LOONEY TUNES MEETS LUIS BUÑUEL IN THIS GRAPHIC NOVEL DEBUT
Petey and Pussy, John Kerschbaum’s new graphic novel, reads very much like a Loony Tunes cartoon — if all of the anthropomorphic animals were kvetching, balding, foul-mouthed misanthropes. Each character is articulate (and, in fact, can speak directly to humans, well enough to order a beer) but still recognizably have the traits associated with their respective species: Pete, the dog, is happy-go-lucky; Pussy, the cat, is self-centered; and Bernie, the bird, is high-strung and constantly a-twitter. Together, they are the pets of a sweet old lady whose obliviousness to the lunacy unfolding around her is second only to her own hygienic repugnance. The Sisyphean struggles of the characters is brought to the fore — the cat is compelled to try and catch the mouse, the bird struggles to escape his cage — as the trio engage in slapstick adventures that are simultaneously given an edge and made hilarious by a twisted combination of mundane realism and insouciant gross-out humor.
Kerschbaum cheerfully includes all the blood and guts that are left out of the cartoons, and lovingly renders his motley crew in a densely textured urban setting. And like the animated cartoons it echoes in an oddly surreal way, when the mayhem dies down, the characters come to the realization that their identities’ are defined by the way they relate to the others, and that one’s opponent might be one’s truest friend when both face a true threat.
A family is seduced by a mysterious creature's siren song that can be heard emanating from the lagoon after dark in talented young cartoonist Lilli Carré’s first long-form work, and how each member reacts to the song in The Lagoon is the crux of the story. For the wise — or pixilated — Grandpa, the song reminds him that, in the time he has left, he must pause to respect, appreciate, and fear nature. The song hints at something that Zoey, the daughter, is too young to fully grasp. And the song lures the sexually frustrated mother, and eventually, her husband, into danger... Carré experimented with nib pens and brushes while drawing this black-and-white graphic novel, giving the art a different feel from her previous, Eisner-and-Harvey-Award-nominated story, Tales of Woodsman Pete. The Lagoon was influenced by the films Creature from the Black Lagoon and Night of the Hunter, but reads more like the gothic, family narratives of Flannery O’Connor or Carson McCullers. Rhythms — Grandpa’s taps, the ticking of a metronome — are punctuated by silences that pace this “sound”-driven story. Older teen and adult readers are invited to imagine the enigmatic creature’s haunting, ever-shifting tune as it reverberates through weedy waters, eventually escaping the lagoon to creep into windows at night.
Fuzz & Pluck: Splitsville tells the hilariously bizarre adventures of Pluck, an irritable and featherless rooster, and his best pal, the awkwardly unsocialized but lovable teddy bear known as Fuzz. These two usually inseparable and co-dependent misfits find themselves suddenly separated and alone. Pluck vows to establish his place in the world's pecking order by becoming a champion gladiator, while the more demure Fuzz finds himself a POW in a stuffed animal collection, only to escape and befriend a mercurial ferryman who recruits him for an impossible task. These absurdities pile on and eventually converge in a fatal collision course that reunites our heroes.
Fuzz & Pluck is an odd, and unusually original graphic novel, a "funny animal" comic that is surprisingly human. Rich with pathos, wit, farce, existentialism and drama, often cruel, always funny, this superficially ridiculous struggle for survival is an Alice in Wonderland for grown-ups that reaches absurdly delightful heights. As Simpsons creator Matt Groening says, "This epic tale of a hapless li'l bear and his defeathered friend is why I love comics. All hail the peculiar Fuzz & Pluck and their creator, Ted Stearn!"
Ted Stearn is longtime storyboard artist for animation. Fuzz & Pluck is the author's most personal work, showcasing his vivid imagination and meticulous draughtsmanship.
• We haven't had a chance to listen to this ourselves yet, but we are told that British comedy genius and known Fantagraphics fan Graham Linehan (Big Train, The IT Crowd, Father Ted) sings our praises in this interview with The Sound of Young America
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