Mar 31, 2015

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 35: Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children volume 2, 1989


Clyde and Margueritte Deadjohnson are average suburbanites with one important difference: they're dead. But that doesn't stop them from enjoying all the mundane adventures in which the average suburbanite indulges.

This was the first of the BSFUC that I ever read, passed along to me by my dear friend Joel at the tender age of 15. As I mentioned in my post about Morrison's Animal Man, it was around this time that I started to understand that the stories one could read in comics weren't solely relegated to children's comedy (Archie, Richie Rich) and superheroes. Once again, Louapre and Sweetman present a comic in a non-traditional manner. I'm starting to think of these stories as comics in that each double-page spread is one panel. Perhaps I'll scan one of the issues one of these days and see what it looks like set out in a more traditional manner. Because I have time for these things, right?

Piranha Press is a bit of an oddity. And I mean that in the nicest sense possible. As the site says, it's a response to a growing interest in alternative comics, and, coupled with DC's publication of "adult" superhero books (you know, those famous ones that no one will shut up about), I think Piranha demonstrates the movement of the medium, specifically in the mainstream, into a more inclusive space. The stories published in Piranha's catalogue are, categorically, not for kids. It's only one of a number of experiments that mainstream publishers were carrying out at this time. Marvel/Epic's "Shadowline Saga" books (whose characters seem to be on the verge of a resurgence in the upcoming "Secret Wars" series), which took superheroes and put them into dark and complex contemporary stories, happened around the same time that Piranha was publishing Marc Hempel's Gregory series and BSFUC. These experiments, of course, crystalized a few years later in DC's Vertigo imprint, for which Louapre and Sweetman did a couple of pieces, but Piranha, to me at least, is a little more out on the edge of things. The utter weirdness of the Beautiful Stories, or Douglas Michael's The Elvis Mandible, which I'll get to eventually, are never really repeated in the more horror and fantasy-based "grown-up" comics of the Vertigo imprint. Which is probably why Piranha survived, albeit briefly, into Vertigo's nascence.

Something odd occurred to me while I was re-reading this issue. One of the destinations of the Deadjohnsons is "Ant World," a Disneyland-esque theme park based around the behaviours of ants. This section of the story reminded me of the Ant and Bee books I used to read as a child, specifically the Ant and Bee Go Shopping book. I'll have to see if it's still kicking about at my Mum and Dad's place next time I'm back home.

I recently tried to get my hands on the issues of this series that I'm missing, with only partial success. With most of the earlier issues, these are re-reads for the umpteenth time, but the later issues I've never read before, so I'm excited to see what weirdness Louapre and Sweetman have in store for me.

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