The New Funny
Kate Beaton's book of cartoons, Hark, a Vagrant
, felt revolutionary
to me, and I can't quite explain why. It was funny, literate, and weird. But there are lots of funny, literate, and weird books; just because Beaton's cartoons were exceptionally funny and more literate than most cartoonists doesn't make them something altogether new. I suppose it's a question of voice: Beaton's sense of humor and comic timing was just unlike everything else on the shelves. She raised my expectations.
A pair of new cartoon collections have managed to match those expectations, and they feel like the logical next step in a post-Beaton cartooning world. Tom Gauld's You're All Just Jealous of My Jetpack is an absurdist, bookish little thing, a full-color collection of simplistic cartoons that pull their inspiration from all around. You'll find puns on Old English words, sight gags, commentary on public art, and jokes about genre fiction (the title is from a cartoon featuring Science Fiction's retort to tut-tutting Proper Literature). These cartoons aren't quite as wild or as funny as Beaton's—as always with comedy, your mileage may vary—but book-lovers will find plenty of neat stuff. (From a list of "Characters Guaranteed to Improve Your Story:" a one-armed pianist, a schoolgirl detective, young Hitler, a talking crab, and a beautiful amnesiac.)
Lisa Hanawalt's My Dirty Dumb Eyes
feels like a cross between Beaton's cartoons and Michael Kupperman's Tales Designed to Thrizzle
, and I mean that as the highest compliment. There are some raunchy cartoons here (one sexual fantasy involving Point Break
is illustrated by tiny little Patrick Swayzes surfing into a wide-open vagina
) and lots of sight gags (dogs wearing hats!). But Hanawalt is less of a gag cartoonist and more of an adventurous diarist. Some of her best pieces are a text-heavy review of Rise of the Planet of the Apes
, or a visit to the Toy Fair conference where the toy industry gathers to talk seriously about the business of toy-making. Works of autobiography (or what I assume to be at least semi-autobiographical; a strip about a horse-headed woman who becomes obsessed with making fingers out of clay is followed by a photograph of a bunch of clay fingers) share the book with a cheerful, full-color sketch of erect penises growing alongside a lovely spray of flowers. It's a punky, sexy, exciting book of cartoons, and the first of what I hope will be a whole shelf's worth of books from a great new talent.