Saturation: Tales Designed To Thrizzle #6

Posted by on July 17th, 2010 at 5:33 AM

Rob reviews Michael Kupperman’s TALES DESIGNED TO THRIZZLE #6 (Fantagraphics).

Random thoughts on the latest burst of craziness from Michael Kupperman:

1. Going to full color has altered the character of Kupperman’s work, though it is no less intense.  One of the qualities of his comics that gives them their greatest impact is how they are simply an unrelenting visual and textual assault on the senses (and sensibilities!).  Earlier in his career, he achieved this effect through the sheer density of his crosshatching.  It gave a weight to his ridiculous gags that pulled the reader down into the panel, preventing them from simply racing from gag to gag.  Of course, that approach was incredibly labor-intensive, and not just for him.  Indeed, while Kupperman’s first collection of comics, SNAKE ‘N BACON’S CARTOON CABARET, was one of the best books of the last decade, it was also an exhausting reading experience.

His use of color grounds his work now in a similar, but slightly less exhausting manner.  Color is his new crosshatching as a device with which to club the reader over the head.  It’s also consistent with the way he’s always made comics in that its use evokes older (and weird comics).  Instead of bringing to mind old black & white stories and advertisements, the color THRIZZLE now mines the endless well of cheap, awful color comics.  The color scheme is so heavily into the CMYK scheme of old four-color comics, and employed so luridly, that the reader is once again forced to dig into each panel slowly.

2. This approach also allows Kupperman to dig into the sort of parodies he avoided before.  He dips into the scatological well with “Willie Wealth”, a Richie Rich spoof centering around the old idea of Richie and his family eating their wealth, only to have it painfully brought home to them that it would only cause intestinal blockage.  This is pretty clearly a strip where Kupperman came up with a conceptual punchline first and worked backwards to create the parody.

3. Kupperman can jab you with a quick joke like a fake ad or a cover for an old comic called “Cowboy Oscar Wilde”, or he can wrestle you into submission with a shaggy dog joke.  “All About Drainage” reminds me a bit of his old story “Have You Ever Tasted Adventure In Your Own Bathtub” in that it goes on and on about a relentlessly dull subject (toilet training or drainage) and builds an elaborate structure on top of it.  Along the way, he throws in non sequitur after non sequitur (like the King of England needing drainage for his beard when it got full of soup).  The Twain & Einstein stories also fit in this category, as Kupperman has long gone beyond their initial one-joke premise (they’re drawn almost exactly alike) and into bizarre territory like being the stars of a Tony Scott action-epic not unlike ARMAGEDDON.

4. The best feature in the issue was the latest “Jungle Princess” adventure, which combined the usual jungle girl mayhem with the sort of action one would see in a 1950s romance comic.  Indeed, Kupperman played up Jungle Princess’s pouty, full lips (complete with bright red lipstick) like an Al Hartley-illustrated issue of PATSY WALKER.  Throwing in the absurd fashion magazine sequences and revealing that this was the true source of villainy were twin strokes of genius.  With these subtle changes, Kupperman has managed to keep the top humor periodical fresh.

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