||[Mar. 13th, 2010|01:51 pm]
100 COMICS TO READ BEFORE YOU DIE (or grow out of them)
#38 PICTURES FOR SAD CHILDREN – John Campbell
“We’d love to know why you cancelled your subscription to: being alive.”
John Campbell draws characters so simple that they are only one step up the evolutionary ladder from stick figures: staring round-headed people with lines for arms. Everything these crude characters cope with is imbued with a dull horror – working in call centres that deal with suicide hotline overflow, suffering through family weddings and outré performance art, being stuck under things. None of it’s cheerful. One of the handful of recurring characters is a ghost who has no idea what he’s supposed to do with his afterlife and so shuffles back to the job he hated when he was alive because it’s all he knows how to do. When Peter Pan shows up at the window to explain that all you have to do to fly is think happy thoughts, a John Campbell character silently closes the window and goes back to bed to think about his loan repayments and the choices he has made in life that led him to this point.
Like the title suggests, it’s not an upbeat comic, but no one in Pictures For Sad Children is particularly dissatisfied with how bad everything is. Their world is like ours only every single thing in it is demonstrably worse and they just keep going, struggling through the day like we do. Seeing his pessimistic, deadpan characters keep calm and carry on even when abducted by serial killers or crushed by blocks is bizarrely uplifting. They may be fragile-looking sticky people who never smile, but there’s something heart-warming about their indomitableness. And anyway, sadness is just happiness for deep people, right?