Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Fowl Language: The Struggle Is Real by Brian Gordon

If something works, you do it again. Brian Gordon's Fowl Language comics - originally appearing online starting in 2013, and ramping up after he lost his cartooning-for-Hallmark-Cards job a couple of years later - were a hit online, and then a hit in their first book form, Fowl Language: Welcome to Parenting.

So, a year later, Gordon's book publisher, Andrews McMeel published a second collection of the Fowl Language strips, Fowl Language: The Struggle Is Real. (For those counting on their fingers, that would be in 2017.)

It's not entirely clear if the books reprint all of the strips, or reprint them in order - Andrews McMeel has been doing comic strips in book form for a long time, so I trust they know how to do this right, but this is not a continuity strip in any way. The only real markers of time passing would be the age of the kids, and, well, they're ducks to begin with. Gordon might well draw them as small hellions for another decade, even as they act like tweens and then teenagers, just because that's funnier.

So this second book is very much like the first: the kids are mostly in the same life-stage (very young, in their very first school years, the years when they scream and run around for no reason all of the damn time), and the attitude and style are still the same time.

The format has settled down a bit: nearly everything here is that odd Internet main-comic-and-then-a-bonus-panel format, with the main comic on one page and the bonus panel, typically an afterthought or secondary punchline, on the next page. I read this digitally, so each page was on its own, but the book is laid out with the main comic on a left-hand (even-numbered) page and the bonus on the right, so Gordon is not trying to make it a similar "reveal" to how bonus panels work online.

Again, it's the same kind of jokes and humor as the first book, and the kids are still in the same life-stage: small children are exhausting, demanding, and at least borderline insane, with demands and passions that appear and disappear in a second but are all-encompassing while they last. And the father character has to deal with them, and swears more than is typical for "funny-kid" humor.

It's durable stuff, and Gordon has a good cartoonist's eye to make it work, both in his precise writing and his expressive drawing. (He did make cartoons for Hallmark for nearly two decades; he might not have done public-facing stuff with his name on it, but he's been doing humor in public for a long time and has the chops to prove it.)

Like any book of cartoons, you need to both want a book of cartoons (they're fun and breezy and may seem expensive for the time you spend reading them) and want cartoons about this (if you're aggressively child-free, this is not for you). But if you do, and if you do, Gordon, again, is good at this and makes a lot of jokes that land really well. I also still think there's a potential (and maybe actual; I haven't checked) merchandise empire in his single-image comics - lots of these would be great as posters or T-shirts or similar.

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