I have never heard about James Kochalka in all my years as a reader of comics. One day I ran into Fantastic Butterflies (Alternative Comics, 2002) in my local library. I quite liked the art, but did not open it at that time. I saw it other times, but I thought it was the sort of book about, I don’t know, maybe I was being too literal, fantastic butterflies for girls, and still left it unopened. It was the cover, picturing two girls cheering and jumping, that gave me the wrong idea of a comic for teenager girls. One day I finally decided to open and read it. To my surprise it was an amazing, yet disturbing, experience. It felt really good to go through the intermingled stories about looking for parties, dying robot friends, time-travelling dogs and elves in general. It doesn’t have much of a storyline there, though. But the overall experience was really worth it. The art was simple, and clean, and the narrative, although episodic, was really interesting. Not to mention the whole sense of humour: a sort of dark, but cartoon-like feel to it, with the suggestion of much more beneath the seemingly crazy stories being told. It is really, really funny, and also charming in its apparent simplicity.
I was just feeling sad about the fact that I’ll never be able to listen to the Punky Brewskies album again, on account of it being one of those cute miniature CDs that only worked on trays and everything today has slot-loading trays or no optical drive at all. Then a quick Google search revealed that the album is a totally free download on Bandcamp! Hooray for modern convenience and totally generous artists!!!
Punky Brewskies was the short-lived (as in this is the only release) good-times rap outfit of Jason Cooley and James Kochalka. I think I bought the CD from James when he and Craig Thompson were touring for Conversations #1, along with the first American Elf tome and Craig’s Carnet de Voyage. I gushed a bit to James about his music, specifically Kissers, and I accidentally scared James’s buddy Moby out of the store. It was also the first time a comic artist knew my name outside of a MoCCA event I was working, as Craig happily greeted me by name amongst the couple hundred people lined up to buy books.
I do miss team comics, though the scene has changed so much even in my brief years away.