REVIEWS

Snackies

Snackies_Sumida_coverIn the prologue to his debut book, Nick Sumida receives an online game called Snackies. He describes it to his roommate: “You play this narcissistic millennial with an art school degree and an addiction to outside validation.” Various parts of the gameplay involve putting cookies over your eyes to avoid seeing a deluge of student loan bills, and experiencing a nervous breakdown in a café while thinking about death. Sumida apologizes that it’s not multiplayer while his roommate remains unimpressed: “What a weirdly specific and boring game.” Welcome to the Snackies universe.

In Sumida’s world it is imperative to hide your slightest flaws and insecurities from the world, lest you be made vulnerable. Your suspicion that the future might be a bleak, existential black hole may well be true, and pretending you have even a chance at a fulfilling relationship is a big fat cosmic joke – at your expense. But Snackies is no nihilist vision; the book is the work of a delightfully demented, wonderfully imaginative humorist and satirist.

The world of millennials—often labeled one of entitlement and narcissism—is key to much of the ironic humor of this book, as Sumida mercilessly exploits this perception. A running gag (and part of the book design) depicts Sumida’s text messages with God Himself via smartphone, with Sumida bewildered that God doesn’t seem all that much into listening to his fascinating problems (God is way more into “nom-noming” his French fries or getting drunk). In the strip “Important Question”, Sumida endlessly mulls over which pair of glasses make him look cutest. He tries to enlist his friends in making this momentous decision, but they are far too busy fighting to survive the Apocalypse, as deep chasms swallow screaming people into the earth and monster buzzards eat them alive. In “Missed Connection”, Sumida, like the mythic Narcissus, becomes smitten with his own reflection, wherever he looks (in random storefront windows, for example). But the magic fades when, with the help of a mirrored restaurant wall, Sumida meets himself for a dinner date. He complains to his roommate afterward: “He kept mimicking me all night…I’m so sick of these self-obsessed, vacant hipster bros.”

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In comics like “How to Deal with Stress” and “That Point in a Relationship”, Sumida parodies the personae we construct to shield the world from our “true” selves. But he takes it hilariously to the nth degree. In “Meeting IRL” he offers up tips for meeting an Internet crush in-person: “arrive by emerging from the shadows in a formless black robe, waving around cat toys to distract from your inherent human flaws.” And he makes mincemeat out of self-serious angst, particularly in “Valentine’s Day”, where he cheerfully demonstrates a delicious cookie recipe, with his romantic despair occasionally slipping through his doggedly happy smile: “While they’re baking, open another bottle of wine and stare at your ex’s Facebook for four hours, or until you pass out!”

Along with his playful smartphone-based humor, Sumida has fun with Internet–speak. He illustrates the acronym ROFL, followed by ROFWIMB (Rolling on the Floor While Instagramming My Breakfast), ROFAWSSOOMB (Rolling on the Floor While Shooting Skittles out of My Butthole), and so on, concluding with: ROFBYMWLWAYDWYADAYLLMSY (Rolling on the Floor Because Your Mom Was Like “What Are You Doing With Your Art Degree?” And You’re Like “Let Me Show You”).

Honestly, I could go on quoting comic lines and situations – there’s page after page of them. But Sumida isn’t just a funny guy – he’s also a fine cartoonist (and a storyboard artist for Nickelodeon), delineating all of these emotionally fraught misadventures in clean, three-color Archie-esque lines and neatly written text. His draftsmanship ably supports his penchant for throwing surprises and twists into his narratives; his specialty is taking an ordinary scenario and slowly stripping away placid normalcy to reveal something altogether different, as below:

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In Sumida’s comics, the truth, however painful or uncomfortable, can be made comically insignificant – all it takes is a little oblivious navel-gazing and a big fixed smile to make it all go away. At least temporarily. Snackies made me laugh out loud: Sumida channels the angst and uncertainty of his generation and deftly spins it into comic gold. Or, to put it another way, YMFYROFLWRS (You May Find Yourself Rolling On the Floor Laughing While Reading Snackies).

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