Book Review: Big Kids

BOOKS_BigKidsBig Kids
Michael DeForge, Drawn & Quarterly,, 96 pgs, $19.95

Like most people who’ve ever read Michael DeForge’s work, I’ve never been able to go back; back to looking at comics the same way, back to looking at the possibility of representation through pictures and images the same way, nor to go back to asking questions about existence the same way.

That all sounds really big and a little bit philosophy bro-y, but I mean it in the most whimsical, colourful way possible. From his Lose series and his less narrative Structures zine to this, his most recent book, Michael DeForge’s peculiar way of gazing at existential wonder makes you feel comforted and confused at the same time.

In Big Kids, Adam, a queer high schooler living in a world of pinks, yellows, and bad decisions, wakes up from an I-guess-I’ve-just-been-dumped-and-it-sucks nap to discover that he and his world look completely different. April, the student renting his Mom’s basement, explains to him that he’s finally “treed,” such that he joins some percentage of the population in seeing the world in a radically different (and extremely psychedelic) way. People who are trees now appear as massive, gangly roots and branches with flowerbed shoulder pads. However, a good bit of the population — Adam’s dad, his uncle, his ex-lover Jared, his principal — remain “twigs” and see the world as Adam once did. As Adam gets romantically involved with Jared’s new tree boyfriend, he tries to help April develop a computer program that will simulate a pre-tree reality.

Big Kids plays with our sense of nostalgia by suggesting common tropes of adolescent troublemaking — pranks, punk shows, peer pressure — and then yanks them out from under you by questioning the possibility of memory itself. Smart sequences where the dialogue Adam narrates mismatches the dialogue represented, or where he begins to question his grasp on his mother’s once familiar twig visage, destabilize the act of remembering, framing each interlude as a conflict in the present. The fact that “graven” images like drawings and graphics are the only things that stay the same when one becomes a tree imbues the real-time act of reading Big Kids with a delightfully eerie aftertaste. This is weird stuff for weird people and I can’t get enough of it. (Jonathan Valelly)

5 Global Zine Scenes You Should Want to Know About

paisa zines bp

Zines have long since left the North American underground, and the alternative press has been going in other hemispheres for ages. This week we thought we’d highlight some of the incredibly cool zine scenes you might plug into in other parts of the globe.

Medellín, Colombia

A few years ago Assistant Editor Jonathan Valelly stumbled into a corner of the city museum of Medellín containing a tribute to the punk scene there, complete with a wall of old tapes and a bunch of awesome zines with titles like Exenax  and La Sombra. These days there are a few zines till carrying on the punk and metal tradition there, such as Hell’Zine while Chilean zinester Jko Sanchez’s Medellín Error Zine honours the city with a more illustration based edge. And of course, the long tradition of political alternative press continues with publications like Diario ADN.

Cebu, The Phillipines

The first ever Cebu Zine Fest was held in April at 856G Gallery in Mandaue City, including 50+ vendors, workshops on lino prints and zine making, and the charmingly named “DEAR Time”, which stands for Drop Everything And Read. Check out the little write up in an English language Filipino news site.

Rayna’s Pick: Back Alleys and Urban Landscapes

back alleys

The alleys of Toronto hold a very special place in my heart. They are like hidden pathways that get overlooked because of the graffiti, garbage, and urban grime. They are private, tranquil, and just plain magical in my eyes. So, I was immediately drawn to Michael Cho’s Back Alleys and Urban Landscapes when I stumbled across it at Page & Panel, the bookstore at the Toronto Reference Library. It’s a collection of sketches depicting Toronto alleys that Cho created between 2010 and 2011. I flipped through the pages and felt like I’d found some sort of kindred spirit — someone else who understood the underrated beauty of the city’s alleyways.

Cho captures the mood of every back lane he sketches with an adoration that puts a big smile on my face every time I open this book. While his subjects may all bare similar qualities, each alleyway is unique, and every detail is as lovingly crafted as the next, from the oddly pastoral residential backyards to the overflowing dumpsters next door. The sketches aren’t labeled, and even someone who has lived in Toronto forever would have a rough time figuring out which alley is where. Although each alley has its own special little quarks, these sketches look as if they could have been done anywhere, in any urban centre. Only someone really familiar with that alley would know where it was, and if you do find one you know, it will bring a calm knowing feeling to the surface.

As Spring arrives, I just can’t stop looking at these sketches and touching on that overwhelming sense of home. Unfortunately, Back Alleys and Urban Landscapes hasn’t been reissued and can be hard to find,  but there are still a few copies kicking around at The Beguiling and Page & Panel in Toronto. To all of my fellow city kids, please do all you can to check out Cho’s collection. It will brighten your day, and you will immediately want to show all of your city slicker friends.

Rayna Livingstone-Lang is a writer and editor working as an editorial assistant at Broken Pencil for Spring 2016. 


National Resonance: How Drone Took Over Canada’s Underground




In 2014, artist and activist Marie LeBlanc Flanagan announced a new Canadian holiday. Henceforth, she proclaimed on her popular underground music website Weird Canada, one Saturday in May would be known as National Drone Day. (This year’s event takes place this Saturday, May 28.) The idea, based on the niche music subgenre known as “ drone,” took off. Drone Day is now coming up on its third anniversary, with events happening from St. John’ s to Winnipeg to Yellowknife. “ I wasn’t expecting people to response to Drone Day as passionately as they have,” Leblanc Flanagan says. “ I love the idea of drones stretching from coast to coast.”

The idea of experimental anti-music gained traction well before the rise of punk rock, and people have been referring to a genre of music labeled drone since the ‘60s. Lately, drone is experiencing an awakening and resurgence, increasingly moving from bedroom confines to live performances in DIY venues and dive bars.

“When I started playing this music no one had any idea what it was,” says Toronto musician Jess Forrest, who performs as Castle IF. “And now I can go to a bar and overhear people talking about drone music. To me that’s an indicator that something is happening.”

National Drone Day: The Playlist


photo of Burdens by Robert Szkolnicki

curated by Kristel Jax

To read Kristel’s cover story on drone music in issue 71 of Broken Pencil, click here.

For a complete list of Drone Day events, click here.

Toronto, Ontario
Listen online

Montreal/Los Angeles
Listen online

Book Review: Myrmurs: An Exploded Sestina

BOOKS_MymursMyrmurs: An Exploded Sestina
Shannon Maguire, 121 pgs, BookThug,, $18

Shannon Maguire’s first collection of poems, fur(l) parachute (2014), was something of a cross between scholarly project and artistic pursuit, construing her intimate understanding of the (ironically, little-understood) Old English “Wulf and Eadwacer” into a real, tangible poetic form that is able to elegize the present day using the unique characteristics of a corrupted 960 A.D. manuscript. Myrmurs: An Exploded Sestina is an academic-artistic feat in the same vein, but it brings a kind of charisma to the page not present in Maguire’s previous work.

The sestina — a little-used form which stresses the clever use of repeating keywords — is here “exploded’ into six chapters — “Noise”, “Letters”, “Pleasure”, “Crowd”, “Volume”, “Incorrigible” — each meant to represent one of the six stanzas which make up a sestina, followed by “Tornada.”

Maguire’s dedication to formal structures ends here, however. Myrmurs, if it is to be read as a sestina, must be read as one which was blown out of proportion and tossed in a blender. The “stanza-chapters” here are intertwined and convoluted — with the notable exception of ‘Tornada’ — so that any cohesive song that might be gleaned from a hypothetical un-exploded Myrmurs is bent and near-lost in the static.

But here lies the pleasure of Maguire’s piece; for all her evidently rigorous, formal forethought, the reader’s base enjoyment comes simply from giving herself over to Maguire’s crowd of words — or rather more appropriate to Myrmurs’s theme, her colony of ants. Maguire’s approach to identity politics, relationships, and Métis poetics is built with a professional eye, and then artfully smashed. (Joel W. Vaughan)