Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Few Notes On Tales Designed To Thrizzle #7

A new comic from the top humorist in comics is always welcome. This issue is the usual combination of dada and surprisingly tightly-wrapped narrative gags surrounding the sort of cultural detritus mined by Drew Friedman & Mark Newgarden. Let's survey some highlights:

1. Front Cover/Back Cover. This is a classic series of nonsensical Kupperman juxtapositions: a slightly-deranged looking woman in an evening gown next to a woodpecker is on the front cover, while a woman's foot wearing a purple shoe is about to hit a flashing "contamination alarm". The front cover is closer to his older, denser style of rendering while the latter is his simpler, more iconic style. As always, they are presented matter-of-factly and with no further comment.

2. Inside Front Cover. This is a variation on a common parody of editorial cartoons: an arm (labeled "arm") is pulling a cord for a light bulb (labeled "light bulbs"), which illuminates a piece of paper (labeled "writing which requires light to be read"). The caption: "The scam continues". It's done in the sort of shaded penciling common to such cartoons and has a punchline that's absurd (how is a lightbulb's purpose a scam?) and direct (someone has it out for the lightbulb industry).

3. "Scary Bathtub Stories". This was the weakest of the longer features, as bathtubs are derided as frightening vessels of death and horror in a couple of stories. The punchline (it's a publication done by a showerhead store!) is OK, but Kupperman adds to it by listing out thirty different kinds of showerheads, including "Elliot Spritzer" and "George Wash-A-Ton".

4. "Quincy, M.E.". Kupperman gloms on to the idea that there's just something funny about Jack Klugman: those craggy features are fun to draw and the original show was fairly ridiculous. This is one of Kupperman's best strips because he keeps adding new layers of plot to an already-ridiculous story. Quincy has a word with St Peter, finds himself in St Peter's own comic book series, is told by Leo DeCaprio that this is all a "Quinception", and then dreams himself into observing Reservoir Dogs 2. Snake 'n Bacon show up, along with an analyst riding a giant hamster. Every details manages to tie together, winding up as a bit of commentary on the silliness of the show itself.

5. "Hamanimal", "McArf", "Twain and Einstein" and "A Voyage to Narnia". The latter strip is a bit of fumetti that continues from an ad in the Quincy story, detailing a man's "voyage to Narnia" that mostly consists of standing in a closet. He somehow manages to convince his wife's friend to come with him, saying "farewell, reality!" as the door edges closed behind them. I'm not sure what making this fumetti added to the strip, other than getting his friends to do something silly. The other three stories are about dumb superhero origins (a ham struck by lightning that turns into animal shapes), gritty PSA dogs ("scum turn my stomach, yet I spend most of my life among them...") and the white-haired duo dealing with a case of alter egos.

All told, we get an all-time great story with Quincy and a bunch of solid comics. It's notable that this issue is all-comics, unlike the longer text pieces that had had started doing in some previous issues. Perhaps knocking out that Mark Twain book sated Kupperman's appetite for such pieces, although it seems obvious that letting color do a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of the storytelling is making things easier for him as an artist. "Hamanimal", for example, looks like a sketchbook piece knocked out in just a few minutes; the key was to get across the gag, and using a sickly green for the title character did the trick. I still miss the sheer density of detail in Kupperman's older work that made reading it almost exhausting, but the avalanche of ideas remains intact, as does his ability to elicit laughs.

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