In Sunday’s NYT Book Review, a piece by Douglas Wolk (“Dreams of Youth: Lynda Barry’s ‘Blabber Blabber Blabber’ and More”) with the delicious expression “huge-quiffed schlemiel” in it, in a review of a retrospective of Dutch artist Joost Swarte‘s cartoons.
The Dutch artist and designer Joost Swarte has a tremendous reputation among cartoon-art aficionados, given his tiny body of comics work. The answer to the title of his 40-year retrospective, IS THAT ALL THERE IS? (Fantagraphics, $35), is: “Pretty much, yeah.” The dozens of strips translated here are chronologically scrambled, shuffling Swarte’s taboo-popping early work with later, subtler formal experiments. Some stories vaguely follow the contours of old adventure comics, some are smutty gags (like a vignette involving a retirement community for used condoms), and many are just excuses for his favorite character, the huge-quiffed schlemiel Jopo De Pojo, to stumble from one scene to the next. Plot is beside the point. Swarte is more concerned with formal purity, and with making the deep structures of cartooning visible. He pares his art to mechanical, hard-edged vectors and curves: caricature triple-distilled into symbolic visual shorthand, with every line canted just so. His geometrically precise, nearly architectural drawings are the bridge between the Tintin creator Hergé and contemporary artists like Chris Ware, who wrote this volume’s foreword.
Here’s Jopo and his quiff:
The quiff is Jopo’s hairstyle. For discussion of the word, with illustrations of the hairstyle from real life and from Hergé’s creation Tintin, see “Quiffs and anglicization”, here.