The Book of Grickle by Graham Annable

Posted by on July 1st, 2010 at 12:01 AM

Dark Horse; 200 pp., $17.99; Harcover, B&W; ISBN: 978-1595824301

Grickle is the most overlooked and under-appreciated Graham Annable work.  Alongside his work for Disney, LucasArts and his phenomenally popular YouTube animations, it’s easy to see why his deceptively simple black-and-white comics could be neglected, but with the release of this hardcover collection of the best strips of the last 10  years, that imbalance should be redressed.  Although seemingly effortless, these comics reveal the core of Annable’s talent.

From "The Book of Grickle" by Graham Annable

The comics in The Book of Grickle employ a kind of essential cartooning.  The characters are near-identical ciphers — legs barely more than two noodly lines and bug-eyed, pointy-nosed visages, like fangless Nosferatus.  Not only does this allow Annable to create outlandish expressions and gestures through their putty-like constitution, but also to bait us into identifying with the characters in his stories.  The switch comes when we realize the world that we’ve been sucked into is unrelentingly bleak and amoral — in spite of its innocent façade — and all we can do in response is to laugh.

Grickle is funny, you see.  Really funny.  Even though we know we shouldn’t be laughing at what goes on, that’s part of the illicit pleasure of the book.  When two teenagers throw rocks at a frog, it should be downright horrific, but the expression that Annable draws on the frog’s face — a mixture of contempt and world-weary resignation, which only becomes more deflated with every hit — makes it humorous.  Likewise when a motorist unwittingly runs over a pedestrian, our attention is directed away from the horror of the crime and toward the gleeful obliviousness of the driver.  The payoff for both these strips is framed as a comedic ending, but upon reflection, we realize we are laughing at some horrifically dark material.

From "The Book of Grickle" by Graham Annable

One of the stand-out strips, however, is also one of its most hopeful. In it, a fishing trip is disrupted when one of the two friends that are on it has an epiphany: He has finally found the secret to transcending reality to the next dimension.  This isn’t just a wonderfully absurd slice of humor — the other’s confusion over why his friend would want to leave such a great fishing spot is priceless — it’s also a chance for Annable to really show his powers as a cartoonist.  The transition from the real world to the next dimension is stunning, as he is able to maintain his simplistic style, yet still evoke Dr. Strange-esque visions of the infinite — more Miró than Ditko in this case.  He never lets the experimentation become self-indulgent and, indeed, the strip resolves itself with an ironically droll punch line.

This is what makes Grickle such a great outlet for Annable.  The blank-slate nature of his comic world allows him to do whatever he likes — and he frequently does; playing with form, structure, dialogue and storytelling in inventive ways — guided only by his wicked sense of humor.  No matter where each strip takes us, we always end up with a grin on our faces and, more often than not, stifling a guilty cackle.

From "The Book of Grickle" by Graham Annable

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