I’m ashamed to admit that prior to reading Why Would You Do That? from Hic and Hoc, which will debut at TCAF this weekend, I was completely unfamiliar with Andrea Tsurumi’s work. How does this happen? She’s been in the New York Times, the Nib, plenty of other places. I have no good explanation and as I went through her website and saw the scope of her work, I felt grateful that I’m no longer embarrassingly clueless. Let’s just forget I said anything about it.
This collection brings together several strong pieces that reveal a remarkably offbeat sense of humor with a talent for singling out one absurd framing device — could be poodles, could be swimming pools — and then investigating the minutiae surrounding the lore. More appropriately, the absurdly fictional lore, so with poodles, you’re going to get information about their physiology which is entirely false, but maybe they should have “secret release points.”
There’s a lot to love in here, including humor about news photography by way of food photography, an insane rendering of a war between cake and pie, and a presentation of the gruesome, religious children’s book of 1836 by Favell Lee Mortimor, which includes gross and insulting explanations of anatomy and Hell.
The real showstopper, though, is “HMTOWN,” which portrays the circumstance of moving away from your hometown within the context of one of those ghostly tours. The town itself is bogged down in its own lore to a surreal and engulfing extent, so much so that the language of the tour, the way it expresses ghostly legends, becomes the way in which current life is also presented, and the history of experience because a collection of fictional ghosts where your own biography is intertwined with the local tall tales.
It’s an absolutely beautiful and haunting work, and yet its contrasting tone to the rest of the book manages not to stand separate, but rather brings everything together. You can see that this is the same cartoonist who rendered the two-page, whimsical and macabre “Faces of Death” spread, and her ability to express the dark depths of her ideas are as multi-faceted as the ideas themselves.
This is an energetic and versatile cartoonist offering clever comics with great depth, which made me laugh a lot. It’s really that simple.