Catching up with some of Nicholas Gurewitch’s work

I like political cartoons. My favorites come from artists like Dwayne Booth aka Mr. Fish, The Sacramento Bee’s award-winning Jack Ohman, and Gary Trudeau’s syndicated Doonsbury. I also enjoy the animated cartoons by Mark Fiore. Terrific stuff! I guess that makes me a political (cartoon) junkie, though I do read Scott Adams’ syndicated Dilbert on Sundays. I work in an IT cubical farm and understand Adams’ humor too well. I used to read his three-panel weekday strips, but I got annoyed how Adams too often wrote the funnier joke on the second panel leading the reader to be disappointed when the third panel fell flat. Does he do that on purpose?

A few years ago I was showing my son a Mr. Fish comic. He laughed. Then a few minutes later produced a printed copy of a strip titled “Skub” from something called The Perry Bible Fellowship (PBF for short).

PBF020-Skub

Besides being very funny and insightful, I noticed how simple and whimsical the art was–almost childlike, which accentuated the humor. I mistook the strip as political simply because my son handed it to me as a reply to a Mr. Fish piece and the message could easily be construed as political factions warring over a petty issue. More importantly, I had never heard of PBF, not seen any other strips from the artist, though it had been on the web since around 2005-2006. So I and this post are embarrassingly late to the party. Still, I’ll continue for anyone who is as tardy as I am.

My son handed me another sheet of paper with a comic strip on it before I had a chance to visit the PBF website. “Today’s My Birthday” was just as funny and was right up my alley–dark. I visited the website and was on the site for over an hour, forgetting to take my now thoroughly wrinkled work shirts out of the dryer.

PBF032-Todays_My_Birthday

The PBF comic strip is the brainchild of Nicholas Gurewitch, an illustrator based in Rochester New York. He attended Syracuse University, where he studied film and where his comic strip was first published in The Daily Orange. The comic gets its title from the name of a church in Perry, Maine. (Source: Wikipedia)

pbf3
The three comics reproduced in the post and many other comedic gems can be found in The Perry Bible Fellowship Almanack seen above featuring my foot and hand. This is a follow-up to The Trial of Colonel Sweeto and Other Stories, though there is some overlap, I have been told. I only have the Almanack collection.

Gurewitch’s style varies. Sometimes he mimics famous artists like Nancy Munger, Quentin Blake, Shel Silverstein, and Robert Crumb. Some of the art looks like it comes from early comic books, in other strips Gurewitch seems to be copying other artists’ styles that I can’t identify, but have seen before. One of the first ones I viewed from the PBF website is his hilarious parody of the late Bil Keane’s Family Circus.

PBF187-Way_Too_Much

While I was being introduced to Gurewitch’s genius via Almanack and the PBF website, he had already crowdfunded and published his latest book. Notes on a Case of Melancholia, Or: A Little Death, is a brilliant homage to Edward Gorey’s style though instead of sketching his images, Gurewitch painted each plate black then etched the images into life–a subtractive process illustrated in the twelve-minute documentary Notes on a Case Nicholas Gurewitch. The documentary shows how much work went into this project. By watching the video, the reader can begin the appreciate Gurewich’s creative process. Some of the plates in Notes on a Case of Melancholia took up to a million strokes to fully flesh out the image. Also, many plates and early drafts never made it into the final product. Notes on a Case of Melancholia is a dark and touching thirty-seven-page story of Death and his son. The story has no text, but each page speaks volumes on the beauty and humanity of Gurewitch’s art.

Notes

Well, I guess I’ve caught up with Gurewitch, and no, I’m not turning BurgerScoot.net into a review of books. Just consider this post the flipside of my piece on the books by Arundhati Roy.

 

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