Brendan's Reviews > Misery Loves Comedy

Misery Loves Comedy by Ivan Brunetti
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's review
Jun 19, 2010

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bookshelves: 2010, comics, fiction, humor, memoir-autobio
Read from June 19 to 23, 2010

Misery Loves Comedy collects much of the early Fantographics work of cartoonist Ivan Brunetti, who draws dark, misanthropic, morose comics laced with black humor. His stuff has the grotesque straightforwardness of R. Crumb and the everyone-hating perspective of Peter Bagge or Harvey Pekar on their bad days. Add in a dose of Chris Ware depression (and a touch of Charles Schultz to boot) and you’ve got Ivan’s work. (Full disclosure: Ivan is a colleague of mine at Columbia College Chicago with whom I’ve worked a little bit.)

This is one of the most up-and-down experiences I’ve had reading a comic. Some parts I enjoyed immensely. In particular, I love the detailed parodies of other comics, including careful attention to their styles. These work in both tone and content, though as often as not the parody has to do with shifting the valence toward sex and hatred from whatever the comic’s usual stance is. I also really disliked many of the comics for their unrelenting viciousness and nihilism. I spent my entire reading of the comic see-sawing between gasping horror and amusement. Perhaps that’s the idea.

I include this image here, as it encapsulates much of what the comic’s about. Brunetti, or his comic-book doppleganger, ponders how much he hates the world and everyone in it. Then he contemplates perpetrating violent and sadistic acts or experiencing them. And then there’s often a punchline. Kind of.

Most strange, honestly, is the disconnect between my experience of Ivan as a person and the “Ivan” that comes across in the comic. In meeting with him a few times, I tend(ed) to see him as quiet, pleasant, somewhat funny, helpful. But now part of me wonders if during the quiet he was raging at the world inside. Is it all a ploy? If a writer/artist says “I think about this:” and then tells us what he thinks about, that can’t be a gimmick, can it? Because he did have to think about it to say he thinks about it. So on some level, he does think about it. And then what do you do with the autobiographical moments from his wife and/or psychologist? Are these memoir-based performance art?

Definitely not for everyone. Not necessarily even for me. But quite a read. Be forewarned, though. I’m not kidding at all about the violent and sadistic acts. There are a lot. Like watching Hostel or something.

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