Jens K Styve

«Styve’s simplified drawings are enhanced by his skillful use of traditional media»

POMEmag har anmeldt Dunce Nr 1: 

Dunce Number One – Jens K Styve

From the pages of an unnamed Norwegian newspaper comes Dunce, a daily comic about a father and son in matching conical hats. The strip chronicles, in classic, four-panel fashion, the pair’s lives, skewing more towards quiet and quirky moments than gags. The father works a featureless desk job and splits his free time between his creative hobbies and his son. The son is young but clever, relatively tech-savvy and the apple of his father’s eye. There are a few fantastical embellishments: the titular, pointy dunce caps, a couple of animal-faced coworkers, a screaming child at the son’s school who is caricatured after Trump. All the same, I feel safe assuming Dunce is generally autobiographical.

Anyone who grew up reading (or who still reads) American newspaper strips should find a lot of this familiar. Tonally and stylistically, Calvin & Hobbes is an obvious influence to cite, though Richard Thompson’s more recent Cul de Sacprobably fits too. Dunce’s view of family life is sweet but never cloying and, like Watterson or Thompson, Styve’s simplified drawings are enhanced by his skillful use of traditional media. The natural variations in mark of pen & ink and watercolor add a lot to the strip’s charm.

Past the initial charm, however, the familiarity starts to become a weakness. I’m not sure, for instance, that the world needed another comic about how people don’t feel great before their morning coffee. I’m sure it’s as relatable an experience now as it ever was but still, y’all, we get it. Ditto a strip where father and son play Pokemon Go while ignoring the majestic northern lights unfurling in front of them. (Although props to Styve for joining his son, rather than nagging him about appreciating nature like Calvin’s father.)

My favorite strip is the one below, mostly because it mystifies me a little bit. Do all Norwegians casually keep glasses of lye around their homes?

To be fair, I also like this one about a toy drone flight gone wrong. Those faces are pretty good.

Dunce Number One only collects the comic’s first month, so it’s too soon to say where the strip is headed or how it might change as Styve finds his groove. For now, it’s a pleasant look at being a single parent in modern Norway.

More by Styve can be found on his website where you can also purchase Dunce Number One.

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