Saturday, December 20, 2008

magic whistle 11

MAGIC WHISTLE #11, by Sam Henderson. Sam Henderson has few peers when it comes to conceptual humor. His ability to make jokes about boners, bathroom graffiti and eating cat food
and turn them into a sort of metacommentary on humor itself never ceases to amaze me. He's somehow able to dissect the corpse of a joke, explain it to us in some skewed fashion, and then make the original joke ten times funnier. Henderson seems to simultaneously feel the urge to feed his audience non-stop gags while stopping to think about each one--the way they're constructed, how they affect an audience and how to stay original. The strip about Henderson drawing "X-Treme Jesus" for a Christmas card and the way his audience reacted to his cartoon is a perfect example of this sort of exercise.

Henderson is at his best with his longer stories. "The Groucho Duck" is a masterpiece of subverting expectations in panel after panel. When one character's attempt at pulling a gag is met with total obliviousness by his target, the way the first character breaks down and starts screaming "Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!" is funnier than the expected gags in the story. "Monroe Simmons' Blog of Revenge" is all about the humor of unexpected escalation by way of satirizing blog culture. There's a density to this strip that's made all the more satisfying by Henderson's deliberately simple line. Indeed, this 96-page comic feels absolutely jam-packed, requiring multiple readings to absorb every gag. Henderson remains in the top of rank of humorists working in comics today.

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