Comics: the Funny Papers
This Friday is Red Nose Day in the UK, when the Comic Relief charity, helped by thousands up and down the land, raise funds for some very worthwhile charities at home and abroad. There’s something delightfully British about raising money for charity by doing very silly things and wearing red noses. And yes, we know Comic Relief is the ‘other’ sort of comic (as in comedian) but it seemed to us to be a good excuse to get into the comedic spirit of the day and combine it with our love of comics, so we asked some of our friends to pick a favourite humorous comic work – could be a single panel gag cartoon, a strip or a series – to share on here, just for a little fun:
Comics creator, ace kid’s book illustrator & hat-wearing champion Sarah McIntyre: I love Stephen Collins‘ strip in the Guardian Weekend! ‘The Beyoncé Train’ made me howl, and the recent ‘Exit Ian‘ strip was spot on: a guy dies and has to walk through a gift shop full of crappy merchandise all featuring him. It reminds me of my first family trip to Scotland when I was 12, when my sister and I would want to buy something naff from every inescapable gift shop at the end of every tourist visit. It was totally killing my parents. I think I still have the Sterling Castle postage-size notebook somewhere.
‘Exit Ian’ is also a bit of a poke at all the stuff creative people have to do to market ourselves; these things can take up the bulk of our time, but it would be silly to imagine much of that has any lasting value. And, of course, YOU the reader love to think of people mashing their fingers into a stress ball designed like YOUR FACE. Squish squash. There’s a great new interview with Stephen by Dan Berry here.
Geek heart worn on his geek sleeve, it’s Geek Native‘s Andrew Girwood: If you’re looking for an unexpected giggle then check out Black Ghost Apple Factory. It’s a collection of strange, sometimes silly, sometimes sombre, sometimes adult, mini-comics from Jeremy Tinder. This quirky reflection on the human condition, often told through left-field characters, will make you snort your tea.
Tharg’s PR droid, the fine chap who shouts the glories of 2000 AD to all and sundry, Mike Molcher: Zombo by Al Ewing and Henry Flint is without doubt one of the funniest, silliest things 2000 AD has ever published. The fact that it also comes with a black razor’s edge of satire and visceral horror only makes it even better. The ‘apples’ line in book two made me laugh on public transport, which shows how good comedy can overcome a lifetime of crippling social inadequacy.
Bestselling science fiction and YA author and regular comics reader and reviewer, James Lovegrove: Howard The Duck still never fails to make me chuckle. The specific targets of Steve Gerber’s satire may be outdated, belonging to a bygone era, but the comic’s general tenor of despair at the wicked, wayward ways of us “hairless apes” is universal and eternal. A wisequacking, cigar-chomping mallard for a hero? A bad guy with a bell for a head, called Dr Bong? What’s not to like?
Comics creator, busy ‘blinding us with science (illustrations)’ and new dad, Edward Ross: “Here’s something that made me laugh a lot recently: Sister BFF’s Boxset Party by Philippa Rice. This two page comic, from issue 1 of the excellent Bimba anthology, just cracks me up. It’s the perfect mix of sweetness and mild crudeness. Nice to see that I’m not the only one who overdoses on boxsets .”
Writer, editor at FutureQuake Press, Hi-Ex co-founder and President of the Highlands & Islands Pony Tails For Men Society, Richmond Clements: Favourite funny strip? It’s a tougher one than I first thought! Dredd has had some wonderfully funny moments over the years, ranging from full on slapstick to the darkest of dark. And it is in the dark I find my choice. Not from Dredd though, but from the pages of that other British comic institution: Viz.
The Drunken Bakers. These strips are, on pretty much every single level, not funny at all. We’re having a look into the lives of some terribly damaged, lonely men who have no regard for themselves, their families or anyone else. Who are only concerned with their next drink…but …but… man they make me laugh so very much!
Our very own reviewing king, kid’s comic library creator, exiler of people to the Desert Island of Comics, and lifetime subscriber to Gin Monthly, Richard Bruton: DR & Quinch by Alan Moore and Alan Davis, published by Fleetway, Rebellion, or whomever they were back then.
Alans Moore & Davis’ ridiculous creations, alien juvie delinquents who have far too much free time and definitely far too much free access to weapons of massive destruction, are just magnificently, stupidly funny. But of course, given their creators, there’s a lot of great writing and lovely art in all of that stupidly funny stuff.
An absolute favourite from the book has to be the tale D.R & Quinch Go To Hollywood, where the pair have the good fortune to stumble onto the last script from a famous Hollywood writer… well, stumble onto it isn’t quite right, more steal from his dead body, but you get the idea. Off they go, dressing the part, bigshot Hollywood producers in town to make the mother of all movies, scamming the so eager to be scammed leading lights of the movie biz. Problem is, the writer was a notoriously bad writer, and the rumour was that no-one could read his notes until he’d typed them out. And in their haste to make it big neither Waldo D.R. Dobbs (the ‘D.R.’ stands for ‘Diminished Responsibility’) and his big and none- too-bright friend Ernest Quinch forgot to check…..
This gets it purely because there are three lines that seem to regularly burst forth into my brain…. (and the last one of these isn’t even in the story, it’s the next issue box….
“Mind the oranges Marlon!”
“But the third word is probably oranges”
“Something something oranges something”
The setups for the gags are what make them funny of course, but the fact that just those lines can bring a smile to my face on the darkest of days is what makes the book, and especially that one story so special.
The most-read Belgian since Hercule Poirot, our own longtime European Correspondent, Wim Lockefeer: I would like to nominate In This Corner by David Steinlicht. I love how it’s always light-hearted, never offensive, but also never bland. It also has that rare quality of a topical cartoon that doesn’t lose its validity once the news of the day has moved on.
One of our favourite Brit comics creators (when he’s not busy on his dark, unmentionable experiments in a darkened lab), Douglas Noble: Charlie Chaplin once remarked that life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot. In the work of Jerry Moriarty we can see both at once, a delicate balance of groans and guffaws, of laughs and sobs. At least, it makes me laugh, and that’s really what I ask for in comedy. Jack Survives is a desperate giggle in the face of an incomprehensible world, and that’s the way I like it.
Huge comics fan and rising faster than a speeding bullet star of the science fiction world, Adam Christopher: As well as being fanatical about the traditional comics format, I’m also a fan of a couple of newspaper strips – in particular, Bloom County by Berkeley Breathed. This strip ran from 1980 to 1989, and starred one Milo Bloom, a 10-year-old newspaper reporter. The strip mixed politics and culture, and even won Breathed the Pulitzer Prize in editorial cartooning.
Not bad for a strip which features a talking penguin called Opus.
There’s also a touch of geekery in the strip. Cutter John is a wheelchair-bound Vietnam veteran with a penchant for Star Trek, and several strips have him careening around town in his chair, issuing commands such as “Warp factor ten, Mr Sulu” to hapless passengers Opus or Portnoy, a talking groundhog.
Talking animals are a bit of thing in Bloom County. There’s also a cat who says “Ack” an awful lot.
The humour is subtle, but Cutter John’s adventures at warp factor ten are my favourite comic funny.
Our own globe-trotting, award-winning, occasional top-hat-wearing Irishman, James Bacon: Calvin and Hobbs, Opus and his gang, Snoopy and Charles, all are comics I love, but right now, when I want a laugh, I go to Unconventional.
It is a web comic that tells the stories of a group of Convention runners and their convention Borkcon. It could be any type of convention – it is actually anime, but I find that I can replace that with Science Fiction, Horror, Comics, or any other type of con I go to regularly, and for me it is so horribly real, in that sickeningly funny way. Shining a light onto a hobby that often undarkens some of the odder moments that all fans can have when involved in con running.
I love it.
It also has one of the most amazing sequences, one entitled ‘Why I hate November’ which moves away from the con running for a moment, and looks at one of the characters. It is very deep and also rather brilliant, and unexpectedly serious.
While it is ostensibly a simple three panel cartoon, it just makes me laugh as they feel so real to my own experiences. Trae Dorn does a real good job on this comic.
As for my own choice, well it’s been pretty hard to pick just one – like a lot of readers who grew up in the 70s I was raised on a weekly diet of British comics, most of them humorous, the Beano, Topper, Beezer and more, and have fond memories of them, and like Richmond and Richard above I considered some classic 2000 AD (Dredd has always balanced violent, grim storylines with some great humour and the comic has boasted other comedic greats like DR & Quinch, Dash Decent and the Walter the Wobot strip), some timeless strips like Peanuts or Calvin and Hobbes (and like Adam Christopher I have a soft spot for Bloom County – some of the humour is of its time, but just one look at Bill the Cat’s expression still reduces me to fits of laughter), and there’s contemporary works that have had me giggling away (never a hard job, to be honest, I have an over-developed sense of humour nodule in my brain) such as Charlie Parker, Handyman or Hipster Hitler or Cherubs.
But since I was reading the end of the latest chapter of it this week I’ve decided to select Jamie Smart’s Corporate Skull. I’ve blogged about his brilliant webcomic numerous times on here over the the last couple of years. Like most of the best comedic comics Skull is much more than a series of gag – although there are plenty of those – as it offers up an increasingly complicated and interesting narrative and characters, with some of the humour coming from the situations in addition to the gags, and there is also an enormous helping of something to which I am especially fond of (and for this I blame Spike Milligan, Leo Baxendale’s works, Monty Python and the Goodies, bless them all for warping my young brain at an impressionable age) – and that is The Absurd. A recent example being Skull and friend having to fight through a city overrun with undead, breaking into a sex shop during their escape and grabbing a selection of marital aids to beat the undead to a pulp with. Utterly, gloriously Absurd and bonkers. God, I love that…
FPI would like to thank everyone who took part and also wish best of luck to all who are doing something for Red Nose Day; you can make donations to the charity via their page here.