Monday, March 29, 2010

Book-A-Day 2010 # 54 (3/29) -- The Perry Bible Fellowship Almanack by Nicholas Gurewitch

The Perry Bible Fellowship is one of the rare examples of a successful, popular strip that simply disappeared -- sure, newspaper strips like Calvin & Hobbes and The Far Side deliberately ended after long runs, but PBF just vanished the way only an unattended website can. (Its former home is now a generic linkfarm page, showing that Gurewitch hasn't even bothered to keep up the hosting fees for the old strips. All of the published strips are still available through another host, but many of the links on that page, particularly for merchandise, dead-end at the missing site.)

PBF's creator, Nicholas Gurewitch, has disappeared nearly as completely; since the last PBF strip in the summer of 2008, a few short strips (mostly in the same style) have appeared, such as in Marvel's indy-creator showcase Strange Tales, but there's been no word of a larger Gurewitch project. He may turn out to be one of the rare creators, like Bill Watterson, who can just walk away from his comics career to do something else -- I hope not, though, since I'd certainly hate to have seen the last new Gurewitch cartoon.

This collection is the second PBF book, after The Trial of Colonel Sweeto and Other Stories, but it also seems to be a complete collection of the entire strip. I can't be sure without going through the online archives and comparing it to the book one cartoon at a time -- which would be enjoyable, but also too tedious and time-consuming to seriously consider -- but a quick glance through those archives didn't reveal anything that was obviously omitted from the book. (If definitely has the first few strips, and the last few strips, and all of the ones in the middle that I looked at.)

Besides collecting what might well be the complete published PBF, Almanack also includes a section in the back with thirty "lost strips" -- previously unpublished PBF strips that Gurewitch or his editors spiked for one reason or another over the years. After that comes four pages of Gurewitch sketches, two miscellaneous images, and a long interview of Gurewitch by fellow webcartoonist David (Wondermark) Malki. So this is the full and definitive PBF package.

The strip itself is as it always was: a blackly humorous, almost completely continuity-free sequence of mordant jokes about sex and death -- and occasionally other things as well, for a change of pace. But "sex and death" covers a good three-quarters of this book, particularly if one is expansive and includes grievous bodily harm under death. (There's a bit of blasphemy as well, for spice, though that sometimes overlaps with sex and/or death.) Gurewitch's art is protean, ranging from closely-modeled parodies of Shel Silverstein, Bil Keane, and Edward Gorey through his dough-limbed blank-faced Everymen through to a dramatic realistic style, with many stops and sidetrips along the way to other styles and looks. Perry Bible Fellowship was one of the least consistent-looking strips ever devised, with each installment designed and drawn in a style particular to that specific joke. While it was running, it was easily the best webcomic, just from that huge (and generally successful) ambition. This book is a great monument to PBF, and we can only hope that we haven't seen the last of Nicholas Gurewitch.

Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index
Listening to: Holmes - Not a Political Song

1 comment:

Peter Hollo said...

Hm, works for me! It looks identical to the page.

Weird that he's essentially disappeared though!

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