Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Monster Mess

When I brought home 'Monster Mess' by Lewis Trondheim from my Gosh shop I didn't realise I'd inadvertently picked out one of the husband's favourite cartoonists. See how our hearts beat as one dear? I'm sure Bill would like some of his adult books too now I look at them. They're quite heavy on poo and mindless violence and very funny. Nevertheless we'll hold them back a few years; he doesn't need any extra encouragement in the first two after all and 'Monster Mess' is plenty funny without Any Poo At All.

Trondheim has a very small and controlled style of drawing. This is a comic book that you have to get your nose quite close to the page to read the little print and follow the frames. I like that. It seems to foster a kind of immersive nerdery generated by all the best comics. You want to curl yourself up in a box with it and escape. Not for sharing. Not for reading aloud. Just for one.

'Monster Mess' is the first of four Monster graphic novels (I'm not sure about the term graphic novel here- but that's what it describes itself as. Can't we call it a comic book and not get all uppity? Or is that inverse snobbery from me?). It's a Frankenstein familiar tale. The children of cartoonist parents (they're drawn as an indeterminate species of bird but don't let that worry you) draw a set of monsters and then  bring one to life after an accident with some magic powder. Their father then draws a 10 mouthed friendly monster and animates him too, with the idea that he can catch and eat the baddy one. Unfortunately Kriss, as they call him, is not very focused on the task set (note- monsters do NOT make good family pets) and sets about causing his own brand of havoc around the house.
The whole family must unite with Kriss in forming a new plan to take down bad monster Oko, but a heap of new trouble awaits as Oko creates his own team by animating all the other monster pictures in the house. Running away from them is problematic as, being only the thickness of a piece of paper, they can get under windows and through cracks. It's definitely more than a little menacing. A showdown on a neighbour's roof sees the finale and...well the fact that there are three more books suggests escape may be possible.

The charm of the book lies in the well observed family dynamics (a cautionary tale for any of us who have left our children playing 'quietly' unobserved for a little too long) and also in the use of real children's drawings to create Team Bad Monster. It's a lovely juxtaposition of drawing styles and it seems clear that the book must have been originally drawn for and as a reflection of Trondheim's own family. There's a whole lotta love in them there flesh-eating paper bad guys.

Lewis Trondheim is a prolific French cartoonist of some renown and these books date from the 1990s but are only now being published in translation. Again I bought them as a US import so it appears you may need to do your own comic shop foray or use Amazon if you want them. Bill enjoyed this one so much that I've already added 'Monster Christmas' to my ever growing 'basket', the other two aren't out yet.
 Monster end papers

'Monster Mess' by Lewis Trondheim, pub. Papercutz isbn 978-1-59707-294-6

We created our own scene of monster/robot destruction and despair courtesy of some very pretty buttons and ribbon sent to us by Child-Led-Chaos. It was a very rainy weekend. Just as well no magic animating powder in this house; 20,000 dead apparently.


  1. That's so sweet that you and your husband can bond over books. I wouldn't run across my husband's favourite illustrator unless it was someone who animated soccer video games.

    1. well he also likes to read very very dense obscure history titles. I tend to leave those alone...