Tagged: Humor: Analysis Of

Fowl Language: The Struggle Is Real by Brian Gordon
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Fowl Language: The Struggle Is Real by Brian Gordon

If something works, you do it again. Brian Gordon’s Fowl Language comics – originally appearing online starting in 2013, and ramping up after he lost his cartooning-for-Hallmark-Cards job a couple of years later – were a hit online, and then a hit in their first book form, Fowl Language: Welcome to Parenting.

So, a year later, Gordon’s book publisher, Andrews McMeel published a second collection of the Fowl Language strips, Fowl Language: The Struggle Is Real . (For those counting on their fingers, that would be in 2017.)

It’s not entirely clear if the books reprint all of the strips, or reprint them in order – Andrews McMeel has been doing comic strips in book form for a long time, so I trust they know how to do this right, but this is not a continuity strip in any way. The only real markers of time passing would be the age of the kids, and, well, they’re ducks to begin with. Gordon might well draw them as small hellions for another decade, even as they act like tweens and then teenagers, just because that’s funnier.

So this second book is very much like the first: the kids are mostly in the same life-stage (very young, in their very first school years, the years when they scream and run around for no reason all of the damn time), and the attitude and style are still the same time.

The format has settled down a bit: nearly everything here is that odd Internet main-comic-and-then-a-bonus-panel format, with the main comic on one page and the bonus panel, typically an afterthought or secondary punchline, on the next page. I read this digitally, so each page was on its own, but the book is laid out with the main comic on a left-hand (even-numbered) page and the bonus on the right, so Gordon is not trying to make it a similar “reveal” to how bonus panels work online.

Again, it’s the same kind of jokes and humor as the first book, and the kids are still in the same life-stage: small children are exhausting, demanding, and at least borderline insane, with demands and passions that appear and disappear in a second but are all-encompassing while they last. And the father character has to deal with them, and swears more than is typical for “funny-kid” humor.

It’s durable stuff, and Gordon has a good cartoonist’s eye to make it work, both in his precise writing and his expressive drawing. (He did make cartoons for Hallmark for nearly two decades; he might not have done public-facing stuff with his name on it, but he’s been doing humor in public for a long time and has the chops to prove it.)

Like any book of cartoons, you need to both want a book of cartoons (they’re fun and breezy and may seem expensive for the time you spend reading them) and want cartoons about this (if you’re aggressively child-free, this is not for you). But if you do, and if you do, Gordon, again, is good at this and makes a lot of jokes that land really well. I also still think there’s a potential (and maybe actual; I haven’t checked) merchandise empire in his single-image comics – lots of these would be great as posters or T-shirts or similar.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Fowl Language: Welcome to Parenting by Brian Gordon
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Fowl Language: Welcome to Parenting by Brian Gordon

Sometimes there are things that you know you like, but you realize you’ve never really dug into.

Brian Gordon’s comics strip Fowl Language is like that for me: I realized I’ve been seeing it randomly probably since it started (2013, I think), but never actually tried to read it. So I did.

I grabbed this book, Fowl Language: Welcome to Parenting , since it seemed to be the earliest of the three published so far. (Further exploration shows that to be true.) It collects about a hundred of those strips, which break down almost evenly into single panels (many of which would make great posters or response memes; Gordon is good at the crisp specific saying) and four-panel strips.

Gordon, as I understand it, sometimes cartoons about other things, but most of Fowl Language is about his kids. In the strips collected here – from the 2013-2016 time period – there were two of them, first a boy and then a girl, and they were very young, first babies and then toddlers and maybe up to preschoolers. You know: the loud, demanding, incoherent, psychopathic years.

My children are vastly older, which may make reading comics like this more distant but also makes them more entertaining – I can remember all of that, but the scars have mostly healed.

They are all from the point of view of the father, who is not exactly Gordon. His name is “Dickie,” but that comes up almost never. Well, and also he’s a duck, like the rest of the family – you might have noticed that. It’s a cute cartooning thing, and it ties well into the title, which also refers to the fact that Dickie is admittedly not the world’s best parent.

So this is somewhere in the humorous-parenting world alongside Ian Frazier’s “Cursing Mommy ” pieces and Guy Delisle’s “Bad Dad ” books. That’s good company to me, and Gordon can do both the funny and the sentimental. Also, to be clear, his sentiment is modern and inclusive, not the same old vague American glurge, with great comics on GTA games, gay marriage, and how kids can be assholes. (That’s not my language: that’s straight from the comic.)

I expected to like Fowl Language in larger doses, and I did. There are two more books: I might have to find them, and see how the duck-kids have grown up, and if Gordon is cartooning about pre-teen hell these days. I bet he’d be great at that, too.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Scoop Scuttle and His Pals by Basil Wolverton
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Scoop Scuttle and His Pals by Basil Wolverton

So much goes into comedy, especially comedy in comics – there’s funny writing, and funny drawing, and the intersection of the two, plus personal taste and sometimes all of that obscured by the passage of time. Something can be done well, with lots of wordplay, well-thought-out drawings and solidly amusing premises, but still feel outdated or just flat to any particular reader.

That’s where I land with Scoop Scuttle and His Pals: The Crackpot Comics of Basil Wolverton . It collects four series of stories from the 1940s and early ’50s: the reporter Scoop Scuttle, the diminutive Indian fakir Mystic Moot (and his Magic Snoot), indestructible cowboy Bingbang Buster, and goofy SF hero Jumpin’ Jupiter.. There are detailed story notes by editor Greg Sadowski

, and the whole package is well-designed and organized, with comics pages about as clear and crisp as you could hope for stuff printed on newsprint seventy years ago.

I didn’t laugh once. I might have had a wry smile a couple of times. Some of it, especially later in the book, was amusing and fun, but nothing got that immediate humor reaction from me. The Scoop Scuttle stories in particular felt too stuffed: too many words with too much supposedly-comic alliteration, too much minor-vaudeville business. So I am not a good person to tell you what’s great about these Basil Wolverton stories.

Now, I’m pretty sure this is minor Wolverton. But I’m no Wolverton expert: I’ve seen some of his stuff here and there, but never dug deeply. This book was titled and published in a way that made it look like it was saying “this is the good stuff!” Looking more carefully after reading it, it seems to actually say “this is some obscure stuff, mostly made as the Golden Age was dying, nicely cleaned up for Wolverton fanatics, and we’re not making any claims about its quality.”

These are all anthology-filler comics stories, from an era where comics were 64 pages long and needed to be filled with various stuff. Part of that Golden-Age-dying was the shrinking of those comics; it looks, from this distance, like Wolverton was squeezed out during that shrinking. What gets squeezed out is not necessarily by quality: popularity is first, and what most closely fits the overall theme and style of the book tends to stay. Wolverton being goofy and sui generis made him an obvious early target for removal: this material would have been the most different stuff in any of the comics it appeared in.

So, if I’m telling you anything you didn’t know about Wolverton, this is not a book for you. This is a book for people who already know a lot more about Wolverton than I do, or maybe people whose comic sensibility is more attuned to mass-market alliterative and nearly-rhyming jokes from mid-century.

One very random example:

“I’m from the Daily Dally! I’m looking for Lester Fester!”

“I’m not Lester Fester! I’m Esther Tester! Now take it on the lam, ham, and scram! I’m strangling my husband, and I don’t want any interruptions!”

If you enjoy wordplay along the lines of “take it on the lam, ham, and scram,” you will find a lot of it here.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Fangs by Sarah Andersen

I did not intend this to turn into Sarah Andersen Week here at Antick Musings, but why not? She’s funny, and the two books I read nearly back-to-back are funny in very similar ways, which could potentially be interesting.

Fangs  is a small unjacketed hardcover, stylish and blood-red. I believe it was Andersen’s fourth solo book, following three collections of her “Sarah’s Scribbles” strip (and the graphic novel Cheshire Crossing, with novelist Andy Weir). There is a goth-y young woman on the cover, as you can see. Readers will generally assume she is a vampire, and assume that this is her story.

That’s correct: she’s Elsie. On the first page, she’s in a bar for monsters, meeting a new young man (Jimmy). They quickly start a relationship, and we quickly learn this is not a book that will tell us a story – like Sarah’s Scribbles, these are funny comics about a situation, and this situation is “what if a 300-year-old vampire goth girl fell in love with a vaguely hipster werewolf?”

So Fangs is a lot like a collection of a gag-a-day strip (not all that surprising, since Sarah’s Scribbles has run as a daily strip off and on, and this project originally appeared on Tapas in a similar format) – every page is a separate strip about Elsie & Jimmy, with some kind of vampire or werewolf-themed joke.

Humor is always subjective, but I thought Fangs was clever and funny – as funny as Sarah’s Scribbles, and a bit more clever, as Andersen clearly was having a lot of fun assembling these jokes from the intersection of relationship-humor and horror-humor. There’s also an underlying sweetness to it: you get the sense that these two people haven’t really connected with anyone else in a long time, and having each other, in all of their quirky oddities (supernatural and personal) to be with is a wonderful thing.

This is a short book

, but who knows? Maybe Andersen will come back and give us more comics about Elsie and Jimmy. There’s no reason this couldn’t keep going for a long time, or come back for somewhat longer stories. (What would a vacation look like for them? Do either of them have families the other one gets to meet?) And, even if she never does, this is a fun, sweet package as it is.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Trots and Bonnie by Shary Flenniken

In memory

, the past is moments. We slot in memories to specific points in time: that was when I was living there, remember when Y was five years old and started doing Z?, that was the Christmas when A had that crazy hat.

But time is more fluid than that. Anything we remember was more than a moment: it was a period, an era, an epoch. It’s true for our own lives, and it’s true for a lot of art.

Especially comics, which are the great serialized art form of the American 20th century. I might rhapsodize about Saga of the Swamp Thing #21, the famous Alan Moore “Anatomy Lesson” story that upended that series and gave corporate comics a new template to exploit for the next few decades, and peg it to February 1984. But Moore started writing Swamp Thing one issue before, and “Anatomy Lesson” is full of the loose ends of the previous stretch of stories – and the reason we look back at it in the first place is what came afterward. It lived up to its promise, so we remember it.

Shary Flenniken lived up to her promise in Trots and Bonnie . More than that, she made radically different, larger, stronger promises than almost anyone else in comics: some other women were aiming in the same direction, but Flenniken’s work was purer, more precise, and consistent over a much longer period.

That’s the memory-moment issue again. I think of Trots and Bonnie in the context of the height of National Lampoon in the 1970s, as a burst of feminist energy in the middle of that very sophomoric, boyish humor. But Flenniken produced Trots and Bonnie strips for more than twenty years, from 1972 to 1993, spanning not just the Lampoon height of the ’70s but its declining years in the ’80s and its eventual implosion. Flenniken was one of the most consistent things about Lampoon for those years: a page of female concerns and anger in the middle of some of the most male-oriented humor imaginable, a context that got steadily blander and more derivative as those ’80s wore on.

That’s the wonder of it: that Trots and Bonnie existed at all, that it lasted almost the entire life of the Lampoon. Some editor at the Lampoon (OK: it was Michel Choquette) saw Flenniken’s early work – the first four Trots and Bonnie strips collected here predate her Lampoon years, and she did some other work as well – and said “my audience of college-aged sex-obsessed boys needs a comic strip about a thirteen-year-old girl obsessed with sex in very different ways.” He was right. And his successors, who kept the strip running, were just as right.

This book is the first time the Trots and Bonnie strips have been collected together in English; there was a previous collection only published in France, for whatever reason. It is not complete: for all that some of these strips are shocking and norm-breaking – the Lampoon prided itself on breaking norms; Flenniken chose different, more central norms than most of its contributors – there are some unspecified number that are too much to be republished. Flenniken says they were omitted because “Oh, that might hurt somebody’s feelings or something.”

I suspect it’s a bit deeper than that. But that’s how Flenniken works. That heavily-socialized voice of mid-century womanhood comes easily to her, even if the reader isn’t sure if she’s using it to tell the truth, to mask her intentions, or to set up her next attack on its sexist assumptions and crippling control of women.

But know that, no matter how shocking some of the strips here are, there are some Flenniken left out. She’s thinking about your poor shocked sensibilities, oh eighteen-to-twenty-four-year-old boys, the same way she was for the twenty years she made these comics. She’s thinking about those sensibilities, but maybe mostly about how to pop them most effectively and quickly.

Bonnie is a thirteen-year-old girl. She reads a bit tomboyish on the page: Annie-style blank eyes, always wearing pants, usually in a dark pullover sweater over a white shirt, like a school uniform. But she’s obsessed with sex, because she is thirteen. The great secret of Trots and Bonnie, for even the dull boyish readers who didn’t get any further into it, was that girls (and, if they realized it, by extension women) were as interested in and fascinated by and eager to learn about sex as boys were.

Of course “as” covers a wide range in both populations: that’s the point. But Flenniken, in the sex-obsessed Lampoon, gave those boys a window into the ways girls could be sex-obsessed, the ways they might talk about boys, might have their own concerns and worries and demands. Girls in most of the rest of the pages of Lampoon were objects – pretty naked bodies to adorn a joke in Foto Funnies, the targets of lust in most of the written pieces – but in Trots and Bonnie they were central, and active, and in control.

Trots is Bonnie’s dog: in best classic-comics fashion, he can talk, at last some of the time. He gets the punch lines a lot of the time, because that’s the deal with talking animals: they don’t have the hang-ups and fears and interpersonal problems of humans. They can just do; they don’t have to be self-conscious about it.

The third main character of Trots and Bonnie is the one who isn’t in the title: Pepsi, Bonnie’s best friend and inciting influence. Where Bonnie is questioning, Pepsi is demanding. Where Bonnie is concerned, Pepsi is outraged. Where Bonnie is interested, Pepsi is fascinated. Pepsi’s angers and enthusiasms and appetite drive a lot of the strips.

Flenniken wraps those three characters, a few others that recur at least a few times (perpetually smiling boy-next-door Elrod, Bonnie’s clueless and complaining parents), and a whole lot of one-offs into a series of stories, most usually single-pagers, that are all about sex. Sometimes it’s sex as in the old in-out (or the desire for same, more specifically), sometimes sex as an advertising campaign, sometimes sex as in women. There are strips about menstruation, abortion, and rape: Flenniken is not here to be happy and nice for your entertainment.

In retrospect, the Lampoon was a great home for this work. It was an outlet obsessed with pushing boundaries. Flenniken was pushing in an entirely different direction – I’d argue a better, more important direction – but just that she pushed so hard must have appealed to the Lampoon editors.

Trots and Bonnie is not dated. Not in the slightest. The details of the lives Bonnie and Pepsi lived in these stories are of their times, but their mental lives are still current. (Sadly, I guess. We should have gotten beyond this by now.) Even the classic early-20h-century style art just makes it seem more eternal and current.

I still think boys need to read Trots and Bonnie more than girls do – and I use the diminutive forms of both deliberately – because girls already know all of this. (Maybe not consciously, all of them: we all know different things. But I expect it’s already in their heads, one way or another.) So I’m very glad to see that it’s available again, and I hope the thrill of sex will induce some of the right readers, the boys who most need to learn that girls are people, to read it, and to laugh, and to achieve enlightenment.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Stories from the ’90s by Rick Geary

Self-publishing can strip out a lot of the standard bullshit of publishing. If this book had been published by a Fantagraphics or Dark Horse, it would be called something like Prairie Moons and Night Drives, or maybe True Stories and Other Lies.

But, since Rick Geary assembled it himself out of his archives and published it himself, it can be exactly what it is: Stories from the ’90s . Simple, clear, true.

Geary has been assembling his shorter stories into various books for a few years now; I think this is the most recent one, but I hope there’s at least one book’s worth left of newer work. Already available are Early Stories  (pretty self-explanatory)

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, The Lampoon Years: 1977-1988  (mostly single-pagers from National Lampoon in its declining years, though Geary’s work was excellent), and Rick Geary’s Book of Murder  (stories about murder, more and more straightforwardly as his career went on, over a roughly thirty-year span). Older Geary fans may remember At Home with Rick Geary (from 1985) and Housebound with Rick Geary (1997); I think most of those pieces have been collected in these four books now, along with a lot of other material.

Stories from the ’90s is even bigger than the previous books – they all landed in the 80-90 page range, while this one tops out at 120. (And is slightly more expensive, though slightly cheaper than his more recent individual Kickstarted books – as usual, pricing is complicated and based on multiple factors.)

And, of course, the whole point is that its full of oddball Geary stories. There are some long ones, like “Prairie Moon” and “Tragedy in Orbit” and “Mr. Nickelodeon” and “Our Illustrious Visitor of 1959,” but that’s only “long” in context: there are a passel of three-pagers and a half-dozen longer than that, but most of the work here is in single-page form. Geary was always deeply quirky in his short comics, full of strange transformations, matter-of-fact narration of bizarre events, random juxtapositions, and a sprightly, conversational tone no matter the style or matter of a story. This book has one Mask story – yes, the  same character the movies were about; it was a comic first, with work by a whole lot of different people – a couple of Geary-esque retelling of unlikely historical events, and a whole bunch of one-pagers on topics like “Desperate Clergy,” “Secret Places of My Shameful Past,” “Transgression Hotline,” and “Yes, It Happened.”

Geary’s art is mostly softly rounded here, full of people pulling faces during their madcap antics. His lettering is precise and lovely, either in bigger stories or framing those tiny little boxes of enigmatic objects he did a lot early in his career.

This is one of the most Rick Geary books possible, and it is wonderful. The only way I know of to get it is directly from the author, but don’t let that stop you: he uses one of the major amalgamators for merch (Storenvy), and it all works well. Hornswoggler says check it out.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Born a Doofus by Adam Huber

Gag-a-day cartoons are a wonderful and mysterious art, a triumph of style and viewpoint, precise phrasing and engaging drawing, with a clear point of view and a world that can be encapsulated in four panels but expands with four new panels every day for as long as the cartoonist is inspired.

Well, good gag-a-day cartoons are like that. We also have Blondie and Garfield.

Bug Martini , though, is a good gag-a-day cartoon. It’s been running for about a dozen years, and its creator, Adam Huber, finally put together a physical-book collection of the strip this past year, gathering the first year of strips under the title Born a Doofus.

So this book starts with the first strip (October 19, 2009 ) and runs through the strip for October 18, 2010 . It also includes, in the back, about a dozen sketchbook pages about the pre-history of his “bug” main character, but the real draw is the comics themselves, which were funny and smart right from the beginning. (Huber’s art has evolved a bit – his bugs were chunkier, with smaller eyes, at the very beginning – but his writing was basically fully-formed from strip one. He may have gotten slightly denser with jokes as he went on, but that’s about it: this was really funny from launch.) I was chuckling all the way through Born a Doofus, and only avoided trying to read out a dozen or so random strips to The Wife out of my finely-honed sense that reading the words from a comic are not the preferred experience…especially to a woman trying to make dinner for her family.

But, Andy, you say. You’re linking to those strips, which are still available online. Why would I buy a book when I can just read straight through the archives, and hit another ten years of strips after that?

Aha! There is a fatal flaw in your plan: you can’t buy this book. It’s not available to you. It was funded by a Kickstarter, and you are too late. So it’s not a case of “should I get this book,” but instead a case of “you missed out on this awesome book, so sad for you.”

So I am not recommending this book to you. I am gloating that I just read it, that it is wonderful, and that you cannot have it. Oh, maybe Huber will deign to open sales of Born a Doofus in the future – check out his webstore , and live in hope – but, for right now, I have it and you do not.

(Or maybe I’m joking, and I do hope you can buy this someday, and Bug Martini will become an empire to rival Paws, Inc. Maybe.)

So that is Born a Doofus. It is funny, and I hope the stress of making it didn’t turn Huber off making further books, since he could do at least half-a-dozen more out of his archives. And maybe, just maybe, if you’re really good and the world is better than it usually is, you will be able to get a copy yourself someday. But, for now: you missed it.

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Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

The Eye of Mongombo, Book One by Doug Gray

Serialization, the fans of floppy comics are fond of telling us, means that stories actually get told, since their creators can get paid while they’re working. If a creator had to finish an entire story before publishing anything…well, that might take years, and clearly no one can live on nothing for years and so, ipso facto, Batman has to punch people every month or else comics won’t exist at all.

(I may be horribly mangling their argument for my own purposes.)

But serialization just means that stories can start. Market forces, timing, and the creators’ circumstances will affect that story once it’s running — no storytelling mechanism can avoid those things. And so a lot of serialized stories don’t manage to end. They stop mid-way, for whatever reason, to be picked up later, quietly forgotten (Billy Nguyen), loudly forgotten (All-Star Batman and Robin), or stop-and-start for an extended period of time (Hepcats).

Which all brings us to Doug Gray and The Eye of Mongombo . It was a comic book from Fantagraphics, launched in 1989 and expected to run twelve issues, but the last issue was #7, in 1991. I read it at the time, enjoyed it a lot, and kept hoping it would come back — I’ve mentioned it on this blog a few times, I think.

Spongebob Narrator Voice: twenty-eight years later

Doug Gray re-emerged last year with a Kickstarter and a plan to finally finish Eye of Mongombo and publish it as three album-format books. The campaign did not hit its funding target, but Gray decided to finish the story anyway, and the first book was published at the beginning of this year. So I got to read a big chunk of Eye of Mongombo for the first time in a few decades — I did own the comics (until they were destroyed, with all of my other comics and most of my books, in the Flood of ’11), but I don’t think I’d pulled them out to read since maybe the mid-90s at best.

Eye is a goofy late-80s comic, from deep into the black-and-white boom, and it did set off to tell one story. A long, convoluted, silly story packed with reverses and incidents, yes — one that could be told well in serialized form — but a single story.

Our hero is two-fisted anthropologist Dr. Cliff Carlson, who begins the story by first being fired by one nemesis (department head Nuskle) and quickly afterward being turned into a duck by another nemesis (Jumballah, some kind of witch doctor). Cliff is smart and cunning and quick on his feet, so being duck-ified only momentarily slows him down: he’s soon off to find the fabled treasure of the title along with his unworldly grad student Mick and his sexy girlfriend/fellow adventurer Raquel.

Unfortunately, Nuskle stole the map for the eye, so Cliff and friends are chasing “Numbskull” (and his dimwit brother-in-law). And there’s at least one other group, some nefarious types who also seem to be among Cliff’s many nemeses. All set off for South America, variously hiding from, stalking, and attempting to murder each other.

Gray went into animation after Eye‘s aborted first serialization, and his story has the energy and one-damn-thing-after-another pacing of a good cartoon. It manages to stay a silly adventure story rather than a parody, which is a tricky balancing act: Gray isn’t making fun of his characters (well, not all of them), but using them to tell a story with funny parts.

The art looks pretty much like I remember the original Eye, but the Kickstarter page has multiple examples of improved panels compared to the originals. Clearly, my memory is faulty…or Gray got pretty good by the end of the first serialization, and that’s what I’m remembering. Either way, it will be interesting to see what the back half of Eye looks like, once we get past the reworked early-90s stuff and get into entirely new pages.

Eye is not great literature. It’s not a lost comics classics. But it’s a great goofy adventure story, filled with oddball characters and drawn with verve. I liked it a lot in 1989, and I still like it a lot now. I really hope Gray manages to finish it this time and maybe, just maybe, goes on to do other stories as well.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Book-A-Day 2018 #359: Tales Designed to Thrizzle, Vol. 1 by Michael Kupperman

Today kicks off a mini-theme section of Book-A-Day; I read four 2009-2010 books from Fantagraphics over four days early in December, because I had them all digitally. They came in during the era when I was reviewing books seriously but getting many more things than I could fit into my Realms of Fantasy monthly column. The books otherwise have nothing in common, but some readers might wonder “why is this guy suddenly reading a bunch of old Fanta books?”

That’s why. It’s not a good reason, but it’s the one I have.

I come to Michael Kupperman’s Tales Designed to Thrizzle, Vol. 1  backwards. Kupperman was first known as a maker of humorous comics — this series, in particular — and has only recently moved into more serious work like All the Answers (which I read a couple of months ago).

Vol. 1 is, as I hope anyone can tell, the first collection of his Tales Designed To Thrizzle comic — and I’m amused to see that, at last as the mid-aughts, one successful way to start a career in making funny comics was still to draw twenty-some pages of them and put them out in a little booklet, the way it had been since the undergrounds in the late ’60s. (It might still work these days, but a creator can get better, more immediate feedback and audience by posting stories online in whatever format is popular that week. [1])

Vol. 1 has the first four issues of Thrizzle, which were published individually from July 2005 through August 2008. (There were four more issues, which were in turn collected in 2012’s Vol. 2…which I may need to search out now.) The book presents them in order as they originally appeared, covers and all, rather than re-sorting the contents into some other scheme. Up front is a self-mocking foreword by Robert Smigel, and separating each issue are wallpaper-looking full-page designs, which fit the aesthetic of Kupperman’s work well and may have been in the original issues as well.

The first three issues are ostensibly divided into three sections by “audience” — adult, kid, and old people — with frontispieces insisting that readers outside those ages shouldn’t read that section. The fourth issue drops that for a quirky format “specially designed to help you through your entire day!” (In that case, the reader is supposed to read one page each half-hour, starting first thing in the morning.)

I was going to say here that Thrizzle has the standard lots-of-short-pieces format of most single-creator humor comics, but nothing about Thrizzle is standard. Kupperman has an absurdist sense of humor and his comedy rarely drops into the usual comics tropes (goofy superheroes, toys and fads of the cartoonists’s youth), instead looking to old magazines and vaguer cultural knowledge, plus a whole lot of random surreal ideas (sex blimps, foreplay robots, porno coloring books, criminal fingertalk).

I found it really funny a lot of the time, and distinctively different from other funny cartoonists I’m familiar with. Kupperman uses a few different art styles, including one that looks almost like clip art and a really heavily-inked look full of tiny lines — so Thrizzle has jokes like no one else’s comics and looks like no one else’s comics.

It is weird and funny and weirdly funny and funnily weird. Kupperman has a unique comic sensibility, and I want to see more of it.

[1] A month ago I would have just said “Tumblr,” but oops!

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Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Book-A-Day 2018 #345: You Are Here by Kyle Baker

I don’t think anyone’s hired Kyle Baker to write screenplays for romantic comedies yet. But, from the evidence of books like Why I Hate Saturn and I Die at Midnight  and this book, I think he’d be really good at it: he has a knack for screwball complications and the kind of dialogue that only tangles up a complicated situation more, no matter how much his characters try to be clear.

You Are Here  is a romantic comedy with thriller elements, or maybe a comedy-thriller with romantic elements, published as an album-format graphic novel in 1999. It’s in what I think of as Baker’s “cinematic” style, with mostly wide panels over captions and dialogue and sound effects, looking like storyboards more than a traditional comic. His art is vibrant and full of color, with a painterly feel most of the time; I think it was mostly achieved through digital tools.

I have the sense that Baker’s work failed to hit its audience in this era, despite high-profile publications and some really good work. (I remember not-loving the “cinematic” format and Baker’s shift to glossier art and computer drawing tools art at the time; maybe that was part of it with the wider audience.)

But You Are Here is manic and zippy and fizzy and total goofball fun from beginning to end; it might not be old enough to be a “lost classic,” but it’s a damn good book that got very little attention, from a creator who I don’t think has ever gotten his due.

Noel Coleman is happy: he’s been living in bucolic splendor somewhere in upstate New York [1] with Helen Foster for the last year, blissfully in love and doing good work on his paintings. Unfortunately, he’s also lied entirely to Helen about his past, making himself out to be some kind of choirboy when he’s actually a longtime minor criminal who only recently went straight by painting scenes from various crimes and events he witnessed.

Now he needs to head south to the city to sell his apartment. If he does that, he can get rid of the last vestiges of his old life and return to Helen unencumbered and ready to completely live the lies he’s been telling her.

But she follows him. And a maniac killer, Vaughan Dreyfuss, is also after him: Dreyfuss killed his wife after finding out she was having an affair with Noel, and has now announced, on a live TV spot for his new bestselling book Yes I Did It and I’ll Kill Again, that Noel is next. And all of his old friends refuse to believe he’s gone straight. And the cops are no help with the Dreyfuss thing, because Noel is still sort-of wanted himself.

And so Noel is running frantically around New York City, trying to keep Helen from realizing he isn’t who he said he was, trying to keep away from Dreyfuss, trying to avoid as many of his old crime acquaintances as he can, and trying to just get back out of the city to peace and quiet.

That leads to nearly a hundred and fifty pages — big pages, with lots of action and activity and screwball dialogue and unlikely situations — of complication, before the inevitable collision of Noel, Helen, Dreyfuss, and Noel’s past. It all smashes up gloriously, and Baker spins out both a great confrontation/hostage scene with those core three characters, but a witty denouement after that, too.

Frankly, I think You Are Here is too big and too overstuffed to be turned into a movie, and the random nudity and violence of Noel’s lowlife NYC hangouts might be a problem as well, but it could be a glorious one if anyone ever did it right. Even if that never happens, it’s already a glorious romantic/thriller/comedy on the page. You might have missed it; a lot of people did. It’s worth looking for, these almost twenty years later. And, luckily for you, there’s a new edition, straight from Baker himself, just waiting for you.

[1] Upstate in the NYC sense — maybe Putnam county, maybe the Catskills, maybe the Hudson valley. Definitely no further north than Albany, which means not really “upstate” to anyone who lives there.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.