Thursday, December 17, 2020

Love and Other Weird Things by Rich Sparks

I don't want to say the blurb from Roz Chast is the best thing about this book: it's a great book, collecting lots of neat scratchy, funny cartoons by a unique talent, a book that made me giggle and titter and guffaw and maybe even laugh out loud at least once. Let me say that first.

But I love the cover quote, which also says a lot about cartoonist Rich Sparks' sensibility that he thought it was a great idea to prominently feature it.

You probably can't read it clearly from the bookshot. So I'll type it in here as well, to show you what cartooning genius Chast wrote when Sparks asked her to do a blurb for his then-upcoming book:

I'm actually trying to get out of the 'blurb game.' Unless it's for my kids, or someone I owe a ton of money to.

If just seeing that on the cover of a book makes you smile, Rich Sparks' cartoons, and the book Love and Other Weird Things, is right up your alley.

These are all single-panel cartoons, each presented on a wider-than-it's-tall page (like a Garfield book, or one of the millions of similar collections of newspaper daily strips from the past eight decades or so). From the copyright page, I think at least some of them appeared in American Bystander and Weekly Humorist, which I still insist are the fake names for fictional magazines in some Hallmark romantic comedy.

I don't know that I've seen much of Sparks' work before, but he's awesome and unique -- he's not like Gahan Wilson or S. Gross, but he's equally unique, if you know what I mean. A Sparks cartoon is its own thing, from a different viewpoint, and no one else could have thought up any of them.

He's also got a nice matter-of-fact drawing style that works well with his lumpy tighty-whitey-wearing characters and quirky situations.

It's hard to write about cartoons with spoiling some of the jokes, but I'll limit myself to one line of dialogue in one cartoon, which I think will give you the flavor of full Sparks: "I'm not the kind of rabbit who usually picks up hitch-hikers but you look like someone I could easily take in a knife fight so just keep that in mind."

This is funny stuff, by a distinctive talent. Anyone who likes single-panel cartoons should check Sparks out, and keep an eye out for more of his work.

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