Saturday, August 23, 2008

Friday Night in Williamsburg: Michael Kupperman & "Tales Designed to Thrizzle" at Desert Island Comics

Last evening we went over to Desert Island, our favorite neighborhood comic book store just a hop, skip and jump from Dumbo Books HQ in Williamsburg to see Michael Kupperman and get a signed copy of his latest Tales Designed to Thrizzle. Issue #4 is every bit as good as all of Kupperman's other work in its straight-faced bizarro absurdity and certainly fulfills its claim to be "designed to get your family through its entire day" - unless, of course, your family lives on either Mercury or Venus, in which case you will probably want to purchase the artist's entire oeuvre.

We first discovered Kupperman years ago in the pages of The Believer, where his "Four Color Comics" was a welcome relief from the snark-free literary essays and reviews.

Not that Kupperman isn't literary. He's illustrated a number of projects for our friends at McSweeney's and is well-known for his work on Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events books.

Being both superannuated and pretentious, though, we're most impressed with his illustrations for Stepmother, a book by the master of metafiction, the legendary Robert Coover (with whom we were once honored to be in an anthology, Statements 2).

If you want a good introduction to Kupperman's work, select his lavish Snake 'n' Bacon's Cartoon Cabaret, featuring not only the eponymous film duo but also. . . oh, hell, we'll just cut and paste the Booklist review:
With a tip of the hat to visual punster Glen Baxter, Kupperman lampoons the absurdities of genre fiction, from the Hardy Boys to time-travel fantasies, and of TV series, from Bewitched to Biography. The stars of his mad cavalcade are Snake 'n' Bacon, a, er . . . , snake and a strip of bacon who have been movie stars since the 1930s. They turn up more often than any of Kupperman's other characters in this seeming graphic novel that has plenty of plots but far more recurrence than coherence. For instance, Pablo Picasso shows up several times, always irascible, always threatening to break some imagined antagonist into cubes, always speaking in a Chico Marx "Eye-talian" accent. Other repeaters include Cousin Grampa, Long John Silver, Tottie Tinkles, Roger Daltry, Mark Twain, and the Underpants-on-His-Head Man (a costumed crime fighter). Kupperman's figures resemble Baxter's stiff manikins, and his backdrops morph from realism to abstraction with the speed of those in George Herriman's Krazy Kat. Kupperman bears the banner of absurdist comix humor quixotically forward into the next millennium.

It is probably the only book of comics that made us laugh on at least ten separate pages. And trust us, we're so old and grumpy we're running for John McCain's old House seat in the September 2 Arizona Republican primary.

If only we could get Michael Kupperman to do our campaign posters. . . Well, having the new Tales Designed to Thrizzle is pleasure enough for now. We know a Desert Island where you can get the same fun.

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