Tales Designed to Thrizzle #6 By Michael Kupperman

Posted by on July 13th, 2010 at 12:01 AM

Fantagraphics; 32 pp.; $4.95; Color (ISBN: 9781606994221)

This Journal site has been up and running for some six months now, and even in its open-ended, come-one, come-all, higgledy-piggledy, 24/7 content-mad fury, there are still so many noteworthy comics that go uncelebrated within its electromagnetic confines. So it seems a bit prejudicial and blinkered to be returning to an on-going series to consider only its latest issue when so many other worthies go wanting. That’s especially true as I’ve already rendered a passable precis of the comic (or at least one I could not easily improve upon and what is the Internet about if not ease?) for this site not long ago (“… a sense of humor [that] starts with a susceptible contemporary sensibility driven into survival mode by the open floodgates of mass culture, a modern consciousness threatened by amusement and diversion.” Oh baby, that’s still got it…).

I can’t help it, though. I feel like Steve Martin’s character in the movie The Jerk where he dances for joy at the gas station loudly proclaiming to all within earshot, “The new phone book is here! The new phone book is here!

The new Tales Designed to Thrizzle is here. The new Tales Designed to Thrizzle is here!

The follow-up report is that in issue #6, Michael Kupperman has, to my eye, fashioned the quintessential edition of his title. It’s everything you’ve wanted from thrizzling, given a salubrious goose. Is it still a response to the aforementioned contemporary sensibility besieged by the diversions of mass culture? Check. Does it still confront media amusements through “aggressive accretion, grasping at straws and flotsam and winding up with some very odd however buoyant accumulations?” Check. What about the “cheered-up surrealism … less dark, less troubled, less sexualized, less psychologically freighted” and “dada, but without that movement’s inherent sense of provocation?” Check and check with dancing shoes on.

And that’s the new news here. In every way relevant to a distinctly warped sense of humor, this issue represents a tightening of comedic springs and sweetening of the hurled cream pies. Its funny business appears more consummately distilled, concentrated and unremitting. Every page pays off, ratcheting up the risibility with droll efficiency. There’s synergistic energy, flowing without push, us following without prodding. The first eight pages “Jungle Princess” (“Born to privilege in Fairyland … Raised by animals in the wild”) quite literally does not have a panel that doesn’t add to and raise the level of hilarity, often at oblique angles to the inherent nuttiness of its premise. Likewise, there appears no square inch of comic that hasn’t been professionally tripwired for off-kilter laughs: Wait’ll you see the bargains on “slightly cursed merchandise” in the advertisement for “Ben’s Warehouse of Cursed Savings.”

A large part of this comic’s success lies in Kupperman’s honed sense of comedic timing. At a mechanical level, there’s a fortuitous blend of long and short features where none appears as filler and none runs short of crazed momentum. Writing is unusually fine; it’s unfailingly crisp and purposeful, continually upsetting cognitive and entertainment applecarts. His odd-couple team-up of Mark Twain and Albert Einstein is fleshed out, transcending their loopy incongruities and superficial facial superficialities, to more authoritatively become the sublimely ridiculous action heroes Kupperman intended them to be.

But issue #6 also has something that only the collected Tales Designed to Thrizzle volume has enjoyed so far: As the cover blurb puts it, “Now With Too Much Color.” Armed with full spectrum polychromatic effulgence, Kupperman’s collage-like composition and intentionally awkward renderings more closely resemble their imagined ancestors, tacky olde timey comic books and comic strips. Thanks to color, his assortment of samples of “Modern Wallpaper” patches resemble very little you’ve ever seen before (well, except that Jungle Princess) (and yeah, those sex blimps that return from issue #1).

I ended my prior post on the series’ #5 issue with a remark to the effect that anytime you pick up a new issue of Tales Designed to Thrizzle you’ll have no idea what you’re in for. While I meant that in terms of its imaginatively unconstrained content, it became truer than I realized: There was no way one could predict Kupperman would make so formidable an advance in sharpening his zaniness and refining its delivery with issue #6.

Images ©2010 Michael Kupperman

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