Sunday, October 25, 2015

Thirty Days of Short Reviews #25: Magic Whistle #14

Sam Henderson remains one of the top humorists in comics. One of the very best things about Marc Arsenault taking over Alternative Comics is that it means Henderson having a regular publisher again, especially one that was willing to put out single issues of Henderson's long-running Magic Whistle like this. In issue #14, Henderson comes out blazing, with a New Yorker-style single page gag that hinges on getting fucked in the ass, and a "He Aims To Please!" strip that turns apps into pick-up lines in the most hilarious manner possible. Henderson tends to go in one of two directions in his strips: either building a gag around a single image or concept for a slow burn, or else barraging the audience with gags and meta-gags.

Henderson is also the absolute master of breaking down a gag to its base components, like on the page called "4 Easy Ways To Ruin A Joke". He literally explains the punchlines in a couple of the gags; in one of them, the joke is explained by two bystanders, one of whom says, "I get it, but it's still stupid." It's akin to a magician explaining how he does a trick as he's performing it, yet still getting over with their audience, because the utter seriousness of the explanation is what creates the humorous context. "Coming This Fall" uses the always-fecund concept of fake TV shows and runs with it, with programs like "Ass In The City" and "Movin' In", a sitcom where two guys move into a woman's vagina because of the economic crunch.

Henderson's longer stories, like "Lame On Acid", are every bit as good, spoofing a certain kind of slice of life story as two guys drop acid and do stupid stuff. It reads like someone who has babysat people tripping before, in terms of the ridiculous things people on acid say, the way they can get wrapped up in paranoia at the drop of a hat, and especially the outcomes of "brilliant" ideas. ("The next day: 'What in god's ass is this?1 IT SUCKS!!'") "High School Urban Sex Legends" shows off Henderson's ability to repeatedly up the ante on a joke, starting with the urban legend about a woman who broke off a dildo inside of her and had to call 911. Each version of the story gets more and more complicated and ridiculous, until the earth gets literally coated in a semen tsunami and every woman gets pregnant from it. The issue also features a strip from a young cartoonist named Jack Case, one from the archives of 1900 by Carl Hauser, and plenty of other one-off gags.

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