Just in case you haven't seen them in the pages of VICE: The Blobby Boys is a band composed of three slimy green guys who may be mutants… or possibly aliens. There’s Max on guitar, whose head is shaped like a toy top; Adrian, the drummer, distinguished from Max by his cyclopean eye and Bugs Bunny-like buck teeth; and Kristof, also on guitar, whose heart-shaped head is always framed by a red ascot. The Blobbys are a violent trio who kill rival bands without a second thought and don’t take kindly to prying detectives or worshipful fans. All three carry knives, drop acid, and have generally bad attitudes. Basically, you wouldn’t want to mess with The Blobby Boys. But Alex Schubert’s second collection of their misadventures is a lot of fun, a sort of weird synthesis of old Hanna-Barbera cartoons and Sid and Marty Krofft kids' shows, channeled through a stoned Johnny Ryan-like sensibility. And maybe with a little of Kaz's great Underworld comics in there, too (minus the anarchic exuberance). And yeah, as noted by others, there's a Gary Panter-ish vibe thrumming through as well. Still, even with all those echoes, Blobby Boys 2 feels fresh and original.
Blobby Boys books are actually little anthologies, presenting the Boys’ adventures along with separate little tales that star oddball “special guests.” In the first book, we were introduced to Cyber Surfer, Punk Dad, and Aging Hipster, and in this volume there's breakout star Fashion Cat. Schubert uses these archetypal figures to take deadpan satirical aim at various pop culture tropes. Fashion Cat, for example, is a great caricature of the rich and famous. He introduces himself thusly: “When I was a kitten I never dreamed I would become the most-famous model in the world.” Fashion Cat seemingly has it all. But like the Blobbys, he also has a nasty disposition. He buys a restaurant only so he can burn it down (though I have to say it seems gentlemanly of him to at least buy it first), and throws a baby out of a window for annoying him. But alongside his arrogance and meanness there’s loneliness and existential angst: “I… I don’t want to talk about my movies,” he tells an admiring fan, “because I don’t know who I am anymore.” This very funny parody of insufferable celebrity self-absorption strikes me as unfortunately close to reality.
Schubert's sense of humor is smart-stoopid. He renders his characters and landscapes in an irresistibly flat, shape-y, iconographic comics style, a sort of Bushmiller gone punk. In some sequences there’s an early video game vibe, such as when Max throws a flaming bottle at a police car. We see the bottle strike the boxy police car, and in the subsequent panel the car is perfectly upended, no sound effects, no movement lines—the stillness of the action being the joke itself. Schubert's unique color scheme, composed of muted colors—tomato red, mustard yellow, cool blue and reptile green—feels somehow punk and '80s New Wave at the same time.
The narratives here are a little more sustained than in the first book, which were sometimes mere two-paneled non-sequiturs. In an interview in the back with VICE Art Editor Nick Gazin, Schubert talks about his process a little bit, revealing that the art in BB2 was actually all done on a computer with Flashpoint. But that's okay (says me, the original computer-art hater): I think it actually looks really good, a step up from the first book. The Blobbys and the rest of the crew are otherworldly enough that they look even better with a bit of that human touch removed from their rendering.
I recently heard a podcast called Street Carnage, in which the host, Gavin McInnes, gave his list of who he considers the greatest living cartoonists (which I take with several huge grains of salt, btw). He divides these creators into two categories: those who take artistically after Picasso, which means they put the imagery over the idea, or those that follow Duchamp, meaning they put the idea before the art. I would definitely put Alex Schubert in the Image-over-Idea category. As in the police car sequence, the drawing carries the gag; sometimes even just the flatness of the imagery makes it work, as in Schubert's many interstitial splash pages. One new character, a member of "The Glider Gang," is so geometrically depicted, hang-gliding through the sky, you can't help but admire his perfect pose, while laughing at the straight-faced absurdity of the image. Another page, featuring Max crashing through a wall on a motorcycle, has a somehow stationary feel, not so much an action shot as a tableau. It would make a good poster. When Gazin asks Schubert if his comics are about the medium of comics, Schubert answers in the affirmative. His foul-mouthed, geometric Blobby Boys and their motley crew of co-stars are irresistible.