Already well established in Europe, cartoonist Olivier Schrauwen has started to make his way into the American consciousness over the past several years, mostly due to his fantastic Fantagraphics release from 2011, The Man Who Grew His Beard. Schrauwen’s work is typically surreal in nature, but his drawing and storytelling style reads as easy as Windsor McCay’s Little Nemo, which it is often compared to.
Featured here is a recent mini comic by Schrauwen called Greys that was released by Desert Island late last year. The style in this book is a bit of a departure from the work featured in The Man Who Grew His Beard but is still unmistakably his own. Greys is a first person narrative memoir, describing in intricate and sometimes gruesome detail, an alien abduction experience as recalled through memory and hypnosis. The events are typical of most alien abduction stories: sudden paralysis leads to abduction onto a spacecraft, tiny men with large heads perform bodily probes, aliens give the subject insight into a higher form of life, finally the human is transported back to earth with a hazy memory of the experience. The story is so typical that it almost doesn’t seem surreal. In fact, what’s interesting is how real the story seems, even including segments of art therapy to describe difficult emotions. Schrauwen is sincere and fully believable in his delivery but as a reader you’re questioning if the whole thing is a farce or even an absurd satire on memoir comics themselves.
Regardless of interpretation, Greys is a compelling read and visually bizarre. The drawing style is a bit more loose and crude than his earlier work which definitely adds an overall creepiness to the tone of the book. It will be interesting to see if he will continue working in this style in future work. I’d love to see where he takes it. You can order Greys from the Desert Island web shop or at finer comic shops across the U.S.