Over the years, I’ve come to think of my relation to the work of Julian Glander a bit like Samuel Johnson’s relationship to London: Surely, the day I become tired of it is the day I become tried of life. As such, I was naturally thrilled to find out he was publishing his first book, and audibly, squealingly thrilled when I held that book in my hands. The cover is as puffy, squishy, cute, and surreal as the work we’ve come to expect from him. Only this time, I can literally cuddle it.
The book, entitled 3D Sweeties (Fantagraphics), gathers together Glanders’ web comics, mostly created for Vice, alongside a new 25-page belter right at the end. Though his works often feel so incredibly internet in their bouncy, pastel-y, absurdity, they translate surprisingly well into print. The book came about quite fortuitously; Glander had been pondering whether he had enough work for a print publication, and then he tweeted about it. “I put out a tweet saying ‘Do any publishers want to publish my comics?’ I was really hoping Fantagraphics would see. I guess I baited them a little bit. Miraculously, it worked.”
As for the title, it seems to have been a working one that stuck. “When I pitched it I sent them this idea for a square book with a big orange face on the front called 3D Sweeties. I thought there might be a phase of discussing cover designs and titles but it just felt like the right title: it rhymes, everything in the book looks like candy, and every story is like a little snack.”
Just like a snack, every story seems to leave you happy, sort of wide-eyed and sugar-high, and yet somehow, wanting more. Their brevity means that things never feel as resolved as they should. Like any decent snack, the comics feel as though they’re over more abruptly than they should be. “I like to have a last panel where someone’s just looking around!” says Glander. “It’s hard to do a lot in 12 panels, so to have one with no words and just setting in the context, especially in internet comics, feels like there’s so much breathing room. But they’re not gag comics, they’re like little fables where at the end someone either gets rewarded or punished.”
Among the highlights are those where it feels as though Glander is making wry, almost self-deprecating “creative industry” in-jokes. There’s a Buckminster Fuller geodesic dome, a reference to Wingdings. There’s even an entire, hilarious comic devoted to Minimalism, and another to Memphis. “I guess because I’m a designer kinda person, the Memphis one is really about me and my sick desire to have all the Memphis furniture,” says Glander. “Some of [the comics] are really yuppie oriented, they’re about living in the modern world and having these contemporary feelings going on—you know, I’m a person who spends a lot of time scrolling through Instagram and reading design blogs every day. But then some are just completely stupid comics about a worm.”
“I guess because I’m a designer kinda person the Memphis one is really about me and my sick desire to have all the Memphis furniture.”
Alongside the worms and the furniture, fans of Glander’s work will recognize “America’s favorite mug,” Cuppy, and gamer-girl Susan Something. From the utterly baffling tales (such as those about weird micro-organisms snogging) to more narrative-led pieces, the overarching themes examine the way we live online, and how our physical and digital selves intermingle. As such, what with the rapid pace of tech, it can’t be easy to create comics so rooted in the contemporary landscape. “I took out a couple I thought were kinda dated,” says Glander of gathering older comics together for the book. “There are even things that seem evergreen now that’ll fade: everyone in my comics is using a MacBook computer, but soon there’s a generation that won’t know what that is, or won’t know what an Xbox controller is.
“My character Susan, the gamer girl, touches on that and ideas about nostalgia, how we remember things, how things age. I’m so happy that, even though these comics are four years old, I can get anything out of them.” So are we, Julian. So are we.