guttergeek the discontinuous review of graphic narrative

July 2009

Michael Kupperman,
Tales Designed to Thrizzle, Volume 1 (Fantagraphics, 2009). $24.99, hardcover. Tales Designed to Thrizzle #5. $4.50.

By Jared Gardner

Michael Kupperman has defeated me once again! I set out to convince the world that he was overrated, not nearly as funny and talented as he thinks he is. I set out to prove that the wacky ideas in my head—“Badger and Egg cream!” “Ex-lax and Sandpaper!”—were even funnier than the crazy team-ups he comes up with for each issue of Tales Designed to Thrizzle: Snake & Bacon; Twain & Einstein; Sherlock Holmes & Jungle Boy. But, no, it was not to be. I am fated to be Salieri to Kupperman’s Mozart, Twain to his Einstein. In truth, I never had a chance from issue one when Picasso’s life was narrated by a hamburger, Kupperman has been dazzling all who love a good story narrated by fast food, and all who love a good twist at the end of their story (SPOILER ALERT: in the end, the whole story of Picasso and the Hamburger turns out to have been narrated by a fried fish sandwich). I give up: as the first Tales book, bringing together issues #1-4, makes abundantly clear, Kupperman is brilliantly funny and maddeningly brilliant.

For an old timey comics fan like myself, there is also on display throughout Tales Designed to Thrizzle wonderful homages to the pulps, ephemera and pop culture of years gone by. Kupperman can put on any style, both visually and verbally, and one can’t help but wish we really could read whole issues of the classic comic books he gestures to throughout his pages—Mentally Ill Gangsters, The Rotating Professor, Johnny Jett & the Fat Russian with the Creamy Italian—or buy some of the many wondrous products he advertises—4-Playo, Apiary Hat, Baby Poop’n’Tell.

In fact, this is why you should avoid this book, avoid every future issue of Tales Designed to Thrizzle. One walks away always with a sense of bitter disappointment that Kupperman’s universe is not ours, that we will never find the early adventures of Sherlock and Jungle Boy, that all the amazing output of Baby Poop’n’Tell will never be ours to see. He teases and torments us with a world where Bacon offers us useful advice on how to use him in salads and other tasty treats. And then, he snatches it all away, leaving us alone in a world where baby dolls don’t poop, where bacon puts up a greasy fight, and where mentally ill gangsters are not nearly so cute and cuddly. Damn you, Michael Kupperman. Give us more, or leave us alone in ignorance of how much better the world would be if you ran it.

But wait! There’s more! Tales to Thrizzle #5 is also out, and it is so delicious it almost makes up for the fact that the book only has 4 issues collected. Almost. Here we get almost enough of the madcap adventures of Twain & Einstein to satisfy our love of curmudgeonly theoretical physics-infused mysteries and erotic hijinks. And his nostalgic look back at the early days of entertainment history and such important and largely forgotten figures as “Shouty” Jackson and Professor Anus provides much to think about, hopefully enough to get us to the next issue. Which, needless to say, I want right now.