Little Nothings: The Curse of the Umbrella
Little Nothings reprints painted pages from Lewis Trondheim’s comic blog. He draws himself as a bird-headed man, with small, everyday observations: watching people at the train station, his failure at gardening, conversations with his kids, watching movies, travel.
There’s a whole sequence about going on vacation to a tropical island. Instead of being jealous of him, though, it’s a comedy, as his paranoia about disease carried by mosquito prevents him from enjoying himself. The running gag becomes visual, with the puffs of insect repellent he applies for protection summing up his conflicting attitudes towards the locale.
I’m reminded of the work of Eddie Campbell, in the subject matter, the loose page construction without panel borders, and the lightweight but beautifully expressive linework. Trondheim’s figures, although looking like animals, are marvelously realistic in their attitudes and behaviors. The watercolors give everything a soft, comfortable feeling, like catching up with an old friend, swapping stories about how life is going.
There’s a bite to some of his incidents, though, as when he thinks of death when getting new pets, or the prevalence of memories from high school. That’s lightened by his moments of joy. A favorite strip is a wordless one in which Trondheim picks up a light saber toy and sneaks some time with it. His simple smile in the last panel, punctuated by a label that reads “age 41”, captures escapist fun.
Some of the events are historical, as when he wins a festival Grand Prize. His emotions are mixed, with pride, avoidance, indecision, tweaking the media, disappointment, and finding happiness in little things. Often, the last panel of his pages end on his face, providing space for reflection on what we’ve seen and thought.
He’s funny without appearing to work hard at it, which illustrates his skill and experience. It’s all very enjoyable without pressure, the kind of quiet work that doesn’t trumpet its genius, although displaying it nonetheless. A masterwork by a huge talent that’s still approachable by anyone.
A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the publisher, who has made preview pages available. David Welsh and Greg McElhatton also have written good reviews of the book.