Sunday, December 16, 2018

Book-A-Day 2018 #350: Amazing Facts and Beyond with Leon Beyond by Dan Zettwoch and Kevin Huizenga

Sometimes fake facts are the best facts. As long as we're all clear that they are fake, reading about the modern infestation of dragons or the scholarly history of the USM and CNA can be glorious fun.

And there's no reason that comics can't get into the act, too -- Ripley's Believe It Or Not! is just sitting out there as an attractive model for goofy fake-factsness in illustrated form.

Well, it isn't "sitting out there," actually, because somebody already did that. Two somebodies: cartoonists Dan Zettwoch and Kevin Huizenga did a fake-trivia comics feature for the St. Louis alternative paper Riverfront Times from 2008 to 2012 under the title Amazing Facts & Beyond with Leon Beyond. All the strips were collected into a book of the same name in 2013, which I finally finished reading recently. (I'd had a bookmark in it for several years -- books of miscellaneous strips are great to pick up, read a couple, and put back down again.)

It's all seen through the lens of the "Leon Beyond" character, a trivia-obsessed St. Louisite who has the usual nerdly foibles and who has his own half-serious backstory. (Including a fictional long shelf of similar books, since he's been doing this for a while.)

Each strip is a full page in this book, and was probably a quarter or fifth of a page in the Riverfront Times. Each one has a loose theme, and this book gathers similar themes into sections, from "Did You Know?" to "Travel" to "Saint Louis" to "Fascinating Esoterica" to "Animals" to "Furthermore, Did You Also Know?" to "Chainsaws." They are not organized here in order of publication; it seems like some of them, at least, were vaguely timely and related to things going on in St. Louis at the time.

And, of course, each strip is full of fake facts, with some actual facts salted in here and there for maximum amusement and/or confusion. Please, do not rely on anything you learn from this book in any way in your life!

Amazing Facts & Beyond is amusing, and also pretty dense: the Ripley-esque format packs a lot of words to the page, so it takes a while to read, even if you try to go straight through it. It's probably funnier if you are from St. Louis, or know more about Missouri than I do, but it's goofy fun even if you have no idea if "the Big Stink of 2010" was a real thing or not.

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