Ryan North, the creator of Dinosaur Comics, creates a massive "Choose Your Own Adventure" volume riffing on William Shakespeare's "Hamlet." North takeRyan North, the creator of Dinosaur Comics, creates a massive "Choose Your Own Adventure" volume riffing on William Shakespeare's "Hamlet." North takes the classic on a range of snarky paths, from ghost adventures to an actual death-dueling chess match writ out the in the pages.
North has a fun, snarky voice that's a nice extension of the original "Choose Your Own Adventure's" unseen pitfalls and quick deaths. You can follow the original story pretty closely, although North uses Shakespeare's plot as a solid platform to point out the sexism and piled-up angst in the original. Or you can go back to college, become a pirate on the high seas, invent the thermostat (as Ophelia) or kill everyone in the darn village.
A solid cast of webcomics illustrators offer single-page depictions of the various endings, from happy to homicidal (including the occasional happy, homicidal ending). North's voice and schtick become a little familiar if you follow every possible plot thread, but I thought it was a fun accomplishment. If you don't like his "faux bro" style, the book may not work for you, but I think it's fun and well balanced....more
A departure from the typical Hellboy offerings, "Hellboy Junior" is a humor compilation largely organized and written by Bill Wray. It's a demented brA departure from the typical Hellboy offerings, "Hellboy Junior" is a humor compilation largely organized and written by Bill Wray. It's a demented brew of old "Hot Stuff"/Harvey comics references, mixed with actual Hell and torment.
I found it sharply created, with a lot of skill in the art, but not to my tastes. The stories here seem edgy to the point of being mean-spirited. I didn't need a Idi Amin/virginal nun gag, nor did I appreciate the gross visual gags and uncomfortable rape/incest humor of "Huge Retarded Duck" (a spin-off of Baby Huey).
A lot of the humor here hasn't aged well in the nearly 20 years since this compilation was collected. There's a big setpiece about a transvestite he-witch who's main trait is being freaky and weird. There are also some uncomfortable Asian visual stereotypes in "The Ginger Beef Boy" that I think are supposed to be a parody on old comics but don't quite seem to earn the claim.
I did find the last Hitler in Hell story to be pretty funny, but that was the extent of my enjoyment here. If you're a Hellboy fan that likes "wrong" humor, this may be the collection for you, but it wasn't for me....more
Another fine and funny humor collection from Simon Rich. "Spoiled Brats" contains a number of short pieces as well as one stretching out to novella leAnother fine and funny humor collection from Simon Rich. "Spoiled Brats" contains a number of short pieces as well as one stretching out to novella length. Some of the best use himself at the butt of the joke, starting with a disastrous turn as an elementary school hamster caregiver (offered from the doomed perspective of the hamster itself.
“Hamster feeder is…” I scan the room. There are still some good candidates left. Maybe we’ll luck out and get Caitlin? Last month she gave us double portions. If her name is called again, Mr. T might gain some weight in time for winter. It’s while I’m enjoying this fantasy that Ms. Huston clears her throat and—with one little word—sentences my family to death. “Simon.” My eyes widen in horror. Simon Rich is 2K’s “class clown,” a pudgy, hyperactive boy with some kind of undiagnosed emotional problem. “Hamster Feeder?” he shouts. “Whatchu talkin’ ‘bout, Willis!” The other children laugh hysterically. My god, I think. This is it. This is how it ends.
The longest story in the batch, "Sell Out," sees Simon reuniting with his great-great-grandfather, Herschel, who fell into a pickle vat as an immigrant worker in New York City and was preserved over the century. It makes for a fun clash of cultures, setting the self-absorbed, cowardly Simon, who works as a script punch-up man, against his devout, traditional forebear, with fun results. Herschel ends up establishing a less-than-sanitary artisanal pickle brand that makes him a millionaire, and the whole saga is a lot of fun, with a nicely captured voice.
I sigh with relief and follow Simon into store. He orders two bagels with creamed cheese and hands me one. I cannot believe how large it is—like something to feed an entire Irish family. I take three bits and put the rest in coat, to save for supper. When I look up at Simon I see that he has somehow almost finished his whole bagel. He is eating so fast, I cannot understand it. It is like he is in race and must shove all the bread in his mouth or he will die. Between bites he gulps from his drink, which is bottle of green sugar water the size of bucket.
I can see she is annoyed. She swallows her drink, grimaces, and then goes to the bar by herself. By the time she returns, holding beer, Simon has launched into story about Ice Chimps. I cannot understand most of his words, but the gist of it is that, years ago, he said a joke at a table and a famous man laughed at his joke. That is his whole story. But it takes him nearly fifteen minutes to say it. For the first time since meeting Simon, I start to wonder if he is possibly retarded. He talks like my cousin Moishe, who was born with triangle head. His stories go on forever and have no meaning.
You cannot murder interns, but other than that, they are the same as mules. You can rob them, abuse them, debase them. There are no limits. When a man agrees to be intern, he is saying, “I am no longer human being with rights, I am like dog or monkey. Use me for labor until my body breaks and then consume all of my meats.”
Another highlight from the collection is "Man Walks into a Bar," a variant on the "twelve-inch pianist" gag that serves as a piece of perfect humor, spinning off into something that's surprising, sharp and slightly moving.
The volume loses a bit of momentum at the end. Stories like "Rip" and "Elf on the Shelf" feel like filler humor, and the motif of young people having to put down their hipster dreams for something more sensible starts to get a little repetitive. But the highlights are excellent and make the volume worth reading for them alone. ...more
A nice history of Chicago's famous improv comedy troupe. The book does a good job delving into Second City's origins, calling up Chicago's theater sceA nice history of Chicago's famous improv comedy troupe. The book does a good job delving into Second City's origins, calling up Chicago's theater scene in the early 1950s as well as the acting "games" that inspired the group's original approach.
From there, author (and longtime Second City creative director) Sheldon Patinkin takes us to the present day, pausing to catch up with famous alumni, notably the Murray-Belushi-Ramis core in Chicago and the Akroyd-Candy-Radner glory days in Toronto. There are tons of familiar faces in here, from Alan Arkin to Tina Fey, and it's fun to see how they intersected with Second City (sometimes briefly) before moving on to other things.
The lifers have a presence as well, including original owner (and occasional director) Bernie Sahlins, producer Joyce Sloan and actor/director/madman Del Close. It may just be effective PR, but the book does have a nice familial feel, emphasizing the ties, and the occasional fights, that drew these disparate performers together.
The book is more a history than a humor collection; jokes and bits are interspersed throughout its pages, but it's more a collection of memories. There's often a lot going on--actors coming and going, new playhouses opening in different spots to try to make some money. The narrative sometimes seems reduced to just a sequence of events--"this happened, then this happened, etc." But the performer profiles sprinkled throughout and the clear reverence for what the group accomplished offer a unifying thread.
Hardly a tell-all, this is still a good read for comedy fans interested in the institutional side of things. It probably helps to be a Chicagoan...or at least a Torontonian....more
Pogo as a newspaper strip was before my time, but I remember Bill Watterson giving it high praise in some of his "Calvin and Hobbes" anthologies, andPogo as a newspaper strip was before my time, but I remember Bill Watterson giving it high praise in some of his "Calvin and Hobbes" anthologies, and I was excited to be able to finally sample it in collected form.
It was definitely worth picking up. Pogo creator Walt Kelly is a master cartoonist; he packs just the amount of lively detail in his Disney-influenced characters. Action and facial expressions are both in his wheelhouse. The humor is good too, with lots of silly wordplay and backwoods country stabs at sophistication.
This is dense read. Kelly likes to have his characters talk, and he fills the panels. The dialogue is generally good, capturing a range of satisfying voices. But it's not always easy to parse, as he relies heavily on puns and homonyms, meaning many strips require a bit of mental translation.
The characters make the comic, and I imagine each reader gravitates toward their favorites. Mine were Albert the alligator, a happy, hungry, absent-minded hedonist, and Porky-pine, the resident crank with a heart of gold. Having those two bounce off each other is generally cause for a smile.
Other characters don't work as well. Pogo the opossum is a bit of a good-natured blank working to anchor the reader. I enjoyed the various con artists and flim-flam men who came passing through: Seminole Sam, Wiley Catt, Hawgshaw and Cully. Howland Owl and turtle Chuchy la Femme didn't work as well for me as the local dolts stirring up trouble, but there are plenty of characters that did.
The book isn't perfect. The wordplay can wear you out; I preferred the plot-oriented strips over weeks that just offered several days of punny gags. The mood can get pretty familiar as well, notably the back-water ignorance that characterizes the isolated swamp. Sometimes you just want the characters to be able to actually read a newspaper they're waving around. It's also problematic, at times, to wonder who exactly Kelly's simple-minded animals are standing in for.
Still, it's a fun read, although I'm not sure I'd recommend it to those who aren't already into classic comics. For those who are, this is good stuff....more
Cartoonist Berkeley Breathed follows up his classic run on "Bloom County" with his Sunday-only strip, "Outland." But while the creator's pace has easeCartoonist Berkeley Breathed follows up his classic run on "Bloom County" with his Sunday-only strip, "Outland." But while the creator's pace has eased at this point, his inspiration seems to have slackened with it. This collection finds its footing after a slow start, but a lot of the gags feel pretty familiar, many having showed up earlier in "Bloom County" or even appearing twice within these pages.
Breathed starts out trying to build a new cast, with penguin Opus as a central holdover, but he soon brings back Steve Dallas and Bill the Cat from the previous installment. Here, though, every character seems to be acting more as a mouthpiece for Breathed than anything else; the character moments that made "Bloom County" so strong aren't as evident here. That may be a consequence of the weekly pacing, but it also feels a bit like a creator running out of things to say with these characters.
Still, there are some good smiles here, even if the strip goes to the "battle of the sexes" well too often. I particularly enjoyed the sequences with Ronald Ann in Catholic school as well as the appearances from Winnie the Pooh....more