Wednesday, July 18, 2018

I Had Issues! A Review of Tak Toyoshima's The Couch

One of the graphic heavy reviews, all below the cut. I interviewed Tak Toyoshima and even worked with him to a very limited degree back when I contributed to The Weekly Dig. I was always happy to give him exposure. As of this writing, The Couch hasn't been published to my knowledge. Hopefully that will change. Originally published on June 6, 2011. Edited to correct some grammar errors and remove the artist's website, which is apparently no more.

The Couch is a bit of an obscure piece of Boston comics history from Tak Toyoshima, who is a mainstay of Boston's Weekly Dig back when the paper started as the magazine Shovel in the late 90's. Years later, Toyoshima still keeps himself busy with the Dig and his now syndicated strip Secret Asian Man, but before that, he had conceived The Couch as a way of marking a personal loss while giving it a sci-fi rebirth twist. In the story, a young punk rocker is murdered on his couch. Bloodstained, the furniture is later discarded to a dump site while the materials lodged in it (skin cells, food, the aforementioned blood, etc.) cause a creature with Jesse's memories to come back to life and attempt to solve its own murder. Think of The Crow drawn in the style of The Tick (which he also worked on around this time). There were a couple of mini comics and a single full-sized issue before it disappeared.

The original Couch comic.
 Of course, life, work and family got in the way of completing the book, but even when I interviewed Toyoshima for the late journal The Comics Interpreter years after the first issue had been published, it was clear that The Couch was still a story he wanted to finish. Almost a decade after that time, he has finally come forth with a new issue and a new look.

The cover to the new issue of The Couch.
This was one of the odder, more surprising things to pick up at the Boston Comic Con. The book is still written by Toyoshima but drawn by Boston area artist Logan Faerber. The issue wasn't numbered, which made me wonder if this was a flat out reboot or a continuation of what went before. Toyoshima's started a separate website for the book, and after reading there, I now know what I took home is just a preview, but a preview of what? Will this be a full-fledged book when it comes out or just one issue of a series to later be collected? I look forward to whatever the non-preview "final" version will be.

The art for the original Couch story way back then had Toyoshima's playful style that serves him well in his syndicated humor strip, but it always seemed a little off when recounting the life of a dead person reborn in his old couch that already looks like a sperm. Reading the story inside with the new art, it seems to me that not only has he found an artists that can ad a little grit and drama, but Toyoshima's writing has improved a great deal, adding emotional depth to the voice to the book that wasn't fully present in its beginnings. While the scenes with the homeless people declaring the Couch to be some evil demon are a bit cliched and wooden (I seem to remember similar scenes in the original comic), the tragedy-laced policeman on the title character's murder case and Couch's reconnecting with an old friend are very effective.

I like this. And I like how the excerpt is just enough  to introduce the story anew and just enough of new material, serving both newcomers and older readers of the obscure small press run. It's a tough thing to pull off, which Toyoshima and Faerber do for the most part, though I would feel bad if the story's first chapter (in whatever form it shows up as) shoved us in the middle of things as much as this preview does. I hope Toyoshima lets the story breathe as much as it needs to. He's found the right partner to do this with.

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