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.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Minicomics Round-Up: Spina, Robinson, Solomon, Kirby, Ullman/Brown

This batch of minicomics is a true grab-bag and is hard to pin down to any one particular genre:

Fight, by Sam Spina. This comic won a Xeric grant for Spina and is not unlike a slightly gentler version of Johnny Ryan's Prison Pit. While Spina's diary strip may be prosaic at times, his fiction has always been extra-crazy in response. He comes up with wacky premises, carries them through to their logical extremes, and then bombards the reader with uncomfortable gags along the way. Fight features a world where certain creatures have been bioengineered for specific tasks. This comic focuses on humanoid creatures bred only to fight for entertainment. The plot follows a creature called Fight, his downfall and eventual triumph over the female Super Fight that defeats him via trickery, her psychopathic offspring that forms as a result of their brief coupling, and lots of battles along the way. Spina loves gross-out gags, like when Super Fight gives birth to a bounding creature or the truly revolting Boobstadon, a sort of walking set of teats with a brain that is forcibly milked. The scene where an overeager farmer fondles it lasciviously is hilariously uncomfortable, but Spina tops it with Super Fight's child unexpectedly ripping it (and everything else in its path) to shreds. Spina's line is simple and energetic, and the mini-sized format helps add a density and urgency to each page. It's definitely an interesting step for an artist still developing his voice as a humorist.

Box Office Poison #78, by Alex Robinson. This minicomic represents Robinson's failed attempt to revive his first comics series, as he was looking for a new direction after some false starts. He has said that he thought it might be easy and fun to see what his characters were up to a few years after the conclusion of the series (which of course was collected by Top Shelf in one massive tome), but he abandoned this path as well. This mini represents a few pages from that attempt, packaged as though Robinson had never stopped doing the series as minicomics. It's clever and a delightful little gift for fans of the series. All of the BOP trademarks are there: interstitial stories focusing on one character, character surveys, a guest pin-up, a letters page, and a page from another abandoned Robinson project, a sequel to Lower Regions. Seeing some of Robinson's tricks like temporarily abandoning a realistic style for cartoony anger or filling up pages with thought balloons was also quite welcome. That said, I can understand why he abandoned the project: he wasn't saying anything new. He had a fairly definitive ending for BOP, and while it might have been tempting to see if protagonist Sherman Davies could be rescued from a hellish existence with his girlfriend Dorothy and find a healthy relationship, I thought that originally downbeat ending was a more appropriate way to leave the character. It was still nice to see the sprawl of characters even in this short minicomic; this is where Robinson has always excelled as a writer. That's why I prefer BOP and especially Tricked! over Too Cool To Be Forgotten; being able to explore a number of different emotional states and personae seems to be precisely the kind of challenge that pushes Robinson to evolve.

Our Fantastic Universe, by Lizzee Solomon. This odd little comic is the black & white version of a story that's going to be published in a collection dedicated to extraterrestrial sex. This version puts the emphasis on Solomon's grotesque linework, balanced against the amusingly sedate and even detached narration of the "host" of this "series" about alien sexuality. The story details the mating habits of cactus-like creatures called Milchigs and tiny, airborne creatures called Fleart, as the two species have a synergistic relationship. In pulsating, undulating and throbbing detail, Solomon shows us both the typical, nature-show style side of their sexuality as well as some unexpected aspects of their lives. The Fleart, once ingested by the Milchigs, engage in frottage. The Milchigs, once engorged by having ingested Fleart, engage in an extreme form of S&M that not all of them survive. The effect is a variation on body horror, where instead of physical transformation being a source of fear or dread, it's a source for pleasure. For the reader, it's no less strange an experience to read and just as unsettling.

King For A Day, by Rob Kirby. This comic is an interesting departure for comics veteran Kirby, best known for his slice-of-life relationship comics as well as for helming the queer-themed anthology Three. This is a silent comic about a man who is literally shat upon who then finds a crown. That suddenly inspires instant worship and admiration from everyone he happens to come upon. Of course, this sad sack character can't quite end up with a happy ending, even in his own dreams, and Kirby takes great delight in piling on a series of catastrophes, humiliations and general physical comedy. His art is simple and classically cartoony, with rubbery character design that expands into full-out exaggeration during certain scenes. The way he varies line thickness is a big key to the success of the comic; a thicker line usually indicates something significant happening, but that slight variation also makes the lines comprising his characters pop out on the page. The result is a delightfully charming comic that makes the most of a thin premise thanks to funny drawings on nearly every page.

Old-Timey Hockey Tales, by Rob Ullman & Jeffrey Brown. This is a comics rarity: a straightforward series of stories about sports. It helps that cartoonists Brown & Ullman chose to write about the most visceral of major sports, ice hockey and that its early participants were kind of crazy. The design of this mini is typically handsome, thanks to Ullman's eye for detail. Ullman selected items that were more anecdotes than narratives, like a strip about Maurice "Rocket" Richard being banned from the NHL and the ensuing series of riots, or a tight-fisted owner resisting the league mandate to put the names of players on the back of jerseys and protesting with names that were the same color as the uniforms themselves. Brown favored more sustained narratives, like when how the Detroit Red Wings wound up playing a group of prisoners; how one player got revenge on a coach who tried to trade him; and why anyone who messed with Gordie Howe was an idiot. Ullman's story about the great goalie Terry Sawchuk (originally published years ago in an SPX anthology) is still one of his best, documenting Sawchuk's skill as a player and how awful he was as a person. At 28 pages, this mini left me wanting more, especially because the two cartoonists have art styles and approaches to narrative that are so different. I'd love to see an all-sports comics anthology; Dan Zettwoch has done interesting work about basketball & baseball (if I had a million dollars, I'd commission Zettwoch to create an illustrated version of the book Loose Balls, an oral history of the ABA), while Dennis Eichorn has written a number of stories about football. This would be truly "mainstream" work, given America's love of sports.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Few Notes On Motherlover

I won't be formally reviewing the new 2D Cloud release Motherlover because I wrote the foreword to the book. Instead, I'll just contribute a few notes about the book, which is an anthology featuring the work of Nic Breutzman and the team of John & Luke Holden.

1. The Breutzman story "You Can't Be Here" was originally self-published as a broadsheet. In the anthology, it was redesigned and a layer of sickly green and purple was added by editor/publisher/colorist Raighne Hogan, giving the story another layer of alienation. Here's my original review of the story:

"Nicholas Breutzman is an exciting young artist whose grim comics inspire feelings of dread and malaise. Breutzman has been ambitiously and aggressively experimental with regard to format and design with his early works as he’s explored some uncomfortable subjects. You Can’t Be Here was done in broadsheet format, giving each panel a certain power and heft that he filled with zip-a-tone. Breutzman once again zeroed in the subjects that have informed his small body of work to date: the darker side of small-town life, the way the claustrophobia of such an existence leads people to do strange things, and the ways man and nature have an adversarial relationship. Breutzman is a master of both the single striking image and overall restraint with his storytelling, a combination that helps create that air of dread. The reader always gets the feeling that something awful has happened or will happen. The image of a washing machine on the side of a wooded road as roadkill and its subsequent “crossing” is Breutzman at his best, combining the absurd with the unsettling.

Breutzman’s style is unusual in that he mixes naturalism in terms of his backgrounds and character designs with slightly loose, rubbery expressions on his characters’ faces. The result is both amusing and disturbing, like a boy appearing on an ATV with bugged-out eyes, freckles and a crew cut. This comic concerns a down on his luck young man who leaves New York (after having been swindled by fake crack) to return to his small town. His recollection of two kids he knew when he was younger who did horrible things to the local opossums early in the story referred back to the title of the story, giving it a different meaning. It’s not just that he and his friend weren’t allowed at a nearly abandoned housing development, it was that simply being back in old patterns was going to lead him down a dark path, one that part of him knew he would enjoy taking. Breutzman is going to be an artist to follow for quite some time."

2. Speaking of which, Hogan has a huge hand in creating the atmosphere to be found in the Holden Bros' "The Boys". The spattered green & purple add a lot to the loose, grotesque pencils and sordid, haunted subject matter of a group of boys desperately trying to find pornography.

3. Breutzman's first story in the collection, "Photograph", is a crisp story about a missed connection on one end and the latest in a series of dead end encounters on the other end. Breutzman's stories are all about trying to establish connections and how difficult that ultimately can be.

4. I won't be ranking this book in my top 50 for conflict of interest reasons, but I would certainly place solidly in my top 25 if I did.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Minicomics and Genre: Doug Michel, Jason Viola, Tim Rocks, Mike Fisher

A number of minis I receive fall into the category of gag work or humorous genre. Let's take a look at a few of them:

Monkey Force One #7 & #8, by Doug Michel. This comic is part epic adventure and part spoof, as Michel blends the X-Men, James Bond, sci-fi, scatological kids' humor, Scott Pilgrim and coming-of-age stories into one dizzying package. It helps that Michel keeps his line simple, varying his line weights to make his characters pop off the page but keeping everything else fairly clear. That's helpful for the reader, because Michel is a "kitchen sink plus" kind of artist, cramming his panels with details, figures, weapons, posters and other chicken fat. There are occasions when Michel indulges in a more detailed extreme close-up of a particular piece of action the way a video game might cut away to that sort of animation. The weird tension in these issues is between the shared indy rock band past of several characters and how their lives are intersecting in the middle of a zombie invasion of St. Louis. I found those conflicts more interesting than the zombie fights, which are all pretty standard issue. Indeed, Michel's main weakness as an artist is depicting action; the stiffness of his line that's appropriate for scenes depicting conversation makes his fight scenes less interesting to look at. That's especially true for fistfights, where Michel seems to have a shaky grasp on how bodies relate to each other in space and how to hook the reader into immediately turning their attention to the next panel. Michel is at his best when he's poking fun at the genre conventions he genuinely enjoys, like when a rapper comes across Zombie Tupac and Zombie Biggie Smalls and demands to get a picture with them for his next album. It's that breeziness that gives these comics their energy and appeal.

Pete Moss: A Kid Who Has Adventures, by Tim Rocks. This is a hyperexaggerated screwball comic somewhat in the vein of Peter Bagge, in terms of the frenetic quality of its storytelling. It's about a kid who mistakenly receives news that he's a terminal case, who then proceeds to try to get laid before he dies while tricking a variation on the Make-A-Wish foundation. Rocks gets across most of his humor with funny and/or grotesque drawings and over-the-top satire. The drawing is much more interesting than the writing, which aims for shocking and falls well short of shock or even pointed commentary. On the other hand, Rocks is unrelenting in the avalanche of gross and funny images he throws at the reader, making this comic interesting to flip through if not especially memorable otherwise.

Jay's Brain, by Jason Viola. Viola is best known for his webcomic gag strip Herman The Manatee, but I've often enjoyed his side projects more. This is a series of gags about Viola and his anthropomorphic brain, and what's most interesting about it is the obvious discomfort the artist feels from drawing these strips. For an artist who does pretty silly gags (even the ones that touch on despair still feel like shtick), Viola is surprisingly personal and even confessional in these strips that touch on panic attacks, saying horrible things to those he loves, a lack of inspiration and other issues not unfamiliar to readers of autobio comics. The difference is that his brain character turns every strip into a punchline, no matter how awful or uncomfortable the premise. Viola turns his social anxiety into some pretty fertile ground for humor (the page of tweets from his brain is especially amusing--it tells Viola things like "You shouldn't have said that" while wondering "Why don't they put flavor crystals in EVERYTHING?"), making this his single strongest work to date.

3-D Pete's Star Babe Invasion Comics, by Mike Fisher. This comic/zine is exactly what it claims to be--a celebration and examination of sexy women in science fiction films. What makes it enjoyable is the light tone Fisher employs throughout, deemphasizing prurience and playing up humor. It helps that he has rock-solid fundamentals as a cartoonist, capturing the naturalistic essence of a figure without losing the cartoony quality of his compositions. Speaking through his mouthpiece character 3-D Pete, Fisher discusses Jane Fonda in Barbarella and which Star Trek guest actress was most appealing, as well as silly strips where Pete encounters less-than-sharp aliens and tries to get on a space ark. The interview with a model from a sci-fi themed beer commercial is entirely gratuitous; it doesn't really add much to the comic other than letting us know that he managed to interview a model. While the comic is entirely disposable, Fisher's line is wonderfully fluid and expressive. A full length genre story from Fisher would be quite pleasant to read.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Checking In With Caitlin Cass

Caitlin Cass is a young cartoonist mining territory not unlike that of Kate Beaton. In my review of some comics of hers from 2010, I noted that "As she figures out her style, her already-sharp wit will be better served by clearer, more dynamic and simpler images." It's clear that this is precisely what she has done in her most recent work, part of a series of minicomics she sends out in the mail. (The series is called "Great Moments In Western Civilization Postal Constituent"). Design and details like lettering have become much crisper, more powerful and fluid. Her wit remains intact, but she's directing that in a more coherent fashion as well. Beaton's work is primarily comedic, using her knowledge of history and literature as a framework for jokes. While humor is also an important element of Cass' work, it's frequently more subdued and less gag-oriented. It's clear that she's still steeped in her unusual corner of academic obsessions, which is not surprising considering her training at St John's College, an institution devoted to studying the Great Books of the Western World.

What Cass learned from her earlier comics is that it's not enough to simply make references to philosophers and hope the reader gets something out of it. She learned to synthesize her particular and personal ruminations regarding the work of certain thinkers with a visual approach that's engaging for the reader and fairly fully-realized. Take V2 #12 of the Postal Constituent; it's all about Friedrich Nietzsche. This was done on cardstock with duo-tone blues. That's eye-catching on its own, but her character design is simple and striking. The story focuses on Nietzsche's last days, when he was faced with the logical endpoint of his philosophy and lived it all the way through. Claiming "I am god. This farce is my creation." is as close as possible a bridge between what would become existentialism and humanism, yet that path led to madness. Feeling oneself responsible for all of the evils of the world is the logical extreme for Nietzsche's particular brand of megalomania.

"A Thing About Things" (V2, #4), is a huge illustration on a single sheet of paper that also unfolds. It evokes a certain 19th century feel in terms of the way the illustration is carefully designed, constructed and labeled. It's a quasi-farcical history of "things" and man's relationship to them. Cass still doesn't quite have the chops to pull off the complexity of this illustration (her drafting skills are a little wobbly), but it's an ambitious attempt. "Relics" (V2, #1) is a more personal story about the hermeneutics of discovering a shard from a plate as a child. It was found at the site of the first building in her town, and the mere possession of it led to Cass creating creating connections between the shard and its potential history and ramifications. The shard can only be understood in terms of its larger historical context, but that history is brought to life but discovering the artifact. One can see the leap Cass made as an artist between this issue and later issues, both in terms of simple drawing ability and the ambitiousness of her design.

Finally, "The Arabian Babbler" (V2, #8) is a standard minicomic distinguished by some striking illustrations and the boldness of her lettering style. This is the only one of the comics here that deals explicitly with another one of her interests, which is the history of science. That particular field of study is closely linked to philosophy because it is based so heavily on theory, as the works of Thomas Kuhn and Karl Popper demonstrate. This comic is a more light-hearted but no less pointed critique of the ways in which science can become rigid and its conclusions applied in misguided ways that can be harmful. In it, a scientist comes to certain conclusions about human nature because of a species of bird that gave things to other birds for no good reason. He concluded (certainly not the first conclusion sound reached with a faulty premise) that altruism was counter-evolutionary and we should stop doing it--until he observed a bird stealing something. He experienced not so much a paradigm shift as a paradigm shattering. Cass's drawings of birds make this a distinctive and beautiful comic, especially in the way she combines word and image. Cass is starting to become an artist well worth taking notice of, and I'm excited at the possibilities of a longer-form work from her at some point.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Asking The Tough Questions: Whit Taylor's Watermelon...

Whit Taylor is an interesting young voice in comics, one who generally relates humorous anecdotes about her friends, culture and her dating life. With Watermelon...(And Other Things That Make Me Uncomfortable As A Black Person), Taylor gets a bit more serious and directed with regard to her subject matter, but still treats the most serious of issues with a light touch. Taylor has her own opinions on any number of controversial subjects, but they're carefully considered and discussed; this isn't a series of rants. Instead, it's an attempt to examine, understand, critique and appreciate her own culture, as well as understand it in a wider societal context. As the title promises, the book opens with a focus on why watermelon became a cultural stereotype for African-Americans, and how to this day it isn't something she cares to eat in public.

Taylor flips from lighthearted topics such as what she does at the beach since she doesn't lay out for a suntan to the n-word and its origins. There's a funny bit where Taylor appears on panel and informs her white readers that it's essentially never acceptable for them to use it, even if Dave Chappelle or rappers do. "You just can't. End of story." I enjoyed the fact that Taylor didn't feel the need to go through a lot of gyrations as to why, focusing instead on the fact that the history of the word and its use is so pernicious that she wasn't going to give white readers carte blanche to say it.

The other highlights of the comic include an extended meditation on hair and the ways in which African-American men and women both attempt to a (white) societal notion of what hair should look like as well as ways in which more natural looks are cultivated. Including anecdotes about her own personal experience (like a girl mistaking one of her hairs for pubic hair) fleshed out what otherwise could have been an overly familiar piece about the importance of the hair salon and barber shop in black culture. Another highlight was her story about almost dating a (white) South African man when she was studying abroad in Australia. She notes that there was part of her who did this as a sort act of self-loathing but eventually broke away from her infatuation when his casual racism became much more overt.

In terms of her art, Taylor's layout and character design are both solid. It's obvious that her control of her line isn't what she would want it to be; she tries to draw a number of things in a naturalistic manner and falls well short of making them compelling as drawings. Some of them (like drawings of famous people or things like cars) hurt her storytelling because they take the reader so far out of the panel. Taylor needs to go in one of two directions: either work harder on the facility of her line for a more naturalistic approach, or go to a simplified and streamlined approach that's consistent in how it presents information. That kind of stylization is difficult for a young artist. The ambition, production values and thought behind this mini indicate an artist who's serious about making her mark as a cartoonist and who wants to get better. As such, I suspect that Taylor will ultimately strike a middle ground between naturalism and stylization. As long as she keeps drawing and keeps trying to improve, watching her evolution as an artist in public should be interesting and rewarding for readers.

Monday, December 12, 2011

More Autobio: Kat Roberts, Bill Burg, Jason Young

Here's a look at three different kinds of autobio minicomics.

March, by Bill Burg. The bulk of this diary comic takes place over the course of March in two different years, but as the cover indicates, it's also about the inevitable march of time. The cartoonist chose to begin a daily diary strip in parallel with his friend Rob Ullman at a crucial time in his life: shortly after the death of his beloved father and right when he and his wife found out she was pregnant. His line reminds me a lot of Ullman's, in fact: simple, supple lines and slightly cartoonish storytelling. This comic is all about the attempt to come to terms with grief and how hard it is to balance that grief against the emergence of new life and new responsibilities. Implied is the challenge that Burg finds it hard to become a father while no longer being his father's son.

Given that this is a diary strip, there's plenty of quotidian details and little jokes that fill up its pages, but they're all tinged with a certain melancholia as Burg frequently finds it difficult to find joy in life. It's not that he's not working or being dutiful or inattentive to the needs of his wife, it's that the things he used to enjoy no longer hold the same attraction. In other words, he was going through a particularly difficult grieving process. One of the things I found most interesting about this comic was how Burg explores the feelings his father had for his own father, who died a few days after Bill Burg was born. That man was abusive and awful in any number of ways, but Burg's father loved him deeply despite his many flaws; reconciling the memory of a loved one with the reality of their existence is one of the toughest parts of the grieving process. Later in this comic, Burg does very much the same thing with his own father. While his dad was always kind, attentive and loving as a parent, he had his detractors with regard to his career as head of a power company in Ohio. Burg reports that his dad was on many "worst executive" lists and many people had demanded his resignation at various times. Burg doesn't try to refute these charges or defend his father; he simply states the facts as they were as part of an effort to understand and accept his father, warts and all. While this comic didn't provide the sort of catharsis he had hoped for (as he addresses in one strip), it seems like both the process of making it and the journey he took as a father himself did put him in a different place by the end. The thoughts expressed by Burg are familiar, but there's a wonderfully humane, understanding quality to his work that elevates it above standard autobio fare.

You Are Always On My Mind, by Kat Roberts. This is a collection of dream comics that tie into autobiographical moments. It's a handmade comic with some full color segments and is a lovely overall package. The tenor of these dream comics is amusing, with titles like "I Lost My Virginity To Jim Morrison" and "The Nude Suit". There's a wispy, ethereal quality to her line that makes it all the more effective when used for comedic effect. While the notion of Morrison showing up in a thirteen year old's dream as a life-changing event is ridiculous (if fitting, given the perfect fit between the histrionics of the Doors and the moods of a teen) and Roberts plays up the laughs, she also is careful to note how serious this was to her at the time. "Nude Suit" is played for both laughs and terror, as Roberts performs in some kind of forest theater in a "nude" bodystocking, dancing to a song whose lyrics went "my nude suit! my nude suit!". She tries to play it cool, not knowing the song would go on interminably--but the audience did. There are a couple of other, more typically jumbled dream stories involving eating her sins and building a boat after chopping down a tree; these stories feel like standard dream comics. For someone who's best known as a webcartoonist, Roberts has crafted a comic whose tactile qualities are a large part of its appeal.

Veggie Dog Saturn #5, by Jason Young. These autobio stories mostly focus on tales from Young's youth and are played for (frequently off-color) laughs. The book opens up with "Salad Days", a story about young Jason going to a restaurant, eating nothing but the salad bar, and then vomiting into the restaurant's bathroom sink. The punchline involves the next person who walked into the bathroom and the dirty look he threw Jason's way. Throughout the book, Young spins tales of a family gleefully visiting a cemetery to plan out a family crypt, meditates (in excruciatingly funny detail) about what music one would really want in a "desert island scenario", and muses about his past as a casual shoplifter. "The Tape" is about his brother's magical ability to find naked women on a video cassette, turning into a surprisingly emotionally earnest (if amusingly gross) anecdote about the connection he shares with him. "The Day I Met Kenny Rogers" sums up the nature of these anecdotes: randomly profane, mostly innocuous and funny both in and of themselves but also mocking bad past behavior. Young doesn't always have great control over his line; some of his figures are cruder than others and his line weight sometimes fades to near-imperceptibility. What makes it work is a steady, amusing self-caricature--both as a child and a bearded, almost Muppet-like adult.