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American Elf Volume 1: The Collected Sketchbook Diaries Of James Kochalka: Collected Sketchbook Diaries of James Kochalka v. 1 Paperback – 10 Aug 2004
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A deluxe compilation of the first five years of James Kochalka's ground breaking daily diary comic strip. Since October 1998, James Kochalka has kept a daily diary, drawn in comic strip form in his sketchbook. Drawn with relaxed and beautiful brushwork, these strips perfectly capture the rhythm of daily life. From the hilarious to the sad, from the poetic to the drunken, these strips offer a direct and intimate portrait of the life of one of America's most important alternative cartoonists. This ambitious and deluxe, perfect-bound volume collect the first five years of Kochalka's diary. Contains a full-color section.
About the Author
JAMES KOCHALKA is, without question, one of the most unique and prolific alternative cartoonists working in America today. His comics have been published internationally by almost every alternative comics publisher; he's recorded several music albums under the name James Kochalka Superstar (making him a favorite at college radio stations across the country); and he's developed animated cartoons for Nickelodeon and Cartoon Hangover. He is the first official Cartoonist Laureate of the state of Vermont, appointed in 2011. Among his best known works are the Monkey vs Robot series, the superpowered frathouse comedy SuperF*ckers, the beloved children's series Johnny Boo, Dragon Puncher, and Glorkian Warrior, and his magnum opus, the 14-year span of daily diary comics known as American Elf.
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The book is quite large, not quite A4 size but near that, and the pages run to about 400 or so. It's a massive brick of a book. When I found out about it this time last year I was a bit hesitant (especially with no reviews on Amazon to guide me!) but ordered it anyway. I'm so glad as I discovered a fantastic artist. I've now read about a dozen of Kochalka's books and the American Elf strips are among the best of his work.
It's a huge book but I became engrossed in Kochalka's world as I saw him go through the everyday things we all do but also see him get more popular and see his life change in other ways. His music becomes marginally more well known but his cartooning becomes more popular and the American Elf strips develop with he and Amy deciding to start a family. In Volume 2 you see Kochalka move toward colour strips and the drawing becomes more refined. Looking at the latest American Elf strip on [...] today 18 Aug 2009 and the first one way back in 1997 you can see how far he's come as an artist.
I also highly recommend his graphic novels "Fantastic Butterflies" and "Monkey Vs. Robot".
It's fun, it's got energy, and it tells the real life story of James and Amy Kochalka. American Elf Volume 1, the adventure starts here!
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Well, it led to his book, "American Elf - The Collected Sketchbook Diaries of James Kochalka" which contains over 5 years of his daily comic diary, from 1998 to 2003. Individually, the comic strips have no power. In fact, individually, they seem kind of pointless. But anyone looking for a punch line is making a mistake. What Kochalka has created is a masterpiece. When combined, the strips document the daily ebb and flow of his life. He has captured the "rhythm of his life" and it will stick in your head.
Kochalka chooses to draw himself and his wife as elves, his best friend Jason as a little white dog, his friends as strange-looking alien creatures, and his pet cat Spandy as, well, a cat. We become so used to seeing Kochalka as an elf that it comes as a shock the few times when he draws himself as a human.
It's interesting which little tidbits of his life Kochalka chooses to include in his strips. He picks random events from his day, or sometimes just his thoughts. It's amazing how much time he spends watching TV and playing video games. When does he find time to draw?
Be prepared - he documents everything. The book is a little childish, a little dirty, and a little strange, but very addictive. It's a fun read because Kochalka is always optimistic and cheerful regardless of the ups and downs in his life. He's also really goofy, which adds to the fun.
Another endearing characteristic of the diary is Kochalka's obvious love for his wife, Amy. He's not afraid to document their tiffs and personal quirks, but their love overcomes all. Yeah, that sounds cheesy, but if you read the book you'll understand.
Filling out the cast of characters are Kochalka's circle of friends. As you read, Kochalka, his wife Amy, their cat Spandy, Jason, Pistol, New Guy, Kate, Josh and the rest seem to become part of your family. It's kind of strange, because these are real people, not fictional characters in a book. But this confirms Kochalka's talent. His comic strips makes these people real on the page.
Kochalka's world is one that you will want to visit often. He is a man who lives the life he wants to live, creating his art and his music, surrounded by friends and family. He sets an example that we can all follow.
Many times, Kochalka has considered quitting his "sketchbook diary". Thank God he didn't. There is an "American Elf - Volume 2" with a "Volume 3" coming out later this year. And he's still at it today, posting daily strips on his "American Elf" website.
Thank you James for putting your life out there for the world to see. It's a helluva fun ride.
Michael Mihalik is the author of Debt is Slavery: and 9 Other Things I Wish My Dad Had Taught Me About Money. Learn how to gain control of your finances, pay off your debt, and create financial security!