“A genuinely essential collection of early Delisle!” – World Record Holders by Guy Delisle

IMG_2022-7-14-201349Guy Delisle came to our attention largely through his travelogues – Shenzhen, Pyongyang, Jerusalem and Burma Chronicles – and we’ve followed him ever since as he pursued his serious work (Hostage) and his more comic asides (the various guides to neglectful parenting). His most recent work (Factory Summers) was a more autobiographical work and, arguably, that backward looking instinct is still in play in his new work – which is itself a compendium of old work.

World Record Holders is a collection of random bits and pieces mostly written at the tail end of the last century when Delisle was starting out. There is a short preamble that looks at him quitting his job at a computer game company to start out on his own (all of the usual writerly procrastination is in play) but then we are off, exploring a whole host of strips that arguably allow us to explore all of Delisle’s roads not taken.

As you’d expect, there is early work here that is interesting without being essential (see ‘Ka-klick’ or ‘Single file’) and there are plenty of what you might view as Delisle shorts simply because they feel like the Delisle we’ve come to know and love (see the likes of ‘The Last Panel’ about a cartoonist’s desire to finish his book only to be interrupted by a neighbour having a panic attack) – but the biggest draw is the more unusual, non-typical Delisle strips.

We have sci-fi strips (‘Youri and Youri’ reads like a riff on the 1969 movie, Journey to the Far Side of the Sun), Liliputian asides (‘The Sleeping Giant’), more comedic strips that lean in the direction he travelled with the neglectful parents series (‘How to do nothing’ and ‘World Record Holders’) and strips that see Delisle veering into more dramatic territory (see the literary festival that ends with the noisy end of a marriage) – but more even than this is the sense you get as you read that there is actually quite a lot here and, unusually for collections of what is essentially juvenilia, it all feels pretty essential.

This reviewer found himself wondering why Delisle had taken so long to package all of this together. It’s certainly a fun read and I can imagine a lot of Delisle fans wondering if – by exploring his early work – Delisle is preparing to boldly go where he’s never been before… Here’s hoping!

Any Cop?: A surprisingly accomplished, genuinely essential collection of early Delisle!

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