You should be reading ROCKY


One comics genre that only old-timers talk about is “funny animals,” and it concerns the foibles and fantasies of humans beings thrown into relief by a cast of anthropomorphized creatures, often cute or endearing. Children like funny-animal comics (and cartoons — Bugs Bunny, Tom and Jerry), but a few of the comics greats were of this genre — Krazy Kat being the best known example — and it was very popular in the ’50s. Crumb’s Fritz the Cat was the jazzed up, “Funny animals aren’t just for kids anymore” version, and Gerber’s Howard the Duck continued that tradition.

It is also, of course, the staple of Disney and the great Carl Barks, and perhaps because of its corporate/childish origins, it hasn’t been much in fashion among US cartoonists for more than 20 years. In Northern Europe, however, where Disney comics reign supreme, you’ll still find artists working in the funny animal genre, notably the peerless Jason, but also the Swedish Martin Kellerman with Rocky, a very funny strip about the mishaps of Gen Xers/Milennials. Fantagraphics has published two ROCKY collections, but luckily you can also read it online. Rocky himself is a cartoon dog whose bad luck gets him into trouble and raging neurosis keeps him there. His friends are good-natured slackers with an equal lack of survival skills, and the universal situations, along with Kellerman’s wit — which comes across even in translation — makes for a very enjoyable reading experience.

We should note that Onstad’s ACHEWOOD is another strip in the funny animal tradition, and perhaps the most progressive example of the genre.

Can superheroes grow up?

Screenwriter Todd Alcott examines the genre:

First, let me make something clear: there is nothing wrong, shameful or second-rate about adolescent fantasies. Adolescent fantasies drive the entire movie business and have for more than a generation. “Grown-up” drama was once where all the money was spent in Hollywood, now it’s the opposite: all the money is spent on adolescent fantasies, while adult drama must squeeze itself in where it can. Adolescent fantasies thus call the shots in this world of professionals — movies based on superhero comics, fantasy novels, children’s books and pop-culture flotsam attract the biggest names, the highest salaries and our brightest talents. No offense to the wonderful movies nominated for Best Picture this year, but the three movies I went to see more than once in the theaters, Iron Man, Kung Fu Panda and The Dark Knight, are not on the list. The question here is not “are superhero movies any good?” but “can superhero movies ever be anything but adolescent fantasies?”