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#83 [Apr. 24th, 2008|12:50 pm]

100 COMICS TO READ BEFORE YOU DIE (or grow out of them)

#83 SQUEE! – Jhonen Vasquez
(Slave Labor Graphics)

“I think there’s something wrong with this world.”

While Yotsuba&! reminds us how full of wonder the world is when seen through a child’s eyes, Squee! exists to remind us how full of terror it is. The title character’s life is so full of things he can only react to with a horrified, beheaded squeak that it’s become his nickname. Everybody wants to dissect him, eat him, bully him, haunt him or turn him to the dark side, except for his parents who barely remember he exists. Everything you hid from behind the couch or under the blankets torments Squee and it’s hilarious. It’s not a nice kind of comedy – it’s as black as Jhonen Vasquez’s gothic sense of atmosphere and style – but it sure is funny. Squee’s bug-eyed shock and pain, his mother’s heavily medicated absentness, his father’s rambling explanations of why Squee has ruined his life and the vile ineptitude of the various monsters and authority figures who bedevil the boy are depicted with a class clown’s panache and gift for impersonations.

As if that’s not enough, Vasquez provides us with more doomed schadenfreude objects to amuse us with their suffering in the backup strips. There’s Wobbly Headed Bob who knows that sadness is just joy for deep people, an insane stick figure named Happy Noodle Boy and Filler Bunny, who is forced to fill the in-between pages with endless cheery dances for our amusement while begging for the sweet release of death.

Whenever the valve inside Jhonen Vasquez’s head needs to be opened and the madness purged, he creates another cartoon character to torture. If he did these things in the real world, to real rabbits or children – exploding heads, needle stabbings, dog maulings – he’d be locked up. Because it happens on the page, he’s a comic genius. Every time the world’s corruption and broken education systems and bad Hollywood movies makes the black ink boil in Vasquez’s brain, we reap the benefits.