Saturday, December 9, 2023

45 Days Of CCS, #9: Wayne Carter

Wayne Carter's Ben is a hilarious takedown of a character that the reader slowly learns is not exactly what it might seem at first. On page after page, an unseen narrator warns us that this fellow Ben is "the worst," and lists a litany of sins, missteps, bad taste, and just plain obnoxiousness. Ben is drawn simply--circular head, conical hat, and no mouth. The simplicity of the character design and drawing is key to the actual jokes/accusations, which get increasingly absurd. Stories like "Baby Ben would give himself homework and grade it. e would later call this his 'genius era'" reflect the astounding specificity of Ben's generally obnoxious behavior. 

However, about halfway through, the reader starts to wonder, "Why am I reading this? Who is giving this one-sided account of this asshole?" In a scene where his attempt at karaoke is a failure, we see a mysterious figure in the background taking notes. After several more pages of this (including one laugh-out-loud mention that Ben only reads books written by millionaires, with Gwyneth Paltrow being his favorite author), we are introduced to Pamela, who "sees through it all." She's following him around, recording every dumb and regrettable thing that he does. The exact nature of their relationship isn't revealed until near the end, and it's a credit to Carter that he sustained this long series of insults for as long as he did. Ben is sort of a shaggy dog story, but it's a really good shaggy dog story, and the back cover has a follow-up to the narrative that pretty much confirms everything we see in the story. 

Carter's comic Candy Confessional is even funnier and shows off both his comedic and conceptual chops. The characters are anthropomorphic pieces of candy, and the lead character is a young woman concerned that she is "going sour" because of something horrible she did. Going to confession, she tells Father Carmel (who barely seems interested, as he's playing with a ping-pong paddle with an attached ball) about a bar fight she got in. Furious at a pushy ex at the bar, she threw a bottle at him after a cutting remark. The whole has Carter's highly stylized line and bright color scheme, but it's his commitment to the bit that makes it work. Carter also submitted Nowhere, an illustrated zine that features a different compliment or insult he received throughout his life. This is done in a completely different visual style, as Carter shows off his drawing chops in frequently disturbing and even horrific images, with lots of splattered ink and moody shading. 

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