Monday, August 4, 2014

August Book-A-Day #4: GAHAN WILSON SUNDAY COMICS, 5-star hilarity


$29.99 hardcover, available now

Rating: however many stars there are

The Publisher Says: Gahan Wilson is probably best known for his macabre Playboy cartoons, filled with charming monsters, goofy mad scientists, and melting victims, and his cutting-edge work in the National Lampoon, but he’s also one of the most versatile cartoonists alive whose work has appeared in a wide range of media venues. Gahan Wilson Sunday Comics is Wilson’s assault from within: His little-known syndicated strip that appeared in America’s newspapers between 1974 an 1976. Readers must have been startled to find Wilson’s freaks, geeks, and weirdos nestled among family, funny-animal, and soap opera offerings. (The term “zombie strip” — a strip that has long outlived its original creator — takes on a whole new meaning in Wilson’s hands.)

While each strip, at first glance, appears to be a standard, color Sunday strip (albeit without panel borders), each Sunday Comic is a collection of one-panel gag cartoons, delineated in Wilson’s brilliantly controlled wiggly-but-sophisticated pen line. The last gag cartoon on each Sunday is part of a recurring series, either “Future Funnies” or “The Creep.” Some Sundays are a freewheeling mélange of board meetings, monsters, and cavemen (with cameos by Wilson’s Kid character from Nuts, his gimlet-eyed view of childhood, collected last year by Fantagraphics), while others riff on a topic or subject (clocks, plants, wallpaper, etc.). As is his wont, Wilson mines the blackest of black comedy in the banal horror of human nature. Gahan Wilson Sunday Comics collects, for the first time, each and every one of these strips, luxuriating across a 12” x 6” landscape format, with Fantagraphics’ trademark high production values, innovative design, and succinct historical commentary.

My Review: The UK Book-A-Day meme, a book a day for August 2014, is the goad I'm using to get through my snit-based unwritten SF-book reviews. Today's prompt, the fourth, is meant to be about a favorite comic book. I mean, oh goodness me, I mean "graphic novel." *snort* That's like asking me who my favorite female porn star is. So instead here I am with this magically delicious collection of forty-year-old hilarity. Wilson's art is a perfect accompaniment to his very darkly twisted humor. I adore it.

What else need be said? It's Gahan Wilson, and it's either your kind of thing or it's not. It's very much my kind of thing.

I feel like these sofa-sitters about most of modern life. I don't get it. I feel like I have sixteen thumbs, mostly on my feet, and color-sensing seismographs instead of ears, in the rap-infested, reality-show-obsessed, Fox-as-news world I'm in. I don't fit, and I don't want to.

Goodness knows, there is no reason to assume it ever will, at least for very long. I keep slugging. Books like this, humor from 40 years ago, show me that there is in fact nothing new under the sun. Some people have always felt, as I do, that the world makes no sense, that up is in fact down, and the best we can do is cope.

I paint what I see.


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