05/10/2018

Sam Ombiri on ‘Back in Bleck’ by Johnny Ryan!

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Sam Ombiri here: A few thoughts on Back In Bleck by Johnny Ryan. Bleck really fits the mold of Nancy picking on Sluggo, or Lucy’s cruelty to Charlie Brown. Which is not to say that it is a bland, mechanically copied retread. From what I gather, Johnny’s interactions with Nancy and Peanuts are sincerely reverent. At the same time. though, he’s not above having some irreverence about work he has connected with in the past. This is even shown in the book when Johnny draws a variation of Tony Millionaire’s amazing comic, Sock Monkey. Other than Sock Monkey I can’t say that Peanuts or Nancy were being referenced directly, or in anyway referenced – but the energy in the work of Charles Shultz, Ernie Bushmiller, and I’d even say Boody Rogers is what I’m thinking of when talking about Back In Bleck. Johnny closely follows a certain energy in between this habit of drawing. There’s a potency to the work, and there’s more to it than the punchlines which make it worth reading. There’s a real construct here.

The punchlines in the book aren’t at the expense of the comics form. The strips don’t rush, or oversell their shock value. The comics honestly – as a result – come off as more cheeky than offensive. In the best way, I mean – they are more charming. The punchlines don’t completely come out of leftfield. Even when unexpected, they feel earned; that this specified path was followed to get to the punchline, and every moment leading up to the punchline is surprisingly endearing. There’s something sweet about Bleck’s relationship with Aunt Jiggles and Bleck’s relationship with Wedgie.

There’s a blurb in the back of the book that says “Most of the humor here involves gross bodily functions. Sure, I like a good fart joke as much as the next reader, but when it’s the entire raison d’etre of a strip, it gets old fast.” For me, it’s Johnny’s prowess as a cartoonist and his prowess in sequencing that keeps me coming back for more. – Sam Ombiri

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Joanie and Jordie – 5-10-18 – by Caleb Orecchio

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