© Michael Kupperman
© DC Comics, Inc.
Humor is a very personal thing: what makes you laugh might leave me cold. I thought I’d review these books together, as they have some similarities, but one made me laugh, one didn’t.
© MIchael Kupperman.
THRIZZLE collects four issues of the Fantagraphics comic, each of which is loosely organized into three themed sections: adults, kids, and old people. There are many repeating features and characters, but most “stories” are one page or less, with just a few running to several pages. The inspiration seems to be comics of various sorts from the 1950s, with other pop culture thrown in here and there. Kupperman’s art shows a love of technique, like the line-engraved look above, but his figures and faces are stiff and often look copied (don’t know that they are, but that’s my impression). He seems attracted to the old ads and filler pieces from the comics more than the main features, though there are references and parodies of some characters like Captain Marvel. Mostly, though, he looks for humor in the juxtaposition of things and ideas that don’t really go well together. In the page above, for instance, we have Shakespeare with the dialogue of a TV weatherman, and comments by an editor as well. The editor’s comments are mildly amusing, the rest doesn’t do much for me. And that’s about how I felt throughout. Moments of mild amusement, then pages that didn’t work for me. Kupperman’s personal obsessions and interests come through, but don’t resonate for me, and I get the feeling that he thinks most of the things he’s parodying are stupid to begin with. There’s a fair amount of strong language and bathroom humor, and in some places that was mildly funny in context, but if that’s where you need to go to get a laugh, it says something about the rest of the effort.
© DC Comics, Inc.
AMBUSH BUG also has lots of comics parody and in-jokes, plus other pop culture references, like the private eye in the above sequence. This final issue is something of an oddity already, being a replacement of sorts for the original final issue of this series, which was shelved by DC for reasons that have not been made clear. That’s the joke on the cover of this one, in fact, and editor-in-chief Dan Didio comes in for lots of ribbing here, too, so if he’s the one who pulled the missing issue, one has to wonder why. Ambush Bug, the character, is a nebbishy outsider trying to fit into the DC universe and failing in every way, especially ones that are funny. There is a story here, but it’s pretty weak, the fun is all in the journey from one parody to the next, with plenty of snide comments on DC characters, staff and policies. But where it differs essentially from THRIZZLE is that writers Giffen and Fleming are comics fans themselves, have a good ear for dialogue, and know how to tell a story. At some level they love the source material and medium, and it shows. Giffen clearly did layouts for the art, and full art on some pages, but much is instead by Baltazar and Franco, as in the example above, who give it a more TV cartoon feel. Still works for me. If you’re not a DC comics reader at all, this book would probably leave you as flat as THRIZZLE did me, but I still think Giffen and Fleming’s comic writing and timing is much better. As I began, humor is personal, though, so your opinion might be quite different. For me, THRIZZLE fails, but AMBUSH BUG is funny and entertaining, and recommended.