Reviews of trade paperbacks of comic books (mostly Marvel), along with a few other semi-relevant comments / reviews.

08 September 2009

Tales Designed to Thrizzle, v. 1

Collects: Tales Designed to Thrizzle #1-4 (2005-8)

Released: July 2009 (Fantagraphics)

Format: 160 pages / color / $24.99 / ISBN: 9781606991640

What is this?: Absurdist madness designed to look like comic magazines of days gone by

The culprit: Michael Kupperman

I heard about Tales Designed to Thrizzle on the podcast House to Astonish. The two hosts tried to describe writer / artist Michael Kupperman’s humor. It was difficult for the hosts to describe why Tales Designed to Thrizzle #5 was so funny, but they were convinced it was hilarious.

I’m having trouble too describing the humor as well. But it’s extremely funny; you can be assured of that.

The first four issues are collected in Tales Designed to Thrizzle, v. 1, the first Fantagraphics book I’ve reviewed. The book is made up of one-page jokes, with the occasional feature that runs on for a few pages. Running jokes include Cousin Grandpa, Mark Twain and Albert Einstein as ‘70s cops, and Snake ‘n’ Bacon, a crime fighting / time traveling team consisting of a snake who can only hiss and a slice of bacon that says bacon-related things such as “Crumble me in a salad” or “Wipe me with a paper towel to remove excess grease,” neither of which actually fits into the story.

Tales Designed to Thrizzle coverReally, that gives you an idea of the type of humor right there.

The jokes are presented to look like a Silver or Golden Age comic book, with plenty of fake ads that are designed to fill space along the margins. The art apes the style of the ‘40s through the ‘60s, although when appropriate, Kupperman shows he can draw in a more modern style as well. The content is absurd, although not in the Silver Age way — these are knowing absurdities, presented with a wink at the reader and often with a few obscenities mixed in. It’s hard to say why these jokes are funny, other than to point out their outlandish and outrageous nature.

But they are often hilarious: a feature on pornographic coloring books, Prohibition-era sex blimps and sex holes, the world’s worst choose-your-own-adventure story, and the story of Pagus, Jesus’s evil half-brother. The final Twain and Einstein story has ads that look like the junk advertised in ‘70s comics with a humorous twist: a “How to Avoid Being Dominated by Others” ad delivered in a bullying voice, “Learn to Pick Pockets for Fun and Profit,” “Learn How to Dance” (cowboys will shoot at your feet), and a floor safe that looks and smells like a pile of feces.

No, none of it makes any sense. But that’s part of the charm. It’s certainly unpredictable.

Tales Designed to Thrizzle doesn’t come out that often — by my estimates, an issue is released about once per year — so it may be a while before another collection comes out. But I’ll be waiting — well, probably I’ll try to pick up the individual issues, because no one’s that patient. But I’ll buy the collection when it comes out too.

Rating: Pagus, half brother of Jesus Pagus, half brother of Jesus Pagus, half brother of Jesus Pagus, half brother of Jesus Half Pagus! (4.5 of 5)

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