James Kochalka may be a name not readily mentioned in mainstream comic book conversations but within the independent scene he is revered as one of the best. Highly prolific with such works as Monkey Vs. Robot, Peanutbutter & Jeremy, and Quit Your Job, he is known for his large output of comics. But he participates in other mediums as well.
He shares his namesake with his band, James Kochalka Superstar, a pure rock extravaganza that earned a spot on Rolling Stone’s list of the "Top 100 Songs of 2006" with the super-catchy "Britney’s Silver Can" (a tune capturing the world’s obsession with Justin Timberlake by repeating his name over and over...and over again).
Kochalka also just ended a stint at the Giant Robot Gallery in New York City, that spotlighted his oil painting work. But this "James of all Trades" illustrates his most profound art with his daily diary comic strip, known as American Elf.
Started in 1998, the premise is simple: Kochalka composes a small (usually 4 panels) strip revealing an event that took place that day. This endeavor is not striking in the single day’s strip but in the sum of its parts; the chronicling of what may seem mundane and unremarkable becomes simply amazing with the sheer volume and the universal appeal of it. Writing about his family, his cat, his work, his band, his fears, Kochalka has produced one strip every day for the past 9 years and has shown no signs of stopping.
Highly addictive, I plowed through the daunting American Elf Volume 1: James Kochalka’s Collected Sketchbook Diaries in about 2 days, that’s 496 pages of pure comic strip goodness! The 2nd collection came out just last month and while it is considerably smaller (192 pages), it is no less entrancing. To get a taste of American Elf, check out Kochalka’s web site, there you can view the cartoon for that day. If you subscribe to the site (a mere $1.95 per month) you’ll be given access to the archives of past comic strips.
Although I highly recommend picking up the collected volumes, as his comics en masse are where they truly shine. Also available on his web site is links to where you can buy his music, books and other merchandise.
Support the Elf Movement today!
(this story is reprinted from FOG! where it originally appeared, as well as my blog)