2001-05-09

Yes, it's that good.The Eisner Award nominees have been announced. Rather than carp about who shouldn’t win, as I did with the Harvey Awards, I’m going to use my bully pulpit to back an incredibly funny book by Michael Kupperman called Snake ‘n’ Bacon’s Cartoon Cabaret.Kupperman is an absurdist master of appropriation. He starts with genre entertainment–detective stories, fairy tales, romances, disaster movies–and drains the clichTd plots of any reason or sense they might once have had. Then he recasts them with public-domain characters (such as Hercules and Albert Einstein) and original-yet-familiar creations like boy detective Wonder Book Junior and child star Tottie Tinkles (a kind of scatological Shirley Temple).

The title characters of this collection are, literally, a snake and a piece of bacon. For no good reason, Snake can only hiss while Bacon has the power of speech–which he uses to entice people to eat him. Snake and Bacon are cops–or rather, they’re placeholders for cops. Their police work consists of hissing and chiming “I’m real bacon!” while cop movie plots flow around them. The police chief doesn’t seem to notice that his officers have no arms or legs, and, in one installment, he sets them up for a “buddy-cop” adventure with Mark Twain. When you think it can’t get any more ridiculous, Snake and Bacon are hit on the head and travel back in time to King Arthur’s court.

Kupperman’s technique is to stretch the logic synapses of your brain so far that the laughter synapses have no choice but to take over. Along the way he underscores the vapidity of popular entertainment–though that’s hardly necessary these days. If anything, his work shows the power that icons have over us–they retain their authority no matter what we do to them. In one episode, an encounter with a glowing meteorite causes Hercules and Sherlock Holmes to be combined into a single person: Sherlockules. Somehow, we swallow it.

Snake ‘n’ Bacon’s Cartoon Cabaret has been nominated for an Eisner in the category of “Best Humor Publication.” Kupperman has been nominated for “Best Writer/Artist–Humor.” If either Kupperman or his book don’t win an Eisner, the very foundations of democracy will have been damaged beyond repair.

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