Won’t Say It

Today on the site it's Ken Parille on my favorite comic of 2016 thus far, Sir Alfred #3.

In Sir Alfred #3, cartoonist Tim Hensley turns Hitchcock’s life into sixty-five comic strips, most of which employ the look of Little Lulu comic books. Like Lulu’s pal Tubby, Hensley’s young Fred wears a jacket and shorts, and his adult Alfred sticks to a black suit. It seems natural, almost inevitable, that Hitchcock should receive the kind of ‘cartoon treatment’ that Hensley gives him since he had already given it to himself. Like so many single-outfit comic-strip protagonists, he inhabits a world of jokes and pranks. Perhaps the perfect expression of his cartoony self-presentation appears in the gag that opens the Alfred Hitchcock Presents TV show. As the director strolls across the frame, reality and cartoon merge as Hitchcock’s profile aligns with a drawing of his profile:


Hensley finds in Tubby, a character with a portly silhouette, a more than suitable model for the director:


A detail from the cover of Tubby #5 (1953) followed by Hensley’s Hitchcock. Though Lulu and Tubby (first known as Joe) were created by Marjorie Henderson Buell (aka Marge), Hensley invokes the Little Lulu style associated with John Stanley and Irving Tripp.

One of Hitchcock’s actors described the filmmaker as a kind of stunted Tubby, “an overgrown schoolboy who never grew up and lived in his own special fantasy world.”

In the oversized, beautifully printed Sir Alfred #3, the cartoonist eschews orthodoxies of biography: he ignores chronology, omits milestones in the subject’s life, and even draws moments when young and old versions of the protagonist meet. By labelling the comic “#3,” Hensley alerts us that he’s not following the conventional order of things. (Note to collectors: #1 and #2 don’t exist.) On the book’s cover, the phrase “Apocryphal anecdotes biographically gleaned!” cryptically hints at Hensley’s comic-strip strategy: though relying on incidents from Hitchcock’s life, the cartoonist restages each by employing the look, rhythm, and exaggeration of classic funny-book cartooning. Hensley treats fidelity on a sliding scale, from strips that play it relatively straight to those that expand, compress, or combine incidents into an effect we could call “oblique biography.” Though the strips take different tactics, Sir Alfred #3 consistently amplifies the comedy and perversion of the director’s life. Hensley’s Hitchcock is equal parts punster, prankster, and predator.

And, as if you need anything else to get you through this holiday weekend, there's a new episode of Comics Books Are Burning in Hell!

We're off on Monday. See you on Tuesday.