Tales from the Crypt #8: Diary of a Stinky Dead Kid

Posted by on September 3rd, 2010 at 12:01 AM

 

 

Tales from the Crypt #8: Diary of a Stinky Dead Kid
Stefan Petrucha (writer) and Rick Parker (artist)
Other features by writers Maia Kinney-Petrucha and John Lansdale and artists Miran Kim, James Romberger and Marguerite Van Cook
Papercutz; 96 pp.; $12.95
B&W and color hardcover
ISBN: 9781597071642

If you are a cynical satirist seeking to exploit current pop cult fads these days, you will probably produce something that has zombies and a wimpy pre-adolescent kid in it, and you’d draw it in a painfully simple style as if you were the self-same wimpy pre-adolescent. But you don’t need to be cynical to turn in such a performance: You can be simply, outrageously, satirical. Like cartoonist Rick Parker, writer Stefan Petrucha and Papercutz Editor in Chief Jim Salicrup, who turned the 8th issue of Tales from the Crypt into a parody with Diary of a Stinky Dead Kid.

Petrucha’s “diary” is, er, a dead-on tonal echo of Jeff Kinney’s wimpy prose, but Parker, who rang up his 15 minutes doing Beavis and Butthead, draws a few lightyears better than Kinney, who freely confesses that his sub-standard drawing ability is what led him away from such a respectable career in comics as political cartooning to his present vocation as a blockbuster book author. In marked contrast, Parker has cartoonist in his blood: his pictures often complete the gag that Petrucha’s words set up — just as good cartooning should. (Kinney’s scrawling, on the other hand, while sometimes extending the meaning of the verbiage, too often merely illustrates his text without adding anything more than juvenile atmospherics to the performance.)

Parker, interviewed by Peter Gutierrez at the New York Times, confessed that drawing ersatz Kinney was “a bit of a stretch” for him: “People think that it’s a simple cartoon style and easy to do, but nothing could be farther from the truth. One of the hardest things for an artist to do is mimic someone else’s style.”

“The comedic and the macabre might seem like a counterintuitive mixture,” Gutierrez wrote, “but not if one considers popular films such as Shaun of the Dead and the recent Zombieland. Said Parker: “If you show somebody getting his head chopped off and you do a literal drawing, it’s going to gross people out, and they’re going to go ‘Ewww!’ But if you do it in a funny way, you can get away with a lot of things. If you keep humor in your work you can actually tackle subjects that otherwise might turn people off.”

The first of the two Stinky Dead Kid stories traces the Kid’s transformation from a wimpy kid with a bullying brother into a stinky zombie with body parts falling off; in the second, he achieves some measure of revenge upon his brother. And Richard M. Nixon, a former prez of the U.S., shows up as a demon — in red, which adds a dimension of color to the otherwise monochromic Kinney imitation.

Elsewhere, Parker’s “surreal, oddly lighthearted horror” is on display at rickparkercomics.blogspot.com in his scriptless webcomic Deadboy. “I just make it up as I go along,” he told Gutierrez. “I look at the material I did on the previous days and try to think, ‘Well, what would happen next?’ Eliminating the need for a script — there’s a certain freedom in that. Part of what drives me is not knowing what will happen. I like being the first one who’s surprised by what occurs.” But the results are not completely random. They exhibit what Parker calls the “dream imagery of surrealism” in comics form.

Gutierrez reports that Parker has lately “eschewed surrealism by collaborating with the reigning king of reality-based comics, Harvey Pekar. As one of a handful of artists working on The Pekar Project, Parker has been able to fashion brief, punch-line-centered webcomics that in a sense brings everything full circle: they strike one as the adult, 21st century version of the Sunday comics that Parker’s grandmother read to him as a boy. On first encountering Pekar’s work in the mid-80s, Parker said, ‘I thought, This is great. I didn’t realize people could do comics stories about themselves.’”

But I can’t leave the topic of the Stinky Dead Kid without citing Roger Ebert, who said: “Zombies, as I have noted before (and before and before), make excellent movie creatures because they are smart enough to be dangerous, slow enough to kill and dead enough we need not feel grief.”

To which we might add the wisdom of George Romero, whose Night of the Living Dead in 1968 inaugurated the vampire/zombie craze: “My zombies will never take over the world because I need the humans. The humans are the ones I dislike the most, and they’re where the trouble really lies. The zombies are just [swats at the air] mosquitoes.”

 

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