Fantastic Butterflies

 FANU   (Alternative, 2002)

™ and © Alternative Comics

Reading a James Kochalka story is like guzzling down a mug of your favorite beer while blindfolded: You feel lightheaded, it’s over quickly, and you’re not sure what it was. But, boy, was it refreshing.

As he typically does, Kochalka walks the finest of lines between oddball creativity and inexplicable weirdness. His story and ideas are quirky enough to be charming without being totally illogical; his books are often the comic-book equivalent of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. And Fantastic Butterflies is no different, except for the inspiration of its focal character.

Kochalka’s elf-like, buck-tooth character Magic Boy lives in a world that’s as good or as bad as he wants to make it. As he succinctly puts it, life “gives you cancer and injury, but it also gives you butterflies and beers.” It’s a world where time travel is as easy as making a phone call, but the times traveled to may be no better than the current one. It’s a world where “cancer robots” can rid a human of cancer, but not until the disease is in its advanced stages. It’s a world where a lot of great things exist among the bad; it’s a world just like our own.

And the inspiration lies within Magic Boy’s ability to see, metaphorically, that a nearly empty mug of beer is still a mug with one good swig left. Life is tough, but the right outlook can make it a lot easier.

— Jim Johnson

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