Thursday, February 12, 2009

Welcome to Renrut's World

In the 1980s, the place to find comics on par with the best webcomics was in R Crumb's Weirdo Magazine. It's 26-issue run included pure rubbish, but not as much as contemporary anthology magazines like Centrifugal Bumblepuppy. There were also comics in zines (short for fanzines -- spin-offs of special interest home-made magazines -- but many were tedious strips by the self-styled "Ace Backwards" who distributed lots of cartoons, hoping they would be used for filler. They were.

Autobiographical stories were among the most interesting and most successful of the era: Crumb's own "I'm Grateful! I'm Grateful! and "My Troubles with Women" among them. Recently, I encountered a story on StumbleUpon by Renrut called "On Being Bumpy" which brought back the best autobiographical material of that era.

It has hapless parenting, frightening neighborhood fixtures who know your first name, desperate cure-worse-that-the-disease improvisations, school administrators who only recently evolved up to ape, fearless admissions and a fate common to many similar protagonists: "That's how I became a cartoonist."

The nerve center is Renrut's World , where you can view additional stories. "Ghost of 47 Chase Ave. " features guest art by Ronald Reagan, a rarity to be sure, but it reminds us how the march of science has pretty much destroyed the "true" ghost stories brought out during sleepovers. Now ghost stories are not weird things that defy a kid's ability to explain, they are the mark of a simple mind. Their peak lives on in comics, absolutely the best forum for them.

"Young Rut Screws Up Valentine's Day" doesn't end with the soul-searing public humiliation many of us remember from elementary mis-steps. Instead, it evokes the precarious nature of our calculations as they strived to make their way not just in an adult world, but an often arbitrary adult world.

These are some great black and white comics. Note especially the easy relationship between the lettering style and the art. A great tradition lives on -- don't miss it.