Once more I find myself remarking on how vitally important the empathetic quality of comics as a form is and will be when it comes to a social record of these pandemic times. The title of noted Canadian cartoonist David Collier’s recent entry in the kuš! comics’ mini kuš! series – ‘Before the Pandemic There Was a Touch Football Tourney’ – perfectly juxtaposes the immediately overwhelming and the deceptively pedestrian to remind us of how much we have lost since the early months of 2020.
Collier’s autobio story begins just as our world changed forever with a parental trip to see his son at his university campus. What seems insignificant – visiting a student zine fair, crowds, basic human interaction – is an instant and poignant reminder of what we took for granted before the pandemic hit and now live in hope of regaining. As a realisation of the enormity of the situation begins to dawn, Collier reflects on life, death and the importance of the everyday.
Interweaved throughout are thematically linked digressions into sketchbook pages, a short comic on the death of a beloved family pet and, of course, a representation of that titular sports match. Collier’s thoughts turn to what is to come, of how if the worst were to happen every record of family life could also be lost. It’s a rumination on mortality; one that paradoxically reminds us of both the vitality but also the ephemeral qualities of our existences.
There’s great subtlety to Collier’s hatched artwork and mostly four-panel pages. So much is communicated visually here about what we took for granted in The Before Times as opposed to how we interact with the world now, and the occasional sidesteps into interconnected alternative presentations or narrative prove stirring and impactful when contrasted with the main strip. We have been tagging our coverage of pandemic-related comics over the last several months and the different approaches and styles adopted underline what a crucially important historical document of individual experiences they will be. ‘Before the Pandemic There Was a Touch Football Tourney’ is another important resource in this regard and also an excellent introduction to the work of an autobio comics stalwart for those unfamiliar with his practice.
David Collier (W/A) • kuš! comics, $7.00
Review by Andy Oliver