Friday, May 16, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #135: The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius by Judd Winick

Unreasoning prejudices are, by definition, stupid things. I can admit that. I can also admit that the only reason that it took me more than a decade to finally read TThe Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius is because its creator became famous on a reality TV show.

(But I still don't want to do the slightest thing to legitimize such horrible extrusions of stupidity and bad taste!)

There have been a lot of genius-kid stories, from Ender Wiggin to Dexter's Laboratory to Doogie Howser -- sometimes those kids are downtrodden, sometimes earnest, sometimes triumphant. When they're played for laughs, they tend to be megalomaniacal -- Dexter again, the hero of I Am A Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President, and of course Barry Ween. That's what I love; I prefer my kid geniuses to be Strangelovian -- I have a weakness for monologuing first-person world-conquerors in the first place, so it's even better if they're twisted little kids. What I'm trying to say is that l'il Barry was right up my alley, and I knew that when Judd Winick was publishing his first adventures in floppy comic form, back in 1999. I was even visiting comics shops regularly back then, still buying floppies. But I just couldn't bring myself to buy or read it for a long time; I didn't want to give any support to anyone who ever looked into a "confession cam" and earnestly spouted bullshit.

But time wounds all heels, so I finally did read this book, which collects that original 3-issue miniseries. And of course I enjoyed it a lot, as I was secretly suspicious that I would, back in 1999.

Each issue is a separate story, in which super-genius elementary schooler Ween and his best friend/sidekick Jeremy get into various troubles (a notably vaginal portal into alternate worlds in Barry's basement, Jeremy's transformation into a dinosaur, an art-thief hostage situation during a class trip) and then get out of them again, in both cases largely because of Barry. The stories are zippy and smart, and Barry is actually in control of event more than crazed kid-geniuses are usually allowed to be -- though that still doesn't help him; these are comedies, which means things have to regularly go wrong.

If, by some quirk of fate, you haven't heard of this series before -- maybe you've been cloistered since 1996, or just were awoken from your secret Soviet cryochamber to defeat the Reaganite hordes -- then you've got a treat in store: Winick is an expressive cartoonist of humor (which is the last thing I'd have expected from a guy who's spent the last decade writing the made-to-order angsty adventures of the cape-and-cowl crowd) and this is one of the gems of its kind.

(And there are two more books, which I may even get to before the Earth cools.)

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

1 comment:

Dirk said...

Been years since I read these (I think I got my copies back in '99) but they were very funny back then. If you haven't read these you should definitely check them out.

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