Sunday, June 3, 2012

Ubu Bubu: Filth

After finishing the collection of Ubu Bubu, I mourned the absence of future work from artist and writer Jamie Smart because I thought for sure he had been instantly whisked to hell after completing the final page of issue 4 and given a high command of marshaling demon hordes. 

Thankfully he hasn’t. You can find more of his dark twisted evils here.

This “itchy stink of badness” first came to my notice through listening to the comic-book podcast Awesomed by Comics. The husband and wife hosts (Aaron and Evie) couldn’t finish a sentence without laughter interrupting when speaking of this devil cat.

But the humor here is dark, so dark that even the shadows of the shadows cast shadows. The basic premise of the story involves a demon who possesses the body of a kitten of superlative cuteness (imagine a combination of Pikachu and Nermal) who establishes its base of operations in the house of a single mom and her two children. After eating the mother, the demon proceeds to terrify and care for (as best as any demon can) the children and work through a kill-list of souls to initiate the apocalypse.

A blurb from Ed Kaye at on the back cover perhaps captures the mood well:  

“This is really fucked up stuff, but 100% entertaining with it.”

The book even wounded Warren Ellis (another back-cover blurber): 

“Fucking buy it…seriously. I actually hurt myself laughing at this.”

This comic must be making Fredric Wertham spin, twitch, and convulse in his grave.

At times the art work creates a dense page and seems difficult to process at a glance. Yet, upon reading, rather than scanning, the continuity of the story transitions easily from moment to moment. The style (I think of it as abomination-animation) harmonizes with the amusing grim tone and plot of the book. The lines of Smart are loose, but focused and vivacious. The images drawn are easily identified at a glance, and the thickness of the lines vary from thick to thin and provide the panels with movement and variation so that the images are as dynamic as the story. Also, despite the organization of Ubu Bubu’s kill list, the apocalypse seems immeasurably chaotic. While possessing order and a clear architectural design, the minimization of panel borders creates a appropriate disheveled muddle to accompany the end of existence as we know it.

I can’t imagine the current incarnations of Marvel and DC releasing a book with this vein of originality and humor. Slave Labor Graphics published the work and Ubu Bubu stands as a premier example of the benefits and importance of independent publishers and the ecstasy in departures and variations from superheroes with such creations as skull-kicking mercenaries or tigers practicing law.

Humor, especially humor as dark as the infernal malebolgias from which Ubu Bubu conjures its wickedness, extracts delight, albeit an uncomfortable delight you shouldn’t confess to at a job interview. Yet this delight serves some larger function as Jamie Smart notes in his introduction, he hopes Ubu Bubu could serve as:
 “a mental catharsis for me, and hopefully a disgustingly enjoyable comic for the small handful of people amongst whom it could be our guilty secret. Our sinful fetish. Our dark corner wanderlust. Drawing this stopped me going apeshit, maybe it’ll at least raise a smile for you.”

Aristotle charged tragedy with the role of evoking catharsis to purge harmful emotions that may inhabit the human soul so the spectators could be better fit to function within human society. Ubu Bubu serves a similar role, although if any thoughts and sensations darker than those able to be fumigated by the contents within the covers of Ubu Bubu remain with you after you finish reading this work…please stay away from me.

So come on you twisted lovers of sequential art, buy a copy of this story and have a good dark laugh to purge the vile thoughts festering between your synapses. It can be our guilty secret. Our sinful fetish. Our dark corner wanderlust.


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