By LJ Douresseau
January 10, 2005 - 15:57
WHAT’RE YOU LOOKIN’ AT?! – TPB
CARTOONIST: Johnny Ryan
ISBN: 1-56097-621-7; softcover
176 pp., B&W with some color, $16.95
Not for children, not for the politically correct, not for sensitive readers, WHAT’RE YOU LOOKIN’ AT?, the trade paperback reprinting Johnny Ryan’s Angry Youth Comix #1-5, is for readers who think cartoonists and comic book creators should be as free as any other artists to create vulgar, dirty, nasty, and X-rated… art and have it published. Fantagraphics Books’ press materials calls Ryan a “one-man MAD magazine,” and it’s not far from the truth.
In the last five years, Ryan has gained notoriety and acclaim from readers and fellow cartoonists such as R. Crumb, Joe Sacco, Gary Panter, (the sublime) Daniel Clowes, and Peter Bagge (who obviously influenced Ryan). That kind of attention is necessary, as Ryan’s farces, parodies, and send-ups match the broad range of work MAD has published. Angry Youth Comix is a fabulous menagerie of scatological madness that defies easy categorization.
There is literally something for everyone in this collection of Ryan’s cartoon insanity. He satires makeover TV shows and pop culture reinvention in “Hipler” a tale of Adolf Hitler’s attempt to make himself a hip, hip hop cultural icon. Exotic household pets become killer hookers in “The Whorehouse of Dr. Moreau.” Ryan’s signature character, Loady McGee, is lynched by his KKK step-father and mother when they mistake him for a… Negro after Loady is covered in tar. But nothing tops “The Gaytriot,” reprinted from Ryan’s contribution to one of The Comics Journal’s special volumes.
Ryan’s work is a testament to the utter and unique madness that is humor comics. Ryan may very well end up in one of Michelle Malkin’s internment camps, and 176 pages of Ryan can get old if read in one sitting. Still, Ryan is a funny man, and it’s good that he is so willing to share the dirty jokes and naughty tales that brew in his mind. Hype be damned! Ryan deserves to be on the short list of best cartoonists working in comics… even when he makes us cringe. A