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Deep Breaths by Chris Gooch

Chris Gooch is a Melbourne based cartoonist. He first graphic novel, Bottled, was  published in 2017 by Top Shelf and his second graphic novel, Under-Earth, will be published in 2020 (I sang the praises of it’s first instalment here). While we wait for Under Earth to be released in its full format, Top Shelf have published a collection of short stories by Gooch, Deep Breaths.

Deep Breaths is composed of short stories created between 2013 and 2017 (and somewhere in that space of time I suppose Gooch also created Bottled). The thing about this guy is, he is prolific. He’s got that verve and sense of surety that lets him just pump work out, moving forward but at the same time possessing the right savvy to do something with his works. He is being published by Top Shelf coming up on a trifecta, no mean feat, with just being published once by this highly esteemed name a bucket list checkbox for most graphic authors.

The stories just seem to flow out of Gooch, crime stories, horror stories, drama, and creepy thrillers, as well as absurdist fantasy. He’s a genre transgressor of the highest order, but there’s a sort of cool reality running through all the stories, a common thread of believability. Like, this could be you, or someone you know. Or a dream that slowly becomes a nightmare, as the part of your mind that keeps guard for glitches in logic overlooks the creeping tendrils of weirdness.

Anyway- I digress. Let’s do a quick overview of some of this goodness.

BUDDY: An introductory four-pager about that weird kid in school who no one liked that turns out to be the monster you always suspected. Or, the revenge of the kid who everyone picked on.

WEDNESDAYS: Male bonding and recapturing a sense of youth and danger in a secret place. Turning points in relationships, where certain acts of rebellion are outgrown by some and needed more than ever by others.

ONE TO MAKE HIM GROW: A surreal story lodged firmly in the realer than real dimensions of a child’s birthday party running parallel to a seminal act of adultery. A compressed rendition of Lord of the Flies, so wonderfully weird and so completely believable at the same time.

KAROKE: A night out with friends and the first physical contact in a burgeoning love story.

THE EFFERVESCENT PILL: A difficult client and a young artist come into conflict.

MOTHER: A discarded condom triggers some difficult decisions. A story about trust and intuition, and believing the lie that keeps you alive as opposed to the truth that might kill you.

MORELAND MATES: An evening program for men to be together, share a story, and learn to connect with their softer sides.

EMMA: The regular evening train commute told from the viewpoint of the train itself, and a story of iron rail justice.

CURSE YOU, SKULLFACE: One of the longer stories in Gooch’s collection, this feels like the biggest departure from his normal bunker of parallel realism, if you could call it that. This one is set in a fictional world, with a heroic rescue in Pulp-Fictionesque style by a protagonist of decidedly unheroic aesthetic. This is either a complete flight of fantasy or a highly coded metaphor for something quite clever. I’d be willing to bet on the latter.

BRACES: The final short about a bully given his comeuppance in the dentist chair. For most people, this is the one that will make their hair stand up in horror.

Deep Breaths is available for sale through Top Shelf Comix at Squishface Comics Studio, through Readings, or by contacting Chris Gooch directly.