Sticks Angelica, Folk Hero by Michael DeForge. Drawn & Quarterly, 2017. 9781770462700.
Gene: This is a little more realistic that some of DeForge’s other books. It’s the story of Sticks Angelica, 49-year-old former Olympian, poet, scholar, sculptor, minister, activist, governor general, entrepreneur, line cook, headmistress, mounty, columnist, libertarian, cellist. She has left Ontario and is now residing in Monterey National Park. Now, I looked that up online and the only Monterey National Park is in California. So she is there, she’s becoming one with the animals. Living a crazy life. There are geese, there’s craziness, she always wears this red sweater. It’s very random, It’s got a DeForgean stream of consciousness flow to the narrative, and it reminds me more of Ant Colony than anything else he’s written. (That’s my favorite book by DeForge.)
Sarah: Oh, yeah.
G: The comic strip format gives DeForge space for one idea after another. (It’s all in red and black.) All the animals that you can kill in the forest are marked for death, including a little girl who appears early and then becomes central in the story later.
S: (laughs in dismay)
G: Sticks Angelica hates the geese. They bother her. They used to bug her when she was famous. (showing a strip) And this is the rabbit whose name is Oatmeal. He is in love with Sticks Angelica.
G: It’s so sad! This is a harmless snake that’s not harmless, with one fang that goes out both the top and bottom of its head.
S: It bit the rabbit!
G: Then Sticks sucked the poison out of his paw. Oatmeal has giant manga eyes. He’s a little bun of a rabbit.
S: (laughs) She’s holding a pooping rabbit!
G: It’s inexplicable but you can kind of tell what’s going on. Sticks is very very bored. The geese accidentally kill an animal that’s not marked for death. So this mosquito sees what they did that and blackmails the geese. The price is that he lives inside one of the goose’s heads and eavesdrops on them. The mosquito’s first observation about the geese is that they’re terrible kissers!
G: They can only open their beaks at a certain angle! Isn’t that beautiful?
G: Here Sticks Angelica uses some mushroom makeup to make herself look like a rabbit. Oatmeal feels so abused by that.
S: His heart’s broken!
G: “Don’t play around with me, Sticks!”
This is the moose. The moose’s name is Lisa Hanawalt!
S: I was going to say, that looks exactly like one of Lisa Hanawalt’s drawings!
G: The moose is not sure what “Lisa Hanawalt” means, she found it carved in a tree and took it as her name! She steals Sticks Angelica’s sweaters.
S: Oh, no!
G: And they have it out. Then Sticks Angelica helps her, gets her a forged diploma and a Canadian passport and sends her to Canada where she becomes a law moose!
G: Here’s that little girl who’s marked for death. She’s always singing “I Think We’re Alone Now.”
G: I don’t know how to describe DeForge’s style to anyone who hasn’t seen it. but it is way less realistic than a normal comic.
G: It’s not even surreal, it just doesn’t make any sense except in its own context. Which, if you can psych yourself up and spend the time to get into it, is just delightful. And DeForge actually puts himself into this book! He’s a reporter who has come out to do a story on Sticks Angelica. Here he is, interviewing a bear about her. Because all the animals talk, of course. I don’t understand this: he tells her Canada misses her and she punches him into the ground. He spends a couple of seasons buried there (except for his head). It’s totally crazy.
This is ten pages of Christmas episodes where the rabbit Oatmeal visits DeForge in the snowy ground. There’s a crow that’s killed one of Oatmeal’s siblings, who is also named Oatmeal, as all rabbits are. Here’s the bear, trying to get everyone to play Secret Santa. He’s got all the names in his mouth. People have to reach into his mouth to get a name, but they’re all wet and disgusting and he can’t read them.
G: It’s such a good hearted, strange story. For me, there’s a midway point, during part of a Christmas episode, where Sticks is trying to explain that she came to the forest to cut ties with everyone, her family, her government, her celebrity. She basically renounces her humanity. She resolves to never bathe again. Then the goose says, “You know we bathe, right?” Somehow right then I thought you would love this so much. And I can see in your eyes that you do.
S: Yeah. That’s really cool. And I love it when someone does those little name checks of another artist in their work. Then even if you don’t get it at the time you read it, later you’ll see that name and say, “Wait a minute! that’s from that thing I like!”
G: You told me to listen to Lisa Hanawalt’s podcast, right?
G: In the episode I listened to she said if she could, she’d be a horse. The fact that she’s a moose in this is beautiful.Then here’s a strip featuring the Notable Pastries of Ontario. If I could buy you some original art, and have it framed for your wall, this would be it.