World Record Holders by Guy Delisle and published by Drawn and Quarterly, with translation by Helge Dascher, collects many of Delisle’s early works. The anthology pulls stories from famed indie magazines like Lapin and Spoutnik as well as adding Drawn and Quarterly exclusives. Most of Delisle’s recent works have been long form graphic novels, allowing World Record Holders to give a look not only at his storytelling in shorts but also the evolution of his art.
Much of Delisle’s work is autobiographical, such as his famed travelogues, coming-of-age Factory Summers, and Even More Bad Parenting Advice. World Record Holders, too, presents stories of an artist quitting his gig as a video game artist to dedicate himself to comics. Immediately the threat of a blank page becomes apparent. He finds distraction as well as solace in interruptions like a bird flying into his apartment and his eccentric downstairs neighbor calling on him to give him company while he comes down from a panic attack.
Other stories throughout World Record Holders are strictly imaginative. In “The Floating Dog’s Tale,” a dog floating in water deep enough to show the fish swimming beneath introduces the strange tale of two men carrying on strange conversations comparing theology to technology and suffering even stranger ailments like toes that grow inwards instead of outwards. “Summer Vacation” shows bored kids using a fishing pole to fish not in the water for fish but in the sky for seagulls.
“Solid Ground” records odd events, not impossible but unexpectedly occurring all at once, while the world is paused looking up at a solar eclipse. These peculiarities and twists in the stories near even the Twilight Zone or Outer Limits with clever thinking that will draw in the reader.
The art in World Record Holders is just as varied as the stories themselves. The three-page “Single File” follows the comics tool of the dotted line to show a path, perhaps most famous in Family Circus, with a cartoony character munching his baguette to follow after dots all across town with each turn adding more bewilderment. “Airported” uses a heavy line style with stocky characters and ragged shading in such a style that readers might even think it a different artist if not shown in the same collection. A chaotic illustration of characters alongside the episode description for The Bold and the Beautiful explores numerous approaches to the art from cubism, surrealism, curved-armed comix, and many others to show Delisle’s breadth.
World Record Holders has a little more than a dozen stories, but the vast ground covered in storytelling and style makes it seem like a collection of hundreds. Along with the biographical “Spaghetti” that shows heating a can of spaghetti in the stove to avoid dirtying dishes and speculative “The Sleeping Giant” where a town decides to use a giant as a power source, there are others that defy any firm category, like “A…” that gives a single statement over the course of an entire lifetime. The collection holds a favorite for anyone, since we are all unique, as the titular “World Record Holders” that posits that everyone secretly is the best at something, even if it is having the most ice in the freezer since someone, somewhere, really does.