November 7, 2014

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Catch a CAB...and See Sam Henderson

Comics Arts Brooklyn is almost here! If you're able to make it, here are some suggestions on creators and publishers you should look up when you get there. Look for more entries at this tag.

[Editor's Note: Sam is the definition of not safe for work. You've been warned! -RobM]

I can't believe that it took me until 2013 to discover and become a fan of Sam Henderson, but it's true. Once Marc from Alternative Comics pointed me in his direction, however, it was love at first joke, and now Sam's actually one of the few artists I actually own original art from.

The thing about Sam's work is that while it's never going to win any sort of technical awards, the fact that Henderson's style is like someone at the New Yorker decided "screw you all, I'm writing dick jokes."

And that's the thing with Henderson. While he'll happily go for toilet humor (literally in issue 14, actually), he's also able to slam you in the face with social satire and, on his twitter account, comics that are topical and often laugh out loud funny, even as you realize just how sad it is that he's making a point.

Sam's ability to be both a general comedian and also a person able to hit where it hurts is what put him squarely in my must-read column. Anyone can put together a quick joke involving genitals. If you've ever gone to a comics convention (or to a lesser degree a zine fest), you know what I mean. It's really hard work to find a way to balance the juvenile with the genius, and Henderson is one of those people.

Here's a typical example, in the comic that should be to the right of this text, from Magic Bullet 14, the most recent collection I have access to. You see that a man is putting pieces of bread on a urinal. That's...well, it's not something I'd think of, but it's pretty funny. But on the second page of this gag, after people have pissed on them, the guy comes back and eats them, saying, "I don't know whether to give up urine or bread."

It's absolutely ridiculous, and of course to many people, isn't funny. But I find that kind of timing and pacing to be hysterical. Sam knows that the joke only works if he takes advantage of panel placement, building the gag as long as possible until the final line lays the reader out flat.

In other cases, it's just a one-panel short, as with the other example I'm using here, further down and to the left. Henderson is adept at both short and long-form comedy. One story from Magic Bullet 14 uses actual dialogue from people he overheard at the library, with Henderson's drawings adding to the fun of eavesdropping. The opener features Sam poking fun at trying to create social media pick-up lines. ("Are you Pinterest? You'd look good on my wall.") Another long-form joke is about high school urban sex legends, with the story of a woman and her creative use of a banana getting more and more complicated, like a perverted game of telephone.*

But it's in the short gags where Henderson really shines, like the man who walks with no discernible face over to a wall of eyes, asking which ones he'll wear that day or a trenchcoated flasher who grins maliciously, but his victim just chides him with "That's so 1977." When these gags are themed together, such as the one skewering network television and the insane premises they come up with** it's comedy gold. A man with an insane number of fingers stars in..."Too Many Fingers" while two cowboys curse at each other without forming complete sentences in "Dirty Western."

I could go on and on about Sam's work, but I think you get the idea. He's not going to be something for everyone, but if you enjoy your puns and your penises, then make sure you visit Sam at the Alternative Comics booth at CAB this year. He should have Magic Bullet 15 by then, along with back issues, and if not, you can get them straight from Alternative Comics here.

Don't let the deceptively simple line art and premise fool you: Sam Henderson has a lot to offer those who like humor comics, if you give him the chance. I'm so very glad I did, and odds are you will, be too.

*Is that reference too old? Do you kids still play telephone? Where you pass a message from person to person in whispers, to see if you can keep it together? SIGH I know, I know, I'm ancient in internet years.

**Selfie? REALLY? For that matter, you leave Doctor Who to star in SELFIE? What? The? Fuck?