Saturday, July 7, 2012

People Around Here

by Dave Lapp

I have a pretty complicated relationship with Dave Lapp's work.  I've read his Drop-In, a series of vignettes set in the Regent Park art centre where he works or volunteers, and I've been reading his 'People Around Here' strip in Taddle Creek Magazine for the last few years.  If you were to ask me out of the blue what I thought of his work, I'd say that I didn't like it very much, yet I find myself unable to stop reading it.

This book collects a number of his People Around Here strips, from Taddle Creek and from its previous publication history.  The strips are mostly one page in length, although towards the end of the book, they begin to run for anywhere from two to fourteen pages.  The strips are all set in and around Toronto, with the location usually mentioned right at the very beginning.

Most of these fall into the category of observational cartooning.  Lapp overhears a conversation, or has a strange run-in with someone on the street, and goes home to draw it.  In that sense, there's a lot to like about this book - I enjoy seeing familiar settings, such as the Jet Fuel Cafe, the AGO, Future Bakery, and especially The Green Room, where I whiled away many an afternoon and evening when I was in high school.

What frustrates me about this work is that Lapp rarely delves into any real story.  We hear a snippet of conversation, or we look in on an interesting encounter, and then it's over.  I never feel like Lapp gives things enough space to grow or develop, nor do I know what his purpose in sharing this strip really is.  There should be more to this work than Lapp winking, "City living is weird, eh?"  Even his longer pieces lack depth, commentary, or a sense of finality to them.

I think this is what separates Lapp from a cartoonist like Chester Brown (who appears time and again in the strips), who can be equally fixated on the minutiae of daily life, but who seems to have a point to his work.  Still, after having said all of this, I know I'll be quick to pick up Lapp's next book...

No comments: