Fred The Clown - Chockful of Unwholesome Goodness
One of the things I am often impressed by in some comics is their heft, especially indies.
Not many fans venture past the safe Big Two, so when they do, if they are met with a fleeting piece of work, then they may be displeased. So when a book is chockful of story, then it impresses me.
Of course, if it is chockful of boring comics, then I am not impressed.
Roger Langridge's Fred the Clown, luckily, is chockful of goodness.
As the title mentions, Fred the Clown is not a very wholesome book. Fred is a rather sad, pathetic, often downright bad guy. However, the situations Langridge places him in are often hilarious.
And the SITUATIONS!
They really blow my mind away. Not because they are amazingly clever (although some I would say ARE very clever), but because of the sheer magnitude of them all.
To explain, I would have to explain the basic concept of Fred the Clown, and I think I will do just that...hehe.
Fred the Clown is a series of short comic strips, some are a few pages long, and some are as short as one page. Very often they are macabre variations on children's mainstays, like a demented version of Dr. Seuss, where the character does not like "Fred-I-Said," not "on the hearth, in my bath, on my bed, stuck behind the shed, et al." That is, until he sees "Fred-I-Said" in a dress. Then things change.
Fred is a total loser with women, as well, and his interactions with them are often the highlights of the strips. Like when a woman is pining for Fred, but the oblivious Fred thinks he has to impress her. The lengths he goes to (involving moon cheese and MORE) while she grows weary are impressively humorous.
Occasionally in the series, though, Langridge just throws TOTAL curveballs, for instance, the one part of the book that consists entirely of a history behind the cartoonists who drew Fred the Clown over the years, from his beginnings in the days of Yellow Journalism. The history is amazing in its ability to be amusing while sounding JUST like a comic historian sounds like.
The sheer volume of words for that section is a major curveball, as the vast majority of the strips in the book do not have words, or at least no dialogue. So when you suddenly see pages of words, it totally throws you off.
The other curveball is the section of the book which is entirely done in the form of a newspaper, working Fred into all sorts of newspaper gags, like a crossword puzzle, parodies of other comic strips, etc.
The sheer volume of gags in the book is daunting, because Langridge has to employ soooo much effort to come up with all these gags, so the fact that so many of them are extremely amusing is just so impressive.
Finally, as I mentioned before, there is a dearth of words in Fred the Clown, so the art has to tell the story, and luckily, Langridge is up to the challenge. From his standard Fred the Clown style, to his adoptions of the style he is parodying (never more prevalent than in the aforementioned history of Fred, where Langridge shows us samples of "classic" Fred strips), Langridge impresses throughout the book.
This book is highly recommended, and it will keep you entertained for a loooong time (not a quick read here).
Thanks to Christopher Burton for making it his "You Decide" pick.