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If You Weren't A Hedgehog... If I Weren't A Hemophiliac...
posted August 27, 2009
Andrews McMeel, softcover, 268 pages, 2009, $14.99
9780740779718 (ISBN13), 0740779710 (ISBN10)
This is a perfectly fine gag book from Australian cartoonist Andrew Weldon. At first I had a hard time figuring out why in God's name Andrews McMeel was doing 270-page books from cartoonists unknown to US audiences, but now I'm guessing this is basically the same book being shared across three different publishers in the US, Australia and British marketplaces. This used to be fairly common with comics that had relatively high production costs, and if it's a strategy that leads for more work from further down individual book industry to-do lists to make it into publication, I'm all for it.
Weldon is a utility infielder type of cartoonist. He seems to use just about every formal set-up available to his craft, but I can't remember a single type of cartoon standing out, nor can I recall too many individual comics that impressed to the point I can remember the gags now that the book is closed. I think the odder, out-of-left field ones are probably the best in the book: a guy with a tiny Dusty Springfield on a leash (if there's a pun there, I can't figure it out) was probably my favorite. But so many cartoons are on the low end of the competent cartooning scale. One thing that Weldon does that fails to serve his comics is stack his jokes, either by drawing extra attention to a punchline or by adding extra emphasis he doesn't need. There's a fine New Yorker
-style joke in the phrase "Haven't you died with dignity yet?" that is poorly served by a response from the older person involving getting a cap off a pill bottle. It's at those times the labor of building this many jokes come through.
In the end, I'd say there are 60 pretty good gags here and 172 that either mine ruthlessly familiar territory or read like gag-writing exercises rather than inspired humor. I'd be grateful if I found this book stuffed in the seat in front of me on an Amtrak ride, or on the table next to a wicker chair at a rented lake house; I might resent buying it.