Lewis Trondheim Little Nothings cover

Little Nothings v1: “The Curse of the Umbrella” by Lewis Trondheim

 

Who Is Lewis Trondheim?

Lewis Trondheim Self Portrait

I like to think of him as the French Keith Giffen.  He can write and draw.  He’s capable of using many different art styles.  He has a wicked sense of humor.  And he can write multiple projects with different people in different styles all at the same time.

Trondheim is prolific, and the 2006 winner of the Grand Prix at Angouleme. Seriously, he’s that good.

His works span a breadth of topics that would make most American cartoonist’s head hurts.  From blackout gags featuring a man shaped like the letter “i” to fantasy stories in a castle dungeon, to autobiographical comics and crazy tales of Santa Claus battling  Halloween characters.

He retired from doing comics more than a decade ago, about as successfully as the first “Good-Bye Tour” by The Judds.  He just keeps on going…

For a much longer account of Trondheims’ life (his real name is neither “Lewis” nor “Trondheim”) and works, check out Paul Gravett’s summary, reprinted from an article he wrote at “The Comics Journal” a decade ago.

 

Little Nothings

Little Nothings v1 by Lewis Trondheim cover

This series is a compilation of Trondheim’s diary comics.  They’re short one page stories about his life — both the things he does and the things he sees or feels.  Sometimes, it captures a momentous event in his life like that trip to Angouleme where he wins the Grand Prix and decides to play mind games with the journalists afterwards.  Others, it’s a simple look at how his curiosity can be piqued by a bubble floating up from the dishes he’s washing, or the look in the eyes of an elderly lady who just fell over, or how a toy light saber can make him five years old all over again.

This is not a structured three act story.  This is not about establishing rhythms and recurring gags and slow burns into climactic moments.  This is just a collection of moments captured on paper, put together as they go along.

Lewis Trondheim furiously sprays himself with bug repellant

There’s a lot of traveling for Trondheim, as he goes to comics events and various vacations. One set of pages takes place on a vacation where a particularly bad virus was being transmitted by the local mosquitoes.  This leads to a comedy of over-protection with spray-on bug repellants and long clothes.  This is Trondheim at his earliest in the series  as a paranoid hypochondriac, which persists throughout his adventures.

Trondheim is a funny guy in a most unassuming way.  He has a unique view of the world, and finds the littlest things to be worried about.  It’s a bit cynical, a bit fatalistic, and occasionally neurotic.

Don’t expect the Bwah-Ha-Ha, but enjoy the observational humor.

Formatting

Lewis Trondheim runs into Manu Larcenet in Angouleme

Trondheim runs into Manu (“Back to Basics“) Larcenet in Angouleme.

The print editions of this book are beautifully.  They have, fittingly enough, French flaps on them and are printed on heavy white paper that shows off the subtleties of the watercolor very well.  The books are smaller, at 6″ x 8.5″.

Normally, I’d prefer a larger page size, but it works for this series.  Maybe it has something to do with reading the material on a screen the first time that having it on paper that fits in one hand makes sense.  Or maybe that it’s just Trondheim’s loose style that tightens up a little bit at this size that makes it even more attractive.  Or, maybe the smaller size in your hand makes it feel like more of a personal journal.  I’m not sure.

The only sore spot is a bit of cover design. I don’t like the font choices for the title or the subtitle.  The third and fourth volumes have a big yellow blob behind the title that really looks bad, too, like some kind of throwback to 1990/”Saved by the Bell.”

For $15 cover price each, though, they’re a great deal, collecting about 120 pages of comics.

 

The Watercolored Art

Lewis Trondheim plays with a lightsaber when nobody's looking.

Lewis Trondheim plays with a lightsaber when nobody’s looking.

(Apologies on the images.  The book is impossible to lay flat enough to fit right on top of a scanner without breaking the spine.)

Trondheim, in case you’re unfamiliar with his work, draws in a cartoony style where all people have human bodies but animal heads.  Trondheim depicts himself as a chicken, for example. He can produce lush landscapes and serious architectural renderings when he wants (and often does during travelogues), but the majority of his work is with this animal-headed look.

He’s also just crazy enough to produce a diary comic in watercolor. It definitely helps them to stand out from a sea of Tumblr pages by angsty wannabe creators.  It looks great, while helping to frame some of the panels, since he doesn’t draw panel borders.

Approximate Continuum Comics by Lewis Trondheim cover

Trondheim did another book, “Approximate Continuum Comics” that Fantagraphics published (and is sadly out of print now). It’s a more straight-forward comics piece, telling longer stories and drawn in a straight pen and ink style.  That work predated “Little Nothings” by a few years.  You can see how far his style has come in just a few years when you compare that book to “Little Nothings.”

The fun part of it, though, is the appendix, where the other creators in his stories get a chance to rebut his accounts.  There’s a great story from Trondheim’s wife about a meeting with Carl Barks.

 

Publication History in the States

NBM published four volumes in this series, covering the years from 2006 through 2009.  The series is dead there now, though Trondheim continues to produce material.  You can find it on his website, though it’s in French.  Delcourt has published seven books in the series in France, and Trondheim is now at over 900 pages of material.

A couple years back, I asked out loud on Twitter about NBM publishing a fifth volume. (Autocorrect introduced a Very Annoying Typo.)

Trondheim, himself, broke my heart (not that it’s his fault):

DuoLingo, anyone?

Maybe if NBM doesn’t want it, someone else will take it?  Or, maybe someone will translate it and put it up on comiXology, which doesn’t have much Trondheim work on it at all.

Dare to dream…

Recommended?

Yes, of course.  It’s a beautiful book in its own way, with a great sense of humor unlike any other comic I’ve ever read.  Trondheim is a treat to read, and this book is no exception.

Copies of all volumes are available on Amazon still, some dirt cheap through the Amazon Marketplace. Don’t pay a ridiculously inflated price for them.

(This is Pipeline BD 100 review #21.)

6 Comments

  • JC Lebourdais February 14, 2017 at 5:09 am

    For some reason I could never get into Trondheim. He’s a bit niche here, mostly good for name-dropping if you’re a French hipster 🙂 Interestingly he seems to be quite popular in the UK, hence Paul Gravett’s infatuation (let’s be honest, he likes odd stuff in general). Might have something to do with the translation as well.

    Reply
  • Augie February 15, 2017 at 3:06 pm

    Finally, I’ve achieved hipster status! But I really like this series, so I’ll take it! That said, I haven’t been able to get into Dungeon yet though I own the first two or three books in the series. I might try it again this year when I need something to review again. =)

    Reply
  • JC Lebourdais February 15, 2017 at 3:56 pm

    I hear that Lapinot is Trondheim’s best series so that’s where I would start. I never was a big fan of caertoonist’s autobigraphies and “real life stories”. Apart from Maus, I guess.

    Reply
  • Billy and Buddy v6: "Buddy's Gang" - Pipeline Comics March 30, 2017 at 9:36 pm

    […] In the books I’ve reviewed so far and the books I plan to eventually review, the humor usually comes with a second layer behind it. There are historical elements (Asterix).  There’s political commentary, perhaps, or thoughts on society as a whole being laid bare by a seemingly silly story. (The Smurfs, “Little Nothings“) […]

    Reply
  • Please Translate These 12 Franco-Belgian Books! - Pipeline Comics May 5, 2017 at 7:23 am

    […] mentioned this in my review of Lewis Trondheim’s “Little Nothings”: NBM didn’t publish them all in America. There are at least three books that could be […]

    Reply
  • Basil and Victoria: London Guttersnipes - Pipeline Comics August 10, 2017 at 7:55 am

    […] art, at first glance, is cartoonish, along the same lines as a Lewis Trondheim, but mixed with beautifully detailed architectural backgrounds that give the book a strong setting. […]

    Reply

What do YOU think?

%d bloggers like this: