Bound & Gagged
Andrice Arp, Marc Bell, Elijah J. Brubaker, Shawn Cheng, Chris C. Cilla, Michael DeForge, Kim Deitch, J. T. Dockery, Theo Ellsworth, Austin English, Eamon Espey, Robert Goodin, Julia Gfrorer, Levon Jihanian, Juliacks, Kaz, David King, Tom Neely, Anders Nilsen, Scot Nobles, Jason Overby, John Porcellino, Jesse Reklaw, Tim Root, Zak Sally, Gabby Schulz, Josh Simmons, Ryan Standfest, Kaz Strzepek, Matthew Thurber, Noah Van Sciver, Dylan Williams, Chris Wright, writers/artists
Tom Neely, editor
I Will Destroy You, September 2010
“What happens when you ask a bunch of cartoonists, artists, and assorted weirdos to do one panel gag comics? Comedy! Horror! Navel gazing! Abstraction! And more!!!” So reads the back cover of this collection of gag comics by a galaxy of alt/underground comix stars, and it’s pretty accurate as far as it goes. And as anyone familiar with the history of altcomix one-panel gags from Ivan Brunetti on down, the horror, comedy, and navel gazing can get pretty inextricable from one another. As such it’s the cartoons that make me say “Jeeeeeez” as well as “hahahaha” that click the hardest for me here. Josh Simmons takes top honors, as he is wont to do, with a drawing of burning, skinned cattle corpses floating down a river to a caption that reads “Uncle Daddy’s home.” The piece distills into a single panel the near-psychotic level of horror and rage that has absolutely seethed from Simmons’s every work for the past several years. Though nothing else really comes close to that level of nihilistic uncomedy, there’s something almost as soul-damaging in Tim Root’s lushly colored, presumably drawn-from-life portrait of an old woman in line in front of him at a convenience store whose wig has become infested with ants. Austin English hands in a page darkened with pencil to the point of near illegibility, accompanied by an incongruously sunny “Hello!” Perhaps the single most indelible image in the whole collection is Levon Jihanian’s reappropriation of the little girl from The Family Circus, here rendered as a mercilessly crosshatched shadow-person with white voids for eyes and bearing the legend “There is only one road that does not lead to death; and that is the road to hell.” I know, this thing’s a laff riot!
Actually, I laughed at all of those cartoons. The rest? Oh, you know, it’s a mixed bag, as you’d expect from anything with that many contributors. Tom Neely and Anders Nilsen’s contributions are poetic in gorgeous in the respectively lush and minimal way that Neel and Nilsen cartoons are poetic and gorgeous generally, but none are really gag comics. Andrice Arp gets a few yuks out of incongruous scenes drawn from her dreams, Julia Gforer at the expense of Wolverine, Marc Bell by doing his usual warped children’s television aesthetic thing, Theo Ellsworth by actually writing actual jokes that dovetail with his hyperdetailed cartooning, Kaz Strzepek by cracking a couple of mildly off-color jokes about fantasy creatures of the sort you might find on a D&D website, Eamon Espey by creating a Boschian tableau of defecating, murdering demons captioned with the phrase “Time to make the donuts.” The rest I suppose I could take or leave. It’s an exercise, geared more to the participants than the audience.