Happy Elephant, Bunny and Chicken
Top Shelf Comics
Written, drawn by: Josh Simmons
It must have been a grand day when Augustine of Hippo penned his Confessions, the West’s first autobiography. For the first time in recorded literary history, a single life—with all its particular vices, virtues, and complexities—was worthy of focus. Papyrus, dreadfully expensive and dreadfully important, could actually be expended on the foibles and doubts of a single man. The ennobling implication of the Confessions was that every single life was epic and significant, deserving of the focus of both God and man.
Then again, maybe the invention of autobiography wasn’t such a good idea.
Josh Simmons’ Happy Elephant, Bunny and Chicken is an experiment in “that particular brand of the cartoon strip known as—AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL COMIX.” Or it’s just kind of disappointing. Take yer pick. In Elephant, Bunny and Chicken, Simmons discusses the role and evolution of “AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL COMIX,” then tells a story that involves Fenway Park, youthful angst, and some random guy’s short-shorts that reveal his naughty bits. Young Josh is empowered by seeing another man’s hoo-hoos, and fantasizes accordingly.
That’s it. That’s the story. You couldn’t find a plot in this thing with a metal detector and a squad of post-structuralists.
Happy Elephant has the same self-conscious self-consciousness that many indie commix have. Most indie writers and artists seem to feel that if they treat themselves with loathing and irony, their faults will be forgiven. It’s ok to be arrogant and elitist, so long as one knows they’re arrogant and elitist. This, of course, is a crock. It’s like a sick man claiming he’s well because he can diagnose himself. You can know you have pneumonia, dear reader—but that knowledge won’t cure you.
It doesn’t stop Simmons, though, and the tale of his youthful iniquities—public indecency and all—is unmercifully followed by three other vignettes, each worse than the last. The last, entitled “Fu**ing Fa**ot,” depicts a scene of average schoolyard bullying in brutally honest light, and is the only truly convincing page in the book. That said, the story is presented in a hopeless, cynical fashion, and thus evokes pity rather than sympathy.
I could suggest that, at least Simmons seems to have some understanding of the genre of autobiography—but if I did, Augustine might kick my butt. He’s sort of defensive that way.
Worth the money? Sadly, no.