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A. Burkholder is the author of Qviet & ITDN published by 2dcloud and Absolute Loneliness by John S. published by ITDN Group. The Lower Style, published by Bred Press, was selected as a notable comic by Best American Comics 2016 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing).
"Repetition permeates The Lower Style, most obviously in the form of repeated letters. On the cover, the right-most child’s t-shirts read SS. We encounter: AA (for Alcoholics Anonymous, and Ada or Ardor, which Andy Burkholder adopted in the overall structure of the work, especially in the end); and ZZ/BB when playing a video game. Various other repeated image motifs show as eyes, CDs, and trees.
The repetition motif extends to the overall structure of the narrative. The Lower Style is the story of a man who recalls his past. In his recollection, he continuously tells his life stories. Then he ponders: “I learned a lot about myself,” again and again. He frequently goes to the show, wakes up at 6am, and feels tired.
Most striking is repetition appearing near the end, where the protagonist ages after 45. Each panel represents one year, featuring his profile without any emotion. This same imagery repeats until age 89, covering two full pages.
The repetitive structure of this fractal – its details are the same as the overall structure - reflects the quotidian life we, including the protagonist, live in without any realization. “The years are as easy to live as not living them.” We follow the same routine every day, oblivious to the road when we return home, since we know the way. Just like the repeated face of the protagonist near the end, we are indifferent to the passing of time. “But I forget how old I am.”
Repetition is against the forward flow of time. “I used to believe in concepts like: the undefeatable; divine nature; existence / forced experience.” To be “undefeatable” means winning forever. The “divine nature” does not change over time. But in the end, time passes, and “existence” becomes “forced experience” as time goes by. “I feel them.” Thanks to time, experience forms memory and story, as when the protagonist remembers and tells his experiences.
Burkholder’s style in this work emphasizes his handwriting. This naturally makes each repeated letter or image unique. Even the repeated faces of the protagonist, in the end, are strikingly diverse, comparable to when we reminisce: the same things become different.
This parallels the formal quality of comics, where repetition with differentiation is one of its principles. To show the same protagonist or setting, the same image needs to be repeated, yet it needs to be changed to show advance.In The Lower Style, letters work as both words and images. Words become abstract drawings. His sentences are fractured and written in stream-of-consciousness style, as with his other works. Language alone cannot articulate Burkholder’s mind. It disappears into images. Andy Burkholder produces comics because he has to."
- Kim Jooha, goodcomicsbykim
3 color offset
4.75" x 6.25"
Ed. of 500published by Bred Press