May 10, 2012
(++++) ZOMBIES AND OTHER AMUSEMENTS
Zombie Parents and Other Hopes for a More Perfect World: “Zits” Sketchbook 15. By Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman. Andrews McMeel. $12.99.
Lunch Lady No. 7: Lunch Lady and the Mutant Mathletes. By Jarrett J. Krosoczka. Knopf. $6.99.
Stone Rabbit #7: Dragon Boogie. By Erik Craddock. Random House. $6.99.
DUDE No. 2: Write! Draw! Destroy! By Mickey & Cheryl Gill. Fine Print Publishing. $7.99.
This is getting boring. Not “this” as in Zits, but “this” as in finding new ways to say just how good Zits is. Form the very first page of Zombie Parents, which includes Jim Borgman’s portrayal of Jeremy’s dad using an old video camera as being visually equivalent to cranking an ancient car, and shows Jeremy wearing a hazmat suit to dispose of a razor his mom borrowed to shave her legs, the absolutely ordinary but entirely surreal world of the Duncans is hysterically funny and completely apt. Anyone who has ever been a teenager or lived with one will find Zombie Parents resonant throughout – but it will resonate at different frequencies, depending on who is reading it. One of the things that artist Borgman and writer Jerry Scott do remarkably well is create strips with simultaneous dual perspectives. For example, Jeremy’s mom, Connie, practically tears her hair out as Jeremy barges past her on the way to school – late, as usual. She asks, quite reasonably, why he always waits until the last minute, and he says it is exciting and entertaining; and when she says, “It drives me insane,” Jeremy replies, “That’s the entertaining part.” Teens and their parents will both laugh at the strip, but for exactly opposite reasons – there is a lot of conflicting worldview in a mere three-panel space. Or Jeremy’s dad, Walt, calls and asks to speak with Connie, and Jeremy asks, “You mean right now?” So Walt sarcastically says he will just hold until she happens to walk by – and Jeremy, oblivious to the sarcasm, thinks, “Sweet.” Again, same occurrence, different mindsets. Add in the wonderful transformations that Borgman produces of the characters – Jeremy literally rather than metaphorically being a gigantic snail when taking out the trash, Jeremy and Connie drawn as totally different but equally hysterical aliens to illustrate the “different universes” concept – and you have a marvelous melding of words and art even before you stumble on the dozen “reasons why zombies would make cool parents” strips that give this collection its title. For example, reason 3: “Less emphasis on personal appearance,” with Jeremy saying, “I’m not wearing a jacket, but then again, you’re missing several vital organs.” Really, the biggest problem in reading Zits is knowing when, if at all, to stop.
Graphic novels for younger readers do not aspire to the Zits level, much less attain it, but they can certainly be fun in their own way. The seventh Lunch Lady and Stone Rabbit books, which both get (+++) ratings, hew to the formulas of their respective series and will be just as much fun – no more, no less – as previous entries. In Lunch Lady and the Mutant Mathletes, Jarrett J. Krosoczka’s unlikely super-heroic server encounters the evil mutants of Willowby Academy, where she runs afoul of the school’s janitor and is rescued, surprisingly, by the usually grumpy and complaining janitor of her own Thompson Brook School. Lunch Lady has her usual remarks: “What in the horseradish?” “Sweet BBQ sauce!” And she uses her usual weapons: licorice rope, plastic-wrap wrangler, tong sais. Also as usual, there is no reason to ask why a batch of super-powerful mutants (defeatable only through the power of eggs) would exist for the sole purpose of winning math trophies. Nor is there reason to ask much of anything about Dragon Boogie, in which Stone Rabbit and his friends Henri and Andy have to play a sort of dungeons-and-dragons board game when the electricity powering their more up-to-date entertainments goes out – and soon find themselves transported into the game, courtesy of some dice from “Larry, that loser who works at the creepy old antiques shop.” And they must defeat the Dark Lord in order to escape the game – with some help from an inept wizard who, in the funniest scene in the book, manages to change a dragon’s fire breath into “sweet apricot molasses.” The Lunch Lady and Stone Rabbit books are not to be taken at all seriously, but are fun to read and look at quickly before moving on to something else.
Something such as, maybe, DUDE No. 2, which is not so much a book as a collection of posters, signs and questions for preteen boys who cannot think up enough silliness and gross-out ideas on their own. This would seem to be a fairly limited market, but this (+++) production certainly serves it well. There are smiley faces (which are not smiling) to be attached to toilet paper, saying “You’re gonna put me where?” and “Don’t even think about using me there!” There are bathroom-door hangers: “Dangerous Fumes – Stay Back 25 feet.” There are keep-out-of-my-room signs: “Warning: Wear Eye Protection – exposure to my brilliant awesomeness may cause temporary blindness.” There are blank pages on which to draw robots or evil scientific experiments, a page called “build a barf-inducing burger,” comments on dung beetles and poop, a sort of “Mad Libs” page with an alien-invasion theme, a Bigfoot picture on which to draw a T-shirt or baseball cap to help him “blend in,” a maze shaped like a brain, quizzes with questions such as whether you would rather spit sesame seeds or sneeze crushed ice, and similar inanities. There is nothing the slightest bit “socially redeeming” about any of this, and is not supposed to be. If immature gross-out humor is your thing, you still won’t find much of it here, but you’ll find a little, and if you’re sufficiently immature, that will probably be enough.