nears completion it completely consumes him, but still, somehow, whenever Dino leaves his room and re-enters the real world, Cathy is there and slowly, inevitably his two existences drift together.

Crafted in a dazzling variety of styles, techniques and media, Dear Beloved Stranger superbly captures that all-consuming hunger for the indefinable something every frustrated lover feels must be out there somewhere: translating that debilitating absence into a candid examination every person in search of human completion has ever endured.

Sweet, sharp, sour and ultimately enlightening, this is a story for all lovers, would-be lovers and lovers of what might be.
© 2013 Shih-Mu Dino Pai. All rights reserved.