Written & Drawn by Dan Dougherty
Published by Better On Paper Comics
Comic strips, are a “funny” thing. You know a good one when you read it. I’m just thinking of humor strips but this could apply elsewhere too. The “joke” itself, while important, may not be the most important part. Only one thing can not falter, no matter what, and that is the main character. If he or she or it is not somehow “funny” then the comic strip stinks. Beardo does not stink. No, far from it. This is a comic strip worthy of your attention with a solid track record. The latest batch of Beardo comic strips, in full color, have just been released as a trade and it inspired me to spread the word.
Now, think of Richard Pryor on stage, deep in the comedy zone. He could have said anything and you’d laugh. You know you would. Well, that’s sort of what it’s like with this character, Beardo. He is by no means Richard Pryor. I’m not saying that. I’m basically saying that this is character-driven comedy. Say, like all the oddball stuff that happened between Basil and Manuel in the classic British sitcom, Fawlty Towers. Or, better yet, think of Kevin Smith’s world of Clerks. This comic strip is very much about raging and aging youth stuck working in retail hell. Yeah, that’s more like it.
It’s all about characters and execution. This is a very stylish comic strip. Dougherty provides just the right amount of lines and curves and, bam, you’ve got sharp, distinct characters. Very spare and neat. They just need little circles for eyes ala Little Orphan Annie. And, then, just the right lines to refer to perspective and decor and, bam, you’ve got a lean and clean environment for all the madcap hijinks, or in this case, madap wry humor.
Beardo is a down on his luck barista. He has aspirations of being a successful cartoonist and musician. In his late twenties, he’s starting to wonder where his life is headed. In one scene he has a nightmare where he’s in a boxing ring with a giant cup of coffee. He thinks this will be the last round but the coffee cup thinks he isn’t going to ever leave. If that wasn’t sad enough, Beardo is not exactly having a nightmare but is daydreaming with a cup of coffee in his hand while his coworkers look at him in dismay. It’s a funny scene, not laugh-out-loud funny but character-driven funny which can often be even more satisfying.
For those familiar with Dan Dougherty’s remarkable drawing skills, picking up the just released second collection of Beardo will be a treat. He is the artist for the zombie Western comic book series, Rotten, published by Moonstone. In Rotten, Dougherty can spread his wings and include intricate detail, everything from precise facial expressions to architectural renderings. In Beardo, he needs to condense his art to the needs of a comic strip. And it works quite well. His lean line work shines in both arenas.
What makes one comic strip funny and another one a dud? Some of it is in the eye of the beholder. But most of it depends on the conscientious effort of the creator. Breaking into comics in any big way is highly competitive so that’s one burden. And then the very nature of comics, coming out day after day, means there will be hits and misses. Dan Dougherty is pretty good about maintaining the quality to his comic strip. Some are funnier than others but, through it all, the main character, Beardo, the barsita who dreams of making it as an artist, carries on consistently. No, it’s not an easy task to produce a worthwhile comic strip. Anyone can create something on a daily basis but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be worthwhile. Beardo delivers and that’s saying a lot.