Bubbles & Gondola
Renaud Dillies’ dreamlike meditation on creativity and finding value in life is not understood so much as succumbed to.
Charlie the Mouse is a writer and guitarist, and as the book opens, he’s telling us how wonderful his solitary life is. It comes across as protesting too much, as though he’s trying to convince himself as well as us. His town is preparing for a Carnival, and that event draws him out of his garret to interact with a giraffe workman.
Charlie is blocked in his writing, which results in a visit by a bluebird calling himself Mister Solitude, who pledges to appear whenever Charlie feels lonely. Events rapidly spiral even more weirdly, as a Ferris wheel ride turns into a voyage that reminded me of the work of Winsor McCay in its dreamlike logic.
Later, he goes to a family dinner, seeks out a costume for the festivities, and fights with himself. The white circles of Charlie’s head are simple but eye-catching, drawing the reader’s vision to keep the character as a central visual point. Circles are a theme throughout, from soap bubbles to the ride to the sun to the porthole-like window he gazes through.
The pages of Bubbles & Gondola are mostly six-panel grids, making the occasional single-panel page all the more impressive for the way they open up and present key images. My favorite is the nighttime sky full of fireworks during the celebration. At other times, the palette (colors are by Christophe Bouchard) is mostly rose, rust, orange, and brown, giving an otherworldly (almost Martian) feel mixed with a signifier of faded memory.
Normally, a story about how an artist relieves being blocked is too self-indulgent for my tastes, but this one becomes something of an alternate to a drug trip. Reading through these images, I feel as though there’s a whole level of meaning I’m not getting, or maybe that I’m expected to bring my own interpretation to some of these images and encounters. That’s not a bad reaction; I’m not put off by it. Instead, maybe it’s just of most meaning to the artist himself, and if we share some of the same emotions, fine, or if not, well, a cartoon mouse is funny.
NBM has posted a short preview. (The publisher provided a review copy.)