Cute Manifesto


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Cute Manifesto


  • Words: James Kochalka
  • Art: James Kochalka
  • Inks: James Kochalka
  • Colors: N/A
  • Story Title: Various
  • Publisher: Alternative Comics
  • Price: $19.95
  • Release Date: Aug 3, 2005

Perhaps the most important voice in independent and alternative comics, James Kochalka, is back with another incredible, thought-provoking book.

To put it simply, The Cute Manifesto is James Kochalka's philosophy on art broken up into several different stories. However, this book is much more than that. Kochalka delves very deep into not only art, but life, the relationship between art and life, and, even, himself. This book utilizes several stories and a couple essays to accomplish that task., or at least, as close as anyone can come to covering such an enormous topic as art.

Kochalka opens this book with two essays discussing the topic of 'craft' in comics. He, in a very heartfelt and clear manner, makes it clear that "Craft is the Enemy." It's a great idea, and the passion with which he presents that idea makes these essays very entertaining reading. The first true story of the book is up next and it's "Sunburn," the most introspective of the book's stories. It's very telling that Kochalka actually draws himself instead of "Magic Boy," the elf interpretation of himself. Kochalka sees and thinks things that no one else does, making this story (in a similar way to his American Elf strips) very intriguing. He tells the story mostly through more or less abstract images and it's very effective--particularly the handful of full-page drawings.

The two parts of "Reinventing Everything" follow "Sunburn" and they are both more traditional Kochalka... Magic Boy has returned for one, and his pontificating is much less brooding. Here he deals more with social philosophy. In the second part he deals most clearly with actual events of his life, most notably September 11th and the birth of his son, Eli. While Kochalka mostly deals with how these issues relate to him, he shares the universe feelings that we all do, and his unique way of manifesting those feelings is what makes these stories great. In "Reinventing Everything," as always, Kochalka's deceptively simple art style works perfectly. Next up is the title story, The Cute Manifesto, which, while certainly fun and entertaining, is actually the story that stands out the least from the book. 

The book's final story, "The Horrible Truth About Comics," is one that, from the appearance of the art and the general tone of the story, I would guess was drawn a good bit before the rest of The Cute Manifesto. It is, of the stories, Kochalka's most direct look at his philosophy on art. Speaking of the art, that art is really what makes this story successful, as Kochalka's imaginary journey is very entertaining and suiting for the ideas he shares with the readers. To close out the book is a brief closing essay that wraps everything up neatly.

James Kochalka's influence on modern alternative comics is undeniable. With each and every new book he releases, he shows why The Cute Manifesto is another fine addition to Kochalka's growing library of classics.

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