Bob's Comics Reviews December 2001 Arrows


Michael Kupperman: Snake 'n' Bacon's Cartoon Cabaret
I don't know if you can be neutral about Kupperman. Either he'll colonize your mind, and you'll exchange nuggets of Kuppermanly goodness with other cultists ("I'm real bacon!" "Goddamn sex blimp!" "Leetle cubes!"), or you'll exclaim "This is mega-stupid!" and toss the book into the reject pile, next to Zippy.

(That's the inevitable comparison, really; but I like Kupperman better. Of course, maybe that's because he hasn't had time to wear out his welcome. At his best, Bill Griffith can be very funny; but I really only need so many jokes about Nancy Reagan and Hostess Pop-Tarts. And Kupperman avoids Zippy's slightly smarmy quality-- the implication that the author is so clever not to be suburban.)

Kupperman's look and themes are decidedly retro, like comics of the '40s or '50s, except for the laboriously hand-drawn parallel lines he uses for backgrounds. His stock in trade is surrealism, absurdity, and sending up pop culture via deliberate, deadpan stupidity. Snake 'n Bacon themselves, for instance, are supposedly film stars, but Snake never does anything but hiss, and Bacon just utters tidbits about bacon.

It's impossible to resist quoting some of the gags:

Roger Daltrey's Sex Diary
Hercules, the Public Domain Superhero
Citobor, the Invisible Silent Robot!
Rabid District Attorney
The Mannister-- the man who can transform himself into a bannister!
The nuclear combination of Thor and Disraeli: Thorsraeli
The Scaredy Kids
Teenage Grandpa at Sandwich High
But it may be-- judging from my experience and my pal Wabe's-- that you can't just browse Kupperman. You have to read a pretty good chunk of it before it gets to you. And then, like the Feliz Navidad song, you can't get rid of it.

Richard Sala: Evil Eye
These are horror comics in the Edward Gorey mode-- macabre, Edwardian, black & white, and quite tongue in cheek. (Unlike Charles Burns or even Jim Woodring, there's nothing really disturbing here.) Sala's characters are livelier than Gorey's langourous apparitions, however, and Sala has-- for obvious reasons if you know much about Gorey-- much more interest in cute, scantily dressed girls.

Each issue so far has two features. One, "Reflection in a Glass Scorpion", is an ongoing serial, set at "Lone Mountain College". Since several people are brutally murdered each issue, the cast is large: deranged professors, Mitteleuropean refugees, a band of girl pirates led by a hand puppet, a lisping campus policeman, an evil child... the central characters, who have survived half the series so far, are a clueless freshman named Kasper Keene, and Judy Drood, unflappable girl detective ("Of course I'm all right! You think I've never been knocked unconscious before?").

The backup feature (always a standalone story, though there are recurring characters) is "Peculia", a cute brunette who keeps running into, and neatly escaping, deathly situations.

They're fun, and amusingly drawn, and have no apparent subtext or larger purpose at all. And it's all put together with seemingly effortless balance: it never gets either too whimsical or too nasty; neither pretentiously goth nor camp.

It took a few issues to hook me, but now he's got me-- I want to see how it all ends. (This will require patience, only two or three issues come out a year.)

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