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Not-so-funny pages


A graphic novel by an OKC artist tracks the trials and tribulations of a most unusual teddy bear.

Greg Horton April 30th, 2014

Ivan A. Alexander is a teddy bear, and in the graphic novel aptly titled The Story of Ivan A. Alexander, Dorshak Bloch tells the origin story of this displaced and anthropomorphic bear. Dorshak Bloch is a pseudonym for Oklahoma City artist Dustin Oswald, owner of Bombs Away Art.

Dustin Oswald
Photo by Shannon Cornman

Oswald said his nom de plume is an homage to Robert Bloch, one of America’s most prolific writers of crime, horror and fantasy.

He wrote Psycho, which was the basis for Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 film of the same name. It’s a fitting pen name given the narrative arc of The Story of Ivan A. Alexander, as the book juxtaposes beautiful illustration work with scenes of graphic violence.

The illustrations, created by Oswald, are an homage to late 19th-century and early 20th-century work known as the golden age of illustration.

Artists who create similar work use a very specific style that features line work, a technique that involves the artist using a pen or pencil to create shade and texture.

The graphic novel is illustrated in black and white with a colorized cover. Oswald said he is working on at least three characters’ origin stories. One of those characters, a rabbit, appears briefly in this book, once directly and once in a bedside photo.

Oswald’s novel is full of references and allusions, and finding them is half the fun. Hint: Be sure to look at the photographs or paintings in individual frames.

The story doesn’t take long to read, but that really isn’t the point. Each frame is sometimes better read as a standalone illustration, as the narrative is intentionally disjointed, a technique that accurately reflects Ivan A. Alexander’s sense of displacement and identity confusion.

The book is a mixture of science fiction, fantasy and horror and, believe it or not, is a children’s story. (It’s about a teddy bear, after all.)

However, more than anything, it is an exploration of identity.

A quote on the back cover sort of gives it away, and while it reads like a fake blurb, Oswald said it’s real.

It’s from a woman named Claire, who is identified as a psychologist who

reviewed the material. She apparently approached Oswald at Dallas Comic Con — an expo for comic book, science fiction, horror, anime and gaming enthusiasts — and asked to read the book. After she was done, she gave him a brief review and asked that her last name not be used.

“She actually said three things about it, and I chose the one on the back cover. She also called it an ‘experience in schizophrenia and an illustration in psychosis,’” Oswald said.

Oswald worked with Charles Martin at Oklahoma City-based publishing company Literati Press to distribute the book. The two met when Martin was interviewing Oswald about his art several years ago.

“I’ve had this project in mind for a long time, and Charles and I have stayed in touch over the years,” Oswald said. “It made sense to go with Charles and Literati.”

Martin began Literati in 2010. The subculture press was established to give a voice to local storytellers and comic book authors and artists.

The company sells comic books, novels, clothing and artwork. It does not accept unsolicited manuscripts but does meet with aspiring authors and artists at conventions and events around the country.

To help develop new talent, the press introduces artists and writers to its audience through its Literati Presents series and with fiction and illustrated materials online at literatipressok.com.

The Story of Ivan A. Alexander is available at Blue Seven, 7518 N. May Ave.; New World Comics, 6219 N. Meridian Ave.; DNA Galleries, 1709 NW 16th St. and Stash, 412 E. Main St. in Norman.

 
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