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Tales From Birdbun Theatre #1
posted March 16, 2003
In my imaginary world of comics, there would in every sizeable city exist talents like Dennis Tucker: cartoonists making doggedly obscure, odd comic books like Tales From Birdbun Theatre. The Xeric Award winner collects in comic book form re-formatted adventures from Tucker's alt-weekly strip. Lead characters Bird and Bun are, in the anthropomorphic tradition, a bird and a bunny, drawn in an almost cipher-like fashion that indicates a least some basic awareness of traditional European album and newspaper strip greats. Tucker's protagonists drink, idle about, and engage in dry banter with conservatives -- a furry Sebastian and Charles, right down to their relentlessly preppy outfits. The memorable strips in Tucker's collection are those where the story is relentlessly loopy, as in a zeppelin trip to the tropics, or when you get a brief glimpse into day-to-day life of the kind that comes with a strip about a trip to the Farmer's Market.
In conception as well as execution, Tales From Birdbun Theatre recalls some of the more obscure independent comics of the early 1980s. That was a time when the re-discovered freedom to do anything one wanted to with a comic book seemed to outpace the ideas on display -- an arts community seemingly caught unawares trotting out the best material it could; creative attics emptied, ready or not. Like many of those long-gone comics, nothing about the adventures of Bird and Bun recommends itself to a casual reader or rewards the close observer. It fails as art. The targets skewered are uninteresting, the narratives unfold in plodding fashion, there are no trenchant observations to speak of and the humor is declarative rather than involving. Whatever graphic appeal the strip might have is lost in comic book form, with individual panels refashioned for the larger page. However one may want comics like this to be good ones, for the sake of the artist and a romantic view of the art form, in the end this comic book exists most vibrantly as an object defined by its limitations.