I Remember Kochalka!

Sometimes I feel like the history of my comics reading habit is a battlefield strewn with the fallen that fought for my fickle attention, sometimes won my unbridled and absolute attention and love for a while (sometimes even longer) but more often than not were also left behind after not too long, replaced by new and shinier things. Their books gather dust on my shelves and in the boxes in my basement, or are at best relegated to the realm of nostalgia. Some simply slipped from my attention, others failed to live up to the promise of that first brilliant comic, and still others, well, there’s only so much time and money you can spend, isn’t there?

When the web was still young, James Kochalka was my absolute hero. Even though I lived in Belgium, I managed to find comics and minis by him at an alarming rate at one of my favorite stores (hello, Ria!) and later, when he was picked up by “real” publishers, like Top Shelf or Highwater, I followed him religiously. His Sketchbook Diaries remain to this day one of the best web comics ever published (I even wrote about it in 2007). But, as my preamble probably already announced, I forgot about him. Absolutely, totally. On the shelf behind me his name is on seven running inches of books, and they seem to be a blur, never jumping out at me when I’m running my finger past the spines, looking for a rediscovery. It is strange.

All this to say that I was happy to discover that Kochalka is still going strong and curating his back catalog. A couple of days ago he released his 2006 album Spread Your Evil Wings And Fly (because yes, he makes music too, and lots of it) on Bandcamp. Fifteen years on, it is still as quirky, strange and exciting as it was when it first came out, with the added bonus of (quite) good production. Listen to songs like Why Is The Sky Blue? or Fascists Bikes and start dancing around your living room, like I did. This is the silly music this pandemic period needs. And thank God Kochalka is still around to provide it (and at only $10 for the whole album). I think I’ll go and dig out those minis now and read them. Superstar!

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