James Kochalka: American Elf (Book 2)

By Leroy Douresseaux
April 25, 2007 - 09:29


James Kochalka one of American’s most dynamic and versatile cartoonists (He also has a rock band.) draws a daily comic strip that he posts online at American Elf (Book 2): The Collected Sketchbook Diaries of James Kochalka collects all those strips from 2004 and 2005 in full color.

American Elf is basically a daily diary comic strip, which Kochalka uses to focus on the everyday lives of him, his wife, Amy, and their son, Eli.  James draws himself and Amy as elves and Eli as a human baby.  James’ friend Jason appears as a dog, while the family's cat Spandy, appears as a... cat.  Of course, the strip features family and friends – some as humans others as soft, gentle-looking alien creatures.

Kochalka uses the strip to chronicle the daily life of a family man taking care of his young son, love and feuding with his wife, doing chores, etc.  He also occasionally gives us a glimpse into the life of a professional cartoonist and working musician.  That means conventions and concerts, Hollywood film/TV options and CD releases, book signings and tours, etc.  All of it is drawn in a loose style that conveys a sense of ease in the storyteller.  He is completely comfortable with sharing the intimate details, the daily mundane, and even the interior world of his mind.  I think the fact that Kochalka is willing to tell us about Eli’s various bouts with sores on his face tells us that he’s into sharing.

We know that some things are private, perhaps too private to share.  Here, the autobiographical cartoonists decides what he’s going to chronicle in his daily diary strip, and the reader is free to peek through this tiny window into his life. It’s not a question of how much information is too much, but rather how Kochalka tells it.  We also know that this like many autobiographical comix is idealized, but with his life as the source material, Kochalka may be doing something few of his comic book peers may ever be able to do – make it very far on the journey to creating the great American comic strip.  What Kochalka fan or admirer of autobiographical comix will want to miss that?


Last Updated: August 31, 2023 - 08:12

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