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Paul Goes Fishing

By Henry Chamberlain
April 13, 2008 - 10:29

Michel Rabagliati is a new generation's answer to Charles Schulz. If Schulz created graphic novels, they would share something with Rabagliati's work. I'm not saying the work is similar in any literal sense. I am thinking more of a sensibility. Here is someone with the same sentiment and talent who has gone to the drawing board and let loose with what he has to say.

Like Schulz, Rabagliati has a very clean and pared down style. He clears the space down to the essentials but then, unlike Schulz, he is prone to go about neatly adding one specific item after another. He is adding all the other things that usually you can't fit into a comic strip. These can be little details like labels on cereal boxes or it can be as involved as illustrating the rise of the computer in everyday life.

Rabagliati shares a vision with Schulz. Both are artists that dwell in the melancholy aspect of life, particularly childhood, and then find inspiration in the will to persevere. Add to this the foundation of a Christian faith, expressed in a lighthearted manner, and presented in an articulate and precise way, and a case can be made for Rabagliati being a true disciple of Schulz without simply mimicking the master.
Where Schulz expressed everything through his characters, Rabagliati goes ahead and places himself in the center of the action. His work is a series of graphic novels that follow Paul, a stand-in for Michel, through the progress of his life. Paul does not have a perpetual hold on childhood like Charlie Brown but he is just as good in the role of an Everyman. For Rabagliati, unlike Schulz, there is also the desire to bear all the details of his life, not mask them in an artful manner akin to Citizen Kane but to declare those details more in the spirit of YouTube. His observations are far more overt than Schulz which isn't necessarily a better way of doing things but it proves authentic for Rabagliati.

The opening pages to Rabagliati's latest graphic novel, Paul Goes Fishing, provide you with a great sense of the work-life of a young graphic designer which quickly evolves into a depiction of the young Paul's lifestyle, along with economic and social status. The very first page, by the way, is offset from the main story and shows us a church parish struggling to stay afloat which overshadows the theme of perseverance.

The story is built around the framework of a family outing, ostensibly, to go fishing. Paul is very much a fish out of water in what amounts to a vacation among some very die-hard sportsmen. He is far better off catching up on his recollections such as the misadventure he had with his father when they attempted to go fishing. While still on this fishing trip, things take a tragic turn when Paul's wife, Lucie, recently pregnant, has a miscarriage. With respectful detail, Rabagliati documents the painful sequence of events at the hospital. After the fishing trip, what follows is more bad news for the couple as they struggle with Lucie's attempts to have a child but, in the end, life makes sense for Paul and Lucie.

Certainly the Schulz influence is massive and no one cartoonist can claim to be the next Charles Schulz.  However, there is an undeniable vibe running between the two artists.  I recommend you read Paul Goes Fishing and see what you come away with.    

Last Updated: September 6, 2021 - 08:15

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