Creator: David Robertson
WHAT IS IT?
A collection of strange, surreal and humorous comics David amassed during the 1990s, with a few dream diary bits thrown in to round out the collection.
Think an absurdist's sketchbook combined with all of your favorite navel-gazing, personal narratives from comics and literature. Bonus: a Tartan Power Ranger at the very end.
If that's not a bonus to you, I don't know if we can be friends anymore.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
The most potent pieces are the non-linear dream comics, in which a fictionalized David turns us into somnambulists and leads us gently through a series of increasingly weird encounters.
If your dreams do not make any damn sense at all, ever, then this is a comic for you. If they do make sense, congratulations, but you should still read this to understand what the heck your friends are talking about.
In all seriousness, But A Dream! is a compelling process piece as well as a funny, irreverent collection of shorts.
The concept. Robertson spices up what could end up being a batch of random comics with a few themed pieces to help cultivate the absurdity.
The experimentation. But A Dream! is very raw, and as Robertson says at the end of the book, a lot of different techniques and styles went into these comics over the years. Putting them together is an interesting way to see a single creator play with conventions – often tossing them out entirely. The overall effect is a good one, even if some of the individual pieces may puzzle you. Just go with the flow, and you're in for an entertaining read.
The humor. What makes But A Dream! work is Robertson's sense of humor. Often wry and cutting, his takes on his friends, his imagination and send-ups of popular media and relationships possess a clarity that slices through the intentional chaos on the page. There's a fair bit of self-deprecation at play, which helps make the fictionalized David and other protagonists relatable.
The craft. What may appear rough and out of control on the page isn't always so. Panel borders are irregular at times but very carefully considered. Facial expressions and bodies and angles are grotesque for a reason, and the beats they hit are solid. And, occasionally, there's a moment of pure brilliance as in Bad Show Then, when the sound effects take over the entire page and the protagonist's reality. Such as it is.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
If you are a fan of or generally used to high production value in your books, then this might be a hard sell. But A Dream! is gritty, homemade and very much of its indie roots. Experimental comics are not for everyone.
While done with tongue planted firmly in cheek, an ad for a podcast at the bottom of a comic doesn't track well. It reads like it's part of the page, and it takes a moment to understand that we're looking at a sly homage. Coming at the end of my personal favorite short is a bit of a bummer, even if the tone is consistent. The full-page ad later in the book is a better choice.
The first comic features some good, weird colors, while the rest of the book skip it, save the ads and the Tartan Power Ranger. Not all of the pieces lend themselves well to color, but including a few more colored comics for variety would be nice.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
I don't want to beat the traditionalist drum to death here, but if you're newer to comics and interested in indie history, But A Dream! is a great look at one creator's journey.
It's also amusing, and if you can hang with some scratchy, experimental, loose art and storytelling it's always worth giving a book a try. There's craft at play here.
But A Dream! is a good example of how there's no one way to make comics, and how trying out various styles and kinds of storytelling can pay dividends over the years, especially as you look back and see how your work's evolved.
Robertson's choosing to pull back the curtain a bit and show us that process, and it's a valuable experience as well as a piece with some polish.
HOW DO I BUY IT?
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The image(s) used in this article are from a comic strip, webcomic or the cover or interior of a comic book. The copyright for this image(s) is likely owned by either the publisher of the comic, the writer(s) and/or artist(s) who produced the comic. It is believed that the use of this image(s) qualifies as fair use under the United States copyright law. The image is used in a limited fashion in an educational manner in order to illustrate the points of the author and not for the purpose of entertainment or substituting the original work. It is believed the use of this image has had no impact on the market value of the original work.
All But A Dream! characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are trademarks of and copyright David Robertson or their respective owners. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED