Friday, December 9, 2011
Illustrated by Michal Kupperman
Imagine what happens when you give a man with a talent for visual mimicry, withering sarcasm, and a generally insane sense of humor a 32-page comic format and no rules other than to be funny as hell in as many ways as possible before going on to the next issue.
If that sounds appealing to you, then you're in for a treat with the first volume of Tales Designed to Thrizzle, a collection of the first four of Michael Kupperman's irreverent issues of his ongoing comic.
If that doesn't sound appealing to you, then go read Chris Ware or something. I'm not going to be of any help to you here.
I first met Kupperman's writing in the hysterical Mark Twain autobiography, one of my favorite books of the year. The ability to make the outrageous understated by playing it straight is in full force here, from just about the first page onward. As with Twain, I was laughing out loud within the first few pages and did not stop right through all 160 pages of the book. (Well, 159. The page that said, "Rob McMonigal, you are a complete dick!" was a bit off-putting. And strange, given there was no guarantee I'd actually read it. And that no one had brought this to my attention before. But since that only impacts on me and some guy in Lancaster, it probably won't matter to you.)
While the Mark Twain was an awesome piece of cohesive joke-telling in the manner of a great satirist, Thrizzle is the scatter-shot patter of the Marx Brothers in comic form. One page might feature a crying octopus in a fire hat, complaining about no fires in the ocean (but great merchandising) while the next mocks back of the magazine advertisements, including a brochure on "Dogs and Inventions. When and when not to mix the two." The latter joke is typical of Kupperman. Dogs and Invention is funny. Use of the peculiar cadence of "when and when not to..." is hysterical. It shows Kupperman not only knows how to make a joke, but how to hone it until it's *really* funny. That's the type of craft that elevates this book above its peers and makes it far funnier than most humor comics I've read, which seem to be ready to take the first joke home to bed, rather than waiting to read the rest of the personal ads.
There are so many great bits in here, both visual and verbal. The Dick Tracy skewering, including "Have-You-Seen-This-Cat-Face" is a highlight. Indian Spirit chewing gum will haunt your funny bone. There's the silliness of Johnny Silhouette or the two-panel quick joke of "Prince Variant", which has almost nothing to do with its name. Don't for get the nods to childhood memories, such as the Choose Your Own Adventure parody, that crop up here and there. Some may love the dirty jokes, such as coloring book porn or nut bras. Kupperman even makes a toilet joke or two, but manages to do it in such a way that they're actually funny. I've got nothing against poop jokes--if they can make me laugh. Too often, they're the way to a quick gag that's not even remotely funny. Not so here, and I'll chortle at them almost as much as I might when reading the adventures of Snake and Bacon.
Kupperman has a lot to be proud of here beyond just the sheer volume of jokes per page (with some having half a dozen different gags on them). Not only do almost all of the attempts at humor work--no mean feat, in my opinion--but they come in so many different forms. Like the Twain book, Kupperman mixes prose and pictures, though here the mix is reversed, with visuals taking the lead. (Twain makes an appearance in this book, by the way, as a cop with rough edges and a familiar partner.) It's such a eclectic mix of genre mashups, silly puns, ridiculous ideas, and offbeat stories that I cannot even begin to imagine how it's all collected together in one place and by one man.
If men dressed as bears are stealing your homework or you can't find that mysterious fortune teller because you have a lousy sense of direction, Tales Designed to Thrizzle can help you. Just be aware that this book is as rapid-fire a comic as I've ever read and is an almost overwhelming experience. If you can hang on to enjoy the ride, and are a fan of the humor of webcomics like Wondermark or the prose stylings of John Hodgman, then you really need to find someone who already owns a copy of this book and kill them for it.
Or, you know, buy one for yourself. Either way, I'm good. And so is Tales Designed to Thrizzle.