The Perry Bible Fellowship
By Nicholas Gurewitch
Available now from Islington Libraries
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I'm just gonna come out and say it: I totally love the Perry Bible Felllowship. It's both amazing and awesome and blessed all over (well almost all over - see below) with a strange intoxicating form of crazy and malevolent genius. Or to put it another way: little comic riddles with poop jokes wrapped on the inside.
Most of the comics featured on this blog are of the big sequential type: all telling one big story from page one to page end. But that's not the Perry Bible Fellowship: on one hand you could say it's a newspaper strip (and it's been published in plenty of newspapers including The Guardian where maybe some of you will recognise it from), but one the other hand - it's also been massively successful web-comic winning loads of prizes and such (altho up until now I must admit that I'd never heard of the Web Cartoonist's Choice Awards). If you want to read the whole thing online - then you can (right here) but - well - as always with these things - I've always much preferred the luxury and comfort of books and pages: and this particular volume is super chunky and thick - in a particularly fetching shade of red.
What's also cool about the book is that it means you can appreciate apart from it's newspaper and website birthing grounds - and wallow in the comic in what I like to think of as it's purist form (I guess I'm just a sucker for things printed on proper paper).
But - yes - what is this proper form? And what's this Perry Fellowship like? And why the total amounts of love?
Here's the thing: It's jokes in comic form - usually spread out in three or four panels. But unlike say - xkcd - (it's closest cousin) - the artwork is really, really, really good. Most of them are in this kind of high definition brightness with Stay-Puft-Marshmallow-Men type people bouncing around (committing all sorts of unspeakable acts on each other): but then it also veers into all sorts of other different styles taking on people like (off the top of my head) Edward Gorey and Gary Larson and Robert Crumb and aping everything from 8-bit style computer graphics all the way to beautiful watercolour stuff. But then that's not the main selling point that's the added bonus. The main selling point is the way that - after it gets through the first few cartoons - which aren't anything that special and all seem to be a bit penis-fixatated and have sort of a bit of yukky teenage whiff to them - (so persevere!) - is how massively precise Nicholas Gurewitch manages to get with the huge amount of information it's possible to pack into three (or four) little panels. Most comics don't tend to bother with anything too dense when it comes to panel construction (or whats inside them): most of the time - it's just a person speaking - and you can quickly sweep your eyes over them and get all you need in way of the gist. But the Perry Bible Fellowship - wow. I have never had to read any comic so many times in order to understand what's going on (and work out the joke). Sometimes it's like trying to unpick a zen koan (expect it's a Zen Koan about willies. Or suicide. Or sex). The only example of anything that really comes close is Watchmen - which also packed every panel with hidden little Easter Eggs (hiroshima shadows and that guy with The End Is Nigh sign): but then you didn't need to pick up on everything in order to understand what's going on. With this - if you've missed something then you're probably wondering what's so funny.
I really want to set out and link to an example. But - hell - I'll let you read them all yourself. You'll soon see what I'm talking about.
So. If your sense of humour isn't twisted in dark directions and/or if you don't have the time or the patience to unwrap each panel - then this won't be your cup of tea. But if you like an evil giggle or two and want to swim in darker waters - crafted by an accomplished stylist and mischievous trickster - then this is a book that you can totally fall in love with.
Links: Mindless Ones Article, 10 Zen Monkeys Interview with Nicholas Gurewitch, Guardian Interview, Guardian Review, Sean T Collins Review.
Further reading: xkcd, You Really Don't Look 50 Charlie Brown, Scott Pligrim, Goliath, Watchmen, Understanding Comics, The Dilbert Principle.
All comments welcome.