Saturday, December 09, 2006

Comics: Perry Bible Fellowship

The Perry Bible Fellowship is a series of extremely dark-humored comics by one person, Nicholas Gurewitch. There is no consistent theme or character in the Sunday-only comic, although one species, the Schlorffians, does return a few times. Interestingly, more than any other comic artist I have ever seen, Gurewitch usually doesn't repeat a style of art from one strip to the next: they range from thick-lined cartoons, to impressionist charcoals, to glossy Photoshop creations. His human figures are frequently round-figured with the minimum possible expression, but he's just as likely to draw a detailed picture that could be used in a police lineup. Also, Gurewitch doesn't care if you get it: some strips have to be re-read more than once to be understood.

There is no common thread that exists from one strip to the next: the plot, such as it is, exists only from the first panel to the fourth. However, there are recognizable common themes: dark variations on surprise: a man receives a passionate farewell from his girlfriend, but she's going down on someone before the train has left the station; an anime robot vanquishes its enemy at a significant cost; a sweet forest creature unexpectedly wreaks havoc.

Through the amusing mishaps of a kind familiar to every comic reader, any one strip will unexpectedly veer off to have relationships end, bodies shredded, the planet Earth blown into smithereens, or a dismayed Satan bobbing in a pool of water. If Sylvia Plath were still alive, this is the strip she'd like to find in her morning paper while she sipped her coffee. If you know someone who is a pleasant, good-natured fan of Disney cartoons, the reaction to these comics would be hard to predict. She may love the cheerful acidity present in nearly every panel; or she may just vomit uncontrollably and never speak to you again.

Only for grownups, in other words.


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