Friday, September 28, 2012

Yet More Gags From David Ziggy Greene

Where's North From Here? is a new collection from British cartoonist David Ziggy Greene, and this book is a testament to the way his storytelling chops have developed. It's a one-man anthology filled with gags, non sequiturs, and longer, silly stories.He mixes a rubbery, bigfoot style of art with a line that's fairly thin and delicate. He's not afraid to go grotesque or exaggerated in his quest to sell a joke. There's one story ("Sleeper") whose entire punchline is dependent upon Greene drawing a guy sleeping on a train in a series of hilarious, contorted poses. Greene will go a long way in order to sell a joke, but it's his longer pieces that pack the most punch in this book.

For example, "Rubber Sandwich" is an epic tale of a table tennis champ turned policeman being forced to go undercover in order to discover who's been killing the top table tennis contenders. It gleefully spins cop procedural stories and cliches on their collective ear while mostly being about table tennis. "Picacho El Diablo" is about a young woman who seeks out a goat on a particular mountain in order to rescue her mother from the god of the underworld, a story that gets increasingly frenetic as the young woman has a strict deadline in order to appease the god. The punchline (which comes after a series of ever more grisly gags) reflects why we should never try to fool the gods, because their sense of humor is especially dark. "A Complex Machine" is a bit of comedy-body horror that "warns" about the dangers of alternative medicine. Greene's ability to make gross drawings funny is at the heart of his appeal. Finally, "Snow Trap" is a low-speed chase story involving some stolen vinyl and a city-stopping snowstorm. Once again, Greene exploits a genre trope and flips it around in amusing fashion, while still staying true to the way a genre story is paced and plotted. That's true even in the dramatic, surprising ending that helps lead to an excellent snow-based gag.

The rest of the book consists of shorter gags and one-page strips reflecting gigs that Greene's band played. Those strips are rendered more realistically than his other comics, but they're also much sketchier and looser. They do a nice job reflecting the raw energy surrounding a show and provide interstitial material that allows the eye to rest a bit before plunging into the next bit of silliness. All told, Greene's work is getting sharper, tighter and more substantive as he continues to develop as a writer and artist. His next step, I think, is working out a longer comedic story with a group of memorable, distinctive characters.

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