1401 Vancouver’s pizza punks
Pizza Punks Collection
by Cole Pauls
Wolfville, NS: Conundrum Press, 2021
$15.00 / 9781772620535
Reviewed by Jeff Stychin
I’m sure most reading this can remember a time when skateboarding and the punk rock attitude went together like ham on rye. Cole Pauls’ Pizza Punks Collection grabs at your desire for excitement and fun while taking you back to your rebellious, exuberant angst.
Pauls is a Champagne and Aishihik citizen and Tahltan First Nation comic artist, illustrator, and print maker who grew up in Haines Junction, Yukon. He graduated with a BFA in Illustration from Emily Carr University, and now lives in Vancouver. Pauls began writing this series of comic artwork before his art school degree began, when he was just nineteen. From then until after graduation, Pizza Punks Collection went through a refinement and transformation of early sketches into a full-blown book of comics created with a developed, witty, and thoughtful art style, sometimes with a refined edge. Pauls’ custom font lettering brings a distinctive style and heavy metal quality to the entire collection.
As a note before reading, you should be aware that there are no page numbers, chapters, or obvious structure in this collection, but because the cartoons are arranged chronologically, I recommend that you read the collection from start to finish, without skipping any panels or reading out of order, to see Pauls’ style develop throughout his years in university. This artist’s journey from beginning to graduation — this anthology of progress — provides a cohesive vision and a record of artistic development.
You’re first greeted with smaller three panel short comics, followed later by the usual format of two comics per page. The panels slowly build in length and story variation, all surrounding the trials and triumphs of a slice of pizza. Fortified by arguments on toppings and eating style, disclosures on punks’ hatred of GMOs in pizza production, and outrageous quests to find the perfect slice, you’ll eventually find the gods of cheese and indulge in oven-baked glory.
Pauls is not one to forgo mentions of his youth-inspired punk, rock, and metal roots. Music is a huge influence in Pizza Punks Collection, and there are homages to famous song titles and bands hidden throughout, with titles such as “Cheowar” (a play on Manowar, a heavy metal band from Auburn, NY), “Rest in Pizza” (a play on the heavy metal band Megadeth’s fourth studio album, Rust In Peace, released in 1990), and in that same panel there’s a slice of pizza that resembles Sid Vicious of the punk rock group, The Sex Pistols. Pauls also references James Farwell and the Vancouver heavy metal band Bison, formerly Bison B.C.. Pauls’ distinctive art style offers a visceral eye into the punk rock subculture. He ties the musical elements in very well. We know that Punk music and the counterculture movement surrounding it were taboo, although the community involved was tight-knit, passionate, and determined – qualities that are illustrated well in this collection. Pauls relishes in a commonality of camaraderie between his Pizza Punk characters, who all have the same goal of eating delicious pizza in all its forms while listening to their favourite bands live or otherwise.
Pauls occasionally presents large panel illustrations that take up both pages and can define an entire cause, situation, desire, or idea. I appreciated these as a way to break up the narrative and relax the eyes. Some of my favourite panels include “Reigning Za” (an homage to the thrash metal band Slayer’s third studio album titled “Reign In Blood,” released in 1986); the GMO warning on pizza production; the “Shoulda ate in” rain punk; how to eat pizza; and the pin-ups panels at the end of the collection. After completing the series, Pauls leaves you with his first sketches of the Pizza Punks collection to show their progress in style and vision. I also liked the “Tour Pizza” panels, with the compass being a large slice of pizza.
The drawings and details in this comic series are stunning, from the thoughtful backgrounds to the outfits, environments, use of shading, and realism in its portrayal of urban Indigeneity. I enjoyed and embraced the world these panels transported me to. If we took our world’s problems as seriously as these punks do in finding the perfect slice, I think we’d solve a lot more of them! Like any stand-alone work of art, Pizza Punks Collection reminds us to follow our passions and pursue our creative inspirations.
Support the Pizza Punks Collection and Cole Pauls by picking up a copy and, as the author urges, Remember to eat at least one pizza slice a day.
Jeffrey Stychin has felt like a man out of time and in the wrong place ever since he noticed the town he grew up in, in the BC interior. He studied verse and poetry through music and art. He began writing as a means of catharsis and as a way to communicate with himself and others. A Vancouver barber by day, a poet by night, he currently resides with his thoughts and dreams in a quiet place full of trees. Editor’s note: Jeffrey Stychin has also reviewed books by Jeremy Stewart and Brodie Ramin for The British Columbia Review.
The British Columbia Review
Publisher and Editor: Richard Mackie
Formerly The Ormsby Review, The British Columbia Review is an on-line journal service for in-depth coverage of BC books and writers. The Advisory Board consists of Jean Barman, Wade Davis, Robin Fisher, Cole Harris, Hugh Johnston, Kathy Mezei, Patricia Roy, Maria Tippett, and Graeme Wynn. Provincial Government Patron (since September 2018): Creative BC. Honorary Patron: Yosef Wosk. Scholarly Patron: SFU Graduate Liberal Studies.
“Only connect.” – E.M. Forster