Snake ‘n’ Bacon’s Cartoon Cabaret
Michael Kupperman, writer/artist
Harper Entertainment, 2000
Hmm, what’s my “in” here? I could start by saying that Kupperman is a kindred spirit to Terry Gilliam: Gilliam’s animation work for Monty Python repurposed the imagery of Victorian and Edwardian England for surrealist humor and sexual satire, while Kupperman similarly works with visuals from the pulp and adventure publications of pre- and post-War America for surrealist humor (again) and riffs on the absurdity and violence of that culture. I could also say that he draws everything much, much better than he needs to–it’s like if Charles Burns did a book full of super-dense gag strips. I could point out that unlike most of the funnies, these comics truly work as comics, with visuals and text constantly trading off in terms of what’s doing the heavy lifting in getting the jokes across. I could elaborate by saying he’ll go both elaborate and direct with both components–for example, the visual gag at the heart of “Dead End Alley” is unanticipatable and complex, while the punchline panel of “The Cowboy in the Dinner Roll” is exactly what you think it’s gonna be and hammers the laff home with the subtlety of Mjolnir; meanwhile, you get text-heavy pieces like “Murder Makes My Head Hurt” and “From ‘Lives of the Cartoonists’” that take a full page to unspool and reach their pinnacle, but you also get instant-crackup juxtapositions like “Swamp Blanket Bingo,” “Sex Blimps,” “Sherlockules,” and “I Am a Gamera.” I could say that the work he’s doing in Tales Designed to Thrizzle, despite simply being a continuation of everything you’re seeing here, is better overall, but somehow that only makes this book more fun as it becomes rewarding to see how he refines his approach and execution in the later books. But I think I’ll call Michael Kupperman a comic (and comics) genius and leave it at that.