So … an evening on which I was put in mind of Glen Baxter and … from seeking a specific example to (ha!) illustrate the point … to four hours later, having laughed myself silly looking at everything returned by the search engines … I achieved absolutely nothing of any significance during it.
On the plus side, I did find some classic examples of his work.
He predates, as it were, Gary Larson by a year and I suspect this may be part of why Larson, much to his own surprise, got his break in 1980. Both of them were preceded, a handful of years earlier, in 1976, by Bernard Kliban and, again, who knows to what extent their careers were facilitated by his having helped popularise absurdist/surreal cartoons in the recent Past?
Of course, I then had to go through Kliban’s work too, but, on the up side, I finally found the grandmother/porcupine Chapter VI cartoon online at last — I’ve been looking for years … kept meaning to scan the one from my own copy of Whack Your Porcupine, but never got around to it because either I had access to a scanner but not my book or else to my book but not a scanner.
This really is a classic Kliban …
You might just be familiar with A Little Family History — it crops up surprisingly frequently.
And a personal favourite of mine is Unhappy Bruce …
Should I vanish for a noticeable length of time and then, just as mysteriously reappear … with an expression on my face similar to Bruce’s … and, when you ask where I’ve been, enigmatically reply “Bruce is unhappy” …
Do not press me for any further detail.
Nor would I venture to make use of the bathroom facilities for at least an hour subsequent to my reappearance — probably more like three, to be on the safe side.
Of course, not all his work was absurdist.
This, I think everyone would agree, is just plain common sense advice …
Sadly, to this day, I still can’t find his One Man’s Mate Is Another Man’s Person sketch (or whatever its real title is) but, as observations go, the following two are pretty spot on …
I was even moved to create my own homage to Kliban …
Naturally, you don’t need me to provide you with examples of Larson’s work — he is the best known of the three and there has been a lot of Larson merchandise available for ages … even animated cartoons, IIRC — you’d have to have been living under a rock to have missed it.
But, just as I have favourites by the others that I can never seem to track down online when I want to illustrate a point, the fact that I have finally managed to get hold of this one after some thirty years is cause for celebration as far as I am concerned — absurd, grotesque and macabre … it could almost be a scene from a Jacobean play in the vein of Cyril Tourneur’s oeuvre.
This one all but made me wet myself laughing the first time I saw it — talk about being unreasonably demanding.
And this one has so many uses … can be adapted to vent frustration about so many groups … it’s like a gift from the gods of Absurdism (or at least Larson himself anyway).
And, much like Kliban’s observational offerings, the following is just unalloyed genius — the very idea that there should even be a ‘<creature> of depression’ in the first place, let alone that it should be a chicken ¹.
If you liked the above, I’d further recommend Max Cannon’s Red Meat strips.
They’re slightly more coherent in a lot of instances — there are recurring themes that make sense as part of an ongoing narrative and/or character exposition.
His work is also often somewhat darker than that of the above three artists.
Bug eyed Earl is good for isolated “What!?” moments though, because the strips aren’t linked by a narrative and are all standalone moments.
If you can stomach the idea of laughing at oedipal incest, necrophilia, coprophilia and all manner of things you (probably) really shouldn’t then Clay’s Sexy Losers is … I can’t believe I’m gonna say this, I should be ashamed of myself … hysterically funny.
Given the nature of the content of his work, however, I’m not going to link to examples or even the site directly — you can simply enter ‘sexylosers’ into your browser’s URI/URL bar and append ‘.com’ to the end of it.
Be warned though, it is … highly … porno-graphic.
And seriously distasteful — NSFW doesn’t even begin to cover it.
It’s probably best not viewed by anyone under the age of 21 just to be on the safe side — check you local laws for what it is and isn’t safe to look at and who may do so.
It’s also absurdist, though … appropriately enough, given the format, literally comical … and, therefore, I feel not entirely out of place here — whilst Baxter and Larson are fairly family friendly, not all of Kliban’s work is appropriate for minors or the workplace either.
Think of it as an … it’s hard to use the term ‘adult’ in the context of Viz , but you get the point … it’s kinda like a sub-manga/anime version of Viz without the almost-family-friendly self-censorship.
¹ The Dragon of Unhappiness lives in the toilet: