Friday, December 31, 2021

31 Days Of CCS, #35: Michael Sweater

Michael Sweater's comics are often aggressively cute. That cuteness is cut by his funny satires of hipster culture, making what initially looks like YA comics into classic slacker slice-of-life comics. His collection of "Please Keep Warm" comics, This Must Be the Place., has a line-up of quirky and mostly lovable writers, kids, punks, toughs, weirdos, and working people. Using a formula that goes back to Peter Bagge and Hate, and more recently Simon Hanselmann with Meg, Mogg, and Owl, Sweater gently pokes fun at his characters while also clearly displaying a great deal of affection for them. 

The comic is a series of vignettes featuring an inquisitive kid named Clover, her Uncle Stan (a writer with perpetual writer's block), an accountant-type named Catman, and a slacker woman named Flower. They're all housemates whose relationships are undefined in the way group houses often are. They're visited by a punk anarchist type named Kevin, a trucker hat-wearing, cigarette-smoking chicken, and have all sorts of adventures. It's all done in an anthropomorphic style that's all about strong expressions and gestures. 

Sweater keeps the stories short and snappy, with plenty of humor before eventual punchlines. For example, Clover decides to record a black metal demo and gets a bad review on Pitchfork, prompting Catman to try to cheer her up by regaling her about his goth days in high school. Stan, Clover, and Catman go on a camping trip without inviting Flower, causing her to get depressed. She's cheered by punk rabbit James, who is a marvel of character design with multiple piercings in one of his very long ears. Stan is always trying to write a novel but finds multiple excuses and reasons not to work.  

It's all very leisurely paced, which is part of its appeal. No one is in much of a hurry to do anything, inviting the reader to do the same as they stroll through the lives of character archetypes who will be familiar to many. It's Punk Lite in the best sense of what that means, poking gentle fun at the scene and the kind of group houses so familiar to people in their youth. Sweater's character design and storytelling chops are what make it feel so lively and polished. 

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