Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Butternut Squash #1

Butternut Squash #1, November 2005, Speakeasy Comics
by Ramon Perez & Rob Coughler

The inexplicably titled comic book Butternut Squash is a compilation of three to six panel comic strips by the same name, each an autobiographical labor of love by their creators and rife with the quirky inside jokes one might expect from a self-styled geek fraternity. And I mean that as a compliment. Although I didn’t find many of the strips laugh out loud funny, as I progressed through this introductory issue I couldn’t help but appreciate and relate to the camaraderie exhibited by our wayward protagonists, one a coffee-loving cartoonist, the other a part time employee at a sex shop and a coffee shop. In fact, the consistent, post-modern analyses of coffee, women, and pop culture evoked an almost embarrassing familiarity, as I’m sure any geek could read these strips and find some point of connection, however brief but just as poignant. Could Ramon and Rob embody a modern day Vladimir and Estragon from Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, each poised in perpetual anticipation for something that may never come yet equally content with the frivolous passing away the hours in the meantime? I doubt it, but it’s still fun to read.

Butternut Squash also meets one of my objectives for the new year, namely to read and review comic books that tweak or manipulate the comic book format for its own ends. With the exception of the covers and supplemental essays at the end, this issue is in a landscape layout; as I read the first half of BNS on the bus this morning, I embarrassingly had to flip the book sideways, like I was looking at a naughty magazine or something. The format is understandable, though, as a majority of the strips are a mere three panels, and the landscape style maximizes the size and resolution of each panel more effectively. Perez has a distinguishable and expressive artistic imprint on each strip, but some are definitively hits and conversely misses, and the crisp, computerized coloring adds a vitality and depth to each image that a black and white format would have forsaken for punchlines – a risky gamble, considering that some of these strips present very little comedic value whatsoever. These are the constructive criticisms, but generally, I enjoyed Butternut Squash. Ramon and Rob let us into their intimate circle of friends for twenty plus pages, a bold move in any medium, but in comics, we get to see their quirks and shortcomings, too. It’s challenging, and the result is charming. Butternut Squash would be just as good a comic if by any other name.

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