Saturday, March 12, 2011

Word, Peng #1

By James 'Couk' Downing

I remember back when I was in high school and university I would read Exclaim! every month. It was a free, monthly, newsprint magazine about music and other stuff. I'm probably more into music now than I was back then (listening to Radio 6 everyday exposes me to new music, fancy that!) but the two things I remember about it was that my university radio station was too crap to send in lists of what the most popular songs being played were and Marc Bell's bizarre comic strip Shrimy and Paul. It was a strange comic that I can't really describe very well (especially since I haven't read it in like eight years), and while there doesn't seem to be much of it online, you can take a look at a couple of pages here.

Okay, so why spend so much time talking about Canadian music magazines and Marc Bell? Because at times the short comics in Word, Peng really reminded me of Shrimpy and Paul both in the style in which it was drawn and the type of humour it used. (The art also reminds me of someone else, but I can't remember who, so we'll just forget about that.)

Downing has drawn a number of different comics in here, ranging from just a few panels up to several pages. The comic strips frequently suffer from overly sketchy art and while the shorter pieces can be funny (I especially enjoyed all the ads for fake products) my favourites in here are the incredibly surreal, and more nicely drawn, ones that Downing has clearly spent more time on. These feature some sort of weird flying worm, the adventures of Three-Head (see below), a fill-in-the-blanks comic that becomes increasingly nonsensical as more and more is left to the reader's imagination, and one with a giant evil robot yeti that starts off as normal as something like that can be but by the end has become somewhat unsettling.

These longer comics share a surreal sense of humour and stories in which you have no idea what will happen yet. Bizarre things occur, and while you may at first find them funny, when given more thought they somehow seem almost tragic. Now if only all of these comics in here had more of that and less of characters shitting everywhere.

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