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posted October 21, 2004
Buenaventura Press, No Price, 24 pages, 2004
The shock-happy cartoonist Johnny Ryan is an underappreciated craftsman who engages in self-aware humor only, it seems, to take the slightest edge off of otherwise sterling efforts with the rock-solid comedy foundation of shitting, raping and mutilation. Ryan wants the reader to know that he knows that he sometimes goes a bit too far, but he will never, in any way, offer up that self-knowledge as an apology.
In Funny Pages
, Ryan takes aim at 24 newspaper comic strip stalwarts including Blondie
and Andy Capp
, providing versions that substitute the strip's usual tropes for extended, stupid wallows in pain and horror. To detail the high points of the three parodies just mentioned, just to let the uninitiated know what they're in for, Dagwood Bumstead substitutes immense penises for his severed legs, Charlie Brown becomes aroused when Linus performs strip comedy, and Andy Capp celebrates having kicked his pregnant wife in the belly. The gags themselves veer from solid to half-assed like a drunk on a scooter -- the concept seems to wear Ryan out. A fart bubble that the Phantom has to shoot out of his costume amuses as much as anything I've read in a year, but a march of abusive behavior in a Mandrake the Magician
effort had me turning the page with a yawn.
The most interesting strips are those where Ryan accurately nails some observable element of the strip in question, like Mary Worth's annoying busybody qualities, the blunt abstractions in Boondocks
, or the weird body proportions in early Gasoline Alley
. Ryan also has a gift for throwaway lines: the Phantom's response to paramour Diana having been kidnapped again is "Shit! That totally fucking sucks!" and Popeye ditches Olive Oyl for a dick-sucking robot with a succinct, "Adios, you noodly bitch!"
For the most part, though, this is the comedy equivalent of that guy on the weed destroyer commercial happily marching through a row of old growth, turning everything to mulch with a shit-eating grin on his face.