Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Book-A-Day 2018 #359: Tales Designed to Thrizzle, Vol. 1 by Michael Kupperman

Today kicks off a mini-theme section of Book-A-Day; I read four 2009-2010 books from Fantagraphics over four days early in December, because I had them all digitally. They came in during the era when I was reviewing books seriously but getting many more things than I could fit into my Realms of Fantasy monthly column. The books otherwise have nothing in common, but some readers might wonder "why is this guy suddenly reading a bunch of old Fanta books?"

That's why. It's not a good reason, but it's the one I have.

I come to Michael Kupperman's Tales Designed to Thrizzle, Vol. 1 backwards. Kupperman was first known as a maker of humorous comics -- this series, in particular -- and has only recently moved into more serious work like All the Answers (which I read a couple of months ago).

Vol. 1 is, as I hope anyone can tell, the first collection of his Tales Designed To Thrizzle comic -- and I'm amused to see that, at last as the mid-aughts, one successful way to start a career in making funny comics was still to draw twenty-some pages of them and put them out in a little booklet, the way it had been since the undergrounds in the late '60s. (It might still work these days, but a creator can get better, more immediate feedback and audience by posting stories online in whatever format is popular that week. [1])

Vol. 1 has the first four issues of Thrizzle, which were published individually from July 2005 through August 2008. (There were four more issues, which were in turn collected in 2012's Vol. 2...which I may need to search out now.) The book presents them in order as they originally appeared, covers and all, rather than re-sorting the contents into some other scheme. Up front is a self-mocking foreword by Robert Smigel, and separating each issue are wallpaper-looking full-page designs, which fit the aesthetic of Kupperman's work well and may have been in the original issues as well.

The first three issues are ostensibly divided into three sections by "audience" -- adult, kid, and old people -- with frontispieces insisting that readers outside those ages shouldn't read that section. The fourth issue drops that for a quirky format "specially designed to help you through your entire day!" (In that case, the reader is supposed to read one page each half-hour, starting first thing in the morning.)

I was going to say here that Thrizzle has the standard lots-of-short-pieces format of most single-creator humor comics, but nothing about Thrizzle is standard. Kupperman has an absurdist sense of humor and his comedy rarely drops into the usual comics tropes (goofy superheroes, toys and fads of the cartoonists's youth), instead looking to old magazines and vaguer cultural knowledge, plus a whole lot of random surreal ideas (sex blimps, foreplay robots, porno coloring books, criminal fingertalk).

I found it really funny a lot of the time, and distinctively different from other funny cartoonists I'm familiar with. Kupperman uses a few different art styles, including one that looks almost like clip art and a really heavily-inked look full of tiny lines -- so Thrizzle has jokes like no one else's comics and looks like no one else's comics.

It is weird and funny and weirdly funny and funnily weird. Kupperman has a unique comic sensibility, and I want to see more of it.

[1] A month ago I would have just said "Tumblr," but oops!

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