Thursday, February 3, 2011

1,200 New Planets Discovered, And A Blog

1.200 Neue Planeten Entdeckt, Und Ein Blog:
Spaß Für Dich!

Header: Brosh's Grammatical Creature; Dog; Bear; Self-Portrait;
Rainbow; And Sun, Who Knows Better (©Allie Brosh, 2009-2011)

As a drawing and painting Dog who enjoys Teh Funny, occasionally I stumble across someone else's work that makes me laugh my guts out. Hyperbole And A Half easily meets that definition. It's creator, Allie Brosh, describes it as "not really a web comic, but it isn't really a blog either. Basically, it has lots of pictures and words and it really tries hard to be funny."

Really really; she succeeded. Plus, about a bazillion people make comments on the art-and-text posts; Brosh has 177,000 "I Like This!" adds on her Facebook page, and as a Blogspot blogger has 48,842 Followers. I shit you not.

To provide context as to what this means on the relative Facebook scale of things, Salon online magazine has some 46,000 Followers. I have four. I am, uh, ambivalent about this.

However, my murderous jealousy aside, Brosh has done something really, really well -- simple drawings that are easily as fine in their own way as the early work of (genuflect, please) Chris Ware, and in particular his "Potato Guy" -- a character simply drawn but very rich, living in a world that feels like a collaboration between Samuel Beckett, Pee-Wee Hermann, and The Spirits Of The Overlook Hotel from "The Shining" (Images below ©Chris Ware, 1987-1989?).

Potato Guy Loses Banana: Early Torment Of The Guy (1988)

Ware's Classic 'Waking Up Blind' Bit, Wherein Potato Guy
Is Tormented By An All Powerful God (Ware), Again (1987)
[P.S. -- Check out the greyscale sky in the first panel:
Created in the Era Of 'Letraset', Man; Classic!]

Ware created Potato Guy during his art school period; you can see numerous variations on the Guy in Ware's The Acme Novelty Book, Volumes 1, 2 and 3 [You can find them here at Fantagraphics, one of the last bastions of publishing art for art's sake]. Essentially, the Guy (occasionally joined by the Guy's Dog) was Ware's Everyperson, and his world was The Human Condition: A little alienated; moderately befuddled by Teh Strangeness; and generally screwed with by the process of existence: You know the drill, buddy.

Potato Guy, Regular Guy: Childhood, Remembered (Date Unknown)

In 1990, Ware published a four-page entry in Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly's RAW magazine (Vol. 2, No. 2), "Waking Up Blind" -- a standard torment by Ware of his little character. I actually drew a counter-cartoon of the Guy, wherein he gets eyes and things work out for him; I had never done that in response to any artist's work, before or since.

I laughed and cried, grumblingly forgave Ware, and never stopped wanting to see more of his artwork. Over time, he developed an amazing graphic style that (no pun intended) draws on typefaces and design elements from before the turn of the last century; it's as if Charles Burns were doing comics in the early 1900's.

NOTE: Ware Drew Corrigan Before Family Guy's Stewie Appeared

I kind of fell off the back of the Ware Wagon when he went on to do his extended, and terrific, Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid On Earth. I fell behind in reading his work, and by now Ware's published so much good material that I'd have to make the commitment in Time and Cash in order to catch up. Without doubt, he's among the best American comic artists of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

And, as an Art Dog, I'm drawn to his (albeit heavily edited and 'packaged') sketchbooks of art school and later doodlings [Acme Novelty Books, volumes 2 and 3]. You can see hints of his future style developing, but the early work was more unvarnished and experimental -- one reason I was attracted to Brosh's material.

Brosh's Benny, With Mutants Neighborhood Kids, Playing A
Birthday Party Game, "Wolf Pack" (©Allie Brosh, 2009-2011)

Hyperbole And A Half is as good as Ware at his Potato Guy best, but doesn't have remote, unnamed characters being fucked with by a remote, impersonal Universe: The character whom things happen to is Brosh, for the most part -- and her take on life and events is often Teh Strange. If you think about it for even five minutes, the tension between The World As Experienced and the World We Expect Or Hope For is what powers the engine of most Art that is capable of moving you. And in vignettes from her own life, Brosh taps that energy.

And, her writing is good; it makes me laugh. If Comic timing can be an element in any short story or blog post (and it can), Brosh has it.

Allie Brosh will tell you She Will Never Be An Adult; that Her (Rescued) Dog Is Retarded; shows us a Lord Of The Files Birthday Party; and offers a more accurate version of the hospital Which-Picture-Shows-How-Much-Pain-You-Feel?

"Internet Foerver!": Brosh's Self-Portrait As Responsible Artist
(©Allie Brosh, 2009-2011)

Or, This One: Brought To You By Livebolgging On Six Miniature
Bottles Of Rum, And A Pony (©Allie Brosh, 2009-2011)

Share How You Feel: Brosh's New Hospital Pain Scale
(©Allie Brosh, 2009-2011)

What's also attractive, for me -- beyond the expressive, simple drawings (all of them done, not with a Wacom tablet, but with what appears to be MS Paint, using a mouse), are crazy little extras -- like the Awesome Button (What is it? What does it do? Where does it take you? Wherever it is, it will be awesome. And sometimes it changes. But it will always be awesome).

The Awesome Button: Was It Awesome? It Was Awesome, Dude

It's not too tough to get a Dog to laugh, but we have teensy Attention Deficit issues when exposed to multiple sensory stimulus (Things That Make Us Laugh vs. Food, or Fast-Moving Objects, or Other Dogs). I believe that Brosh, in dealing with the 'Challenged' Dog and the 'Helper' Dog she and her Significant Other own, understands this in an experiential way: Something has to be very good to capture our attention consistently enough for an extended laugh. Go look at this to get an idea of what I mean: It's a belief in the existence of Dog.

All things being equal, finding Hyperbole is possibly the most important thing to happen all day.

Infringers, Pay Attention: This Is Under Your Bed, Right Now
(©Allie Brosh, 2009-2011)

Oh; yeah -- and, some satellite detected what appear to be 1,200 planets in the general stellar "neighborhood"; yeah yeah, so pleased. Whatever. Tell them to pick up after themselves.

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