Blubber #1

Blubber #1

This brutal little one shot from Gilbert Hernandez constructs a libidinous circle of life via six loosely connected strips of blackly comic body horror, creepily cute animal weirdness, and nightmarish nature documentary deadpan, occupied by spindly creepazoids and bowling pin-shaped monsters. A few of the strips seem to reference, riff on, and playfully jab the work of alt-comics big guns like Michael DeForge and Johnny Ryan and overall, it reads like an unimpeachable indie veteran giving the comix scene the business. It's a head scratcher and a reactionary work.

Strips "Eyes of the Mau Guag," "Is the Happer Happy?," "The Aquatic Pooso," and "Animal World," recall DeForge's Spotting Deer and "Canadian Royalty" -- outre world-building exercises communicated via a drab, facts-based panel-to-panel roll out of bizarre, made-up data with its own loopy logic. There's a peculiar type of cruelty found in these strips too, fueled by the droll objectivity of the narration ("The Orlat is often seduced by the scent of the ejaculate") and Hernandez's confident though looser-than-usual sketch-like work here. The accompanying image for that particular piece of (fake-ass) info about the Orlat shows the Mau Guag, a kind of jittery crack-eyed cat-dog creature, in the hands of the Orlat, a bear-like figure with webbed ears and a dead-eyed solemnity. It's funny, then kind of fucked up, then absolutely terrifying. Same goes for everything else in Blubber really.

Lewd, violent, and wordless strips "Doogs" and "The Way of the Cloark" stand on the spiked and padded shoulders of dick joke ultraviolence giant Johnny Ryan and his seminal Prison Pit. Piling on poop, boners, genitals, animals eating animals, things coming out of animals or going into animals and all the rest, these are extended absurdist action sequences. In "The Way of the Cloark," some giant penguins with dicks that looks like pickles walk and fly around and terrorize other creatures, including face-fucking an underwater fish thingy, while protecting a bunch of UFO-looking guys from a saggy-boobed Abominable Snowman-type thing, then diarrhea-ing on the UFO guys, melting them, and then fucking another Cloark, which gives birth to more UFO guys.

Like all tributes however loving, these strips operate as a form of criticism as well. Hernandez's exploration of Ryan's work has the side effect of suggesting that maybe Prison Pit would've been better in a concentrated burst like "The Way of the Cloark." We get just enough Prison Pit tics here and then we jump out before the joke gets old or the joke that the joke gets old gets old. We're reminded of what's great about Prison Pit's sprawling grotesque even if it has arguably, become predictable since then.


Basil Wolverton also looms large over the issue. The cover of Blubber recalls Wolverton's cover art for the DC, pseudo-underground anthology "Plop!" and the big-eyed creature on the cover (a Mau-Gag) invokes Wolverton's Common Types of Barflyze and the melted monster on the back cover (which we learn inside is called a Happer) recalls the slap-happy ugliness of Wolverton's sci-fi work -- somehow adorable and oozing out dread at the same damn time. Blubber in part, feels like a curmudgeonly reclamation of Wolverton's work now that it's gotten rather trendy and obvious thanks to reissues over the past bunch of years and in general, a newfound love of genre-oriented oddball comics amongst the tasteful set of readers.

Outlier strip, "Las Vegas Lace" is about a trio (a pig, a duck, and a Tim Burton-y young woman) who head to Las Vegas only to find out that hey, it's a terrible place. It's a bitter version of so many bad 80s cartoons and comics, you know, peppy animals having fun together shit like say, The Get Along Gang and other garbage being resurrected by kids exploring dollar bins for the first time and thinking everything a little yellowed is profound. But "Las Vegas Lace" also expands Blubber's scope. Capitalism in dreamy Vegas becomes an extension of the nature Hernandez explores in the other strips, with one big difference: the systems in nature ostensibly afford the animal world some logic and allow it to keep going, but there's no such order in Vegas. Save for the shitlords that own the casinos, nobody benefits. It is less a circle of life than a money-hungry ouroboros eating itself because there's no amount of money that'll satisfy it.blubber2The last panel of "Las Vegas Lace" features the doe-eyed, big-haired sad sack woman, abandoned by pig and duck, stuffing a quarter into a slot machine and saying, "I'll be here forever all because it will never ever run out." Except you know, it will totally run out. Very soon. Everything does.