5 out of 5 stars
48 pages, comic
Various artists, 2009
Saturday morning as a kid at my house meant hours and hours of cartoons – powered by Betty Crocker blueberry muffins, orange juice and my father’s bad breath. I will always cherish memories of Wile E. Coyote flying over the canyon in his Acme roller skates, or watching him smack into the pavement after his Acme catapult failed to launch him into the roadrunner’s path. Seeing that innovative predator who never gave up always takes me back to the days when I could rely on Saturday morning cartoons to keep me amused for hours.
There was one other thing that was a constant staple of the childhood weekend: the Sunday comics.
Full color, filled with wacky characters and social commentary, and more often than not: funny.
Whatever happened to the glorious Sunday comics of yesteryear? When the characters were pop-culture celebrities whose adventure pages were fought over at the breakfast table? When older brothers snatched the paper from younger brothers, or fathers camped out in the bathroom to enjoy a few valued minutes of solitude while snickering at the antics of Hi and Lois or B.C.?
As our world becomes more digitized, the newspaper medium is swiftly going the way of the cassette tape…the artifacts are recycled or tossed, left to rot in some attic or basement while its owners encourage the rise of reality TV and accelerate the death of the evening news.
Like the gray wolf and the bald eagle, the Sunday comics have become endangered.
Sure, you can always find them online but it’s not the same. The Net lacks the excitement of waking up early to be the first to grab the paper off the porch, throwing the black and white pages aside to devour the color comics before your older brother yanks them from your grasp. It’s no fun for your dad to bring his laptop into the toilet while he enjoys his morning dump. Just ask Dad: there’s nothing like flipping through the newspaper and watching your fingertips turn black with ink while looking around the bathroom for a pack of matches so your children are spared of your stink.
Which brings me to Big Funny (click to see the comics!), a wonderful tribute to the original Sunday comics. The International Cartoonist Conspiracy, Big Time Attic and Altered Esthetics have collaborated to produce a modern oversized newspaper comics section reminiscent of the legendary comics of the old days. Like saving an endangered species, or resurrecting one long extinct using nothing but DNA from old, crumbling comics and colorful memories of Sunday morning, Big Funny celebrates the history and future of comics. With 48 pages of hilarious original comics drawn by local artists who all share a passion for the medium, Big Funny is packed with quirky characters and ridiculously endearing adventure whose artistic quality is as good as any comic you’ve ever seen.
Some of the highlights include:
Bud Burgy’s “Authoritative Expert J. Wiggins” a bald-headed judge of authorized fashion.
Jesse Gillespie’s “Little Emo in Slumbaland,” a colorful and visually gratifying fantasy of hip-hop dreams.
Daniel J. Olson’s vivid, eye-catching “Hey Rube!” (check out Super Maxi-Pad Girl #2 – on sale now!…same link: just click it! you can’t resist knowing more about Super Maxi-Pad Girl)
Kevin Cannon’s exciting Saturday matinee serial, join-in-the-middle-of the-action cliffhanger “Army Men.”
Bob Lipski’s “Uptown Girl” makes an appearance but it’s the minimalistic “Sulky Girl,” hilarious in her simplicity, who steals the page.
Steve Mason’s “Talewinds: Little Jimmy” is the story of a bicycle tire turned B-movie blob.
“Middle Management” by Andy Singer is perhaps the best addition to the feature with a fascinating and surprising commentary on big government and the concept of spreading the wealth. And if you’re a fan of social commentary, Big Funny has plenty of it, from banks that are too big to fail to Lupi’s* “A Breast Abreast” a visually captivating look at public breast feeding…and then there’s Steve Stwalley’s “Bongo the Monk” which introduced me to the concept of monkey sushi.
As video tapes are replaced by DVDs are replaced by Blue Ray which will be replaced by movies being beamed directly to your TV, and music went from radio to LPs to tapes to CDs to iTunes, what will be the future of the Sunday comics? As the newspaper industry slowly dies, they’ll certainly take the comics unless there remain some who love the feeling of those pages and those full color comics. As our entire world goes digital, it’s nice to sit back and kick it with a copy of Big Funny – so nostalgic you’ll end up with ink on your fingers.
These artists slave over a labor of love. I hope you’ll check out Big Funny, which is available here for only $5.
*full disclosure: Lupi is my wife!
Reviewed by Mark McGinty, October 2009