Shelf Esteem is an as-told-to measure of the books on the shelves of writers, editors, and other word lovers, founded by Emily M. Keeler. This week’s shelves belong to Chad VanGaalen, a Calgary musician and visual artist. His studio is in a converted garage behind his family’s home, on a hill overlooking the now-swollen Bow River. He and his daughter spent a month dumpster diving the material they used to build his studio’s adjacent room where he houses his collection of graphic novels.
So this is sort of my main bookshelf. I’m really into reading novels but I’m a dad now, so I don’t really have time to delve into novels properly. But I do a lot of illustration stuff so I love graphic novels. I have since I was a kid. What I just finished reading recently was this book called Before the Incal. This is my favorite graphic novel of all time, The Incal. He’s my favourite illustrator, Moebius—Jean Giraud, that’s his real name. He’s a French illustrator; he used to do a lot of work for Heavy Metal magazine. Mostly I’m interested in his cityscapes and how much work he puts into them.
Jim Woodring is one of my favourite ever storytellers just because he doesn’t use any words. He puts out something called Jim. He’s another Fantagraphics genius along the lines of R. Crumb. I would say he’s even crazier. These are pretty dark, they get pretty perverted. I also feel like [graphic novels are] more developed than the written language. I feel like, for me at least, it’s awesome to see someone that’s doing stories without using language because then it’s open to anybody. I could be some kid in China opening that up and still have access to the story, which is kind of magical. And it is this primal thing, that’s how we started telling stories was with images and then they turned into icons and letters.
Shelf Esteem runs every Tuesday.