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Tales Designed To Thrizzle, Volume One
posted December 10, 2009
Fantagraphics, hardcover, 160 pages, 2009, $24.99
Living in Seattle in the late 1990s and more hyper-conscious of comics than most, I was among the lucky, early few that latched onto the comics of Michael Kupperman in black and white strip form. Up All Night
by P. Revess (Kupperman's perfect-pitch nom de plume
) is the last alt-comix strip to which my reaction was flipping out and immediately casting around for every single bit of information and additional comics I could find. Even back then, Kupperman was clearly a sublime gag man. He may not have been the best teller of jokes, and god only knew at the time what he could do with a longer work, but from the moment he showed up Kupperman was a master of stomping around the living room of modern reality and shoving pieces of conceptual furniture next to one another to awesome, knees-out-from-under effect. Kupperman's work has always had that charge that the really good stuff has, and because much of it is tightly gag-focused you could repeat it to other people and get half the return. Half the return is usually more than enough.
Kupperman doesn't get enough credit for building a comic book vehicle in Tales Designed To Thrizzle
that serves to facilitate those skills. A comic book may not seem like a long form to anyone other than a strip cartoonist, but there's a reason there was little crossover even back in the old days. It's a different form, a different rhythm. For comedy, a comic book requires that the reader somehow stay with the cartoonist from comedic high point to comedic high point, that several of the jokes develop rather than simply sit there like so much undiscovered gold just for variety's sake, that the entire enterprise proves greater than the sum of its gags. I'm not sure the last part is true with Thrizzle
, but that's only because I'm not certain anything under heaven or earth could make something greater than Kupperman's peerless ability to craft funny moments (his twitter feed, as one might suspect, is frequently golden). Kupperman's meticulous rendering on his black and white work brought fake gravitas to the dumbest jokes in a way that always-stoned people perhaps appreciate best. The full-color assault and shifts and blends that he works with on TDTT
are an even more elaborate mechanism, allowing the reader to whip in and out of individual, or opt-in and remain stimulated moving from panel to panel.
Nonne of this would matter if the gags didn't continue to work; they do. The recurring notions are beginning to coalesce into an actual, honest-to-god worldview, although I'm not sure the work's at the point where the shock and surprise of one character crashing into another strip has more meaning than exactly what's funny and right there in front of you. When Jesus' half-brother Pagus shows up to laugh and claim an element of what you've just seen for pagan worship, you laugh, too. If that ever stops, we might figure out what else is going on, but who wants to stop laughing?