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In Praise of Dennis: A Rant.
Written by Jacob Covey | Filed under Untagged  27 Aug 2008 6:58 PM

dennisshop.jpg

 

It never ceases to amaze me how much an artist can learn about cartooning from a single volume of our Dennis series . I can smell that shop. Ketcham didn't have to make readers smell the shop but he did it so naturally, so easily, it was like he drew with scented inks. He definitely didn't draw that shop from life--it's not believable in that way-- he just knew the smell, knew the way it FELT to be there.

And the way he manages these subtle perspectives. You're not exactly viewing it from any standard angle, but it's like God's perspective-- sympathetic to the experience of both adult and child. Flipping through two years worth of "static" single panel Ketcham gags is liable to give you whiplash the way he shifts 'camera' angles every single day, instinctually shaping the view to fit the situation. Most every comic in history has relied on one or two perspectives but Ketcham seems to be relentlessly challenging himself to portray intimacy and distance, chaos and discipline, etc.

Frequently there's a sketch quality to his work that amazes me. Even here, if I overanalyze the composition I wonder why the shop just ends on the left, but it works. Looking at day after day of his work, I admire the odd framing he'll often utilize, as if his brush developed in kind with range-finding cameras of his own childhood.

I keep meaning to gather together a more-than-impetuous posting about this beautiful strip (and one that's not entirely glowing--overall, Ketcham's humor is too mean-spirited for me) but this will have to do for now. I have work to do.

dennisss2.jpg(Seriously. All their backs are to the viewer and the main characters are nowhere to be seen. Can you feel yourself crammed in the corner, brushing up on that guy's tweed jacket? Nice.)