Back in November, David Sedaris was a guest on The Daily Show and he was there to promote his then-new collection of animal fables, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk.
During the interview, Sedaris told host Jon Stewart that his original title for the book was Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls, but his editor responded, “Please don’t put the word diabetes in your book title,” and came up with final one instead.
I thought of Sedaris’ editor when I opened an envelope to find a review copy of the fourth and final collection of Johnny Ryan’s Blecky Yuckarella strip, entitled Fuc_ __u, _ss__le.
Please note that I’m not trying to be demure and avoid saying “the F-word” and “the A-word” here on Newsarama; that’s the actual title of the actual book. Underscores are used to make the title look a bit like an unfinished game of hangman, an image emphasized by the cover, which features Ryan’s Blecky character hanging from a noose, her limbs shaking as sweat drops and yellow-colored drops emanate from her figure (It’s the first of many appearances of piss in the book).
What if Ryan had Sedaris’ editor? If “diabetes” is a bad thing to have in a book title, how about the two words in Ryan’s title? And how would that initial conversation go? Perhaps “Hey Johnny, what do you want to call your new book?,” leading into an R-rated Abbot and Costello routine, with the editor all “Wow, what the hell Johnny? I’m just asking! There’s no need for that kind of language!”
Ryan obviously doesn’t have Sedaris’ editor, nor Sedaris’ publisher, and Fantagraphics Books is obviously quite in tune with Ryan’s sense of humor. This is, after all, the fourth of their Blecky books, and they’ve published two volumes of Prison Pit, starring a protagonist whose name I’m pretty sure I can’t post on Newsarama, as well as Ryan’s Angry Youth Comix.
Blecky Yuckerealla, for the uninitiated, is perhaps Johnny Ryan at his most fundamental. It’s a four-panel gag strip (in both definitions of the word “gag,” come to think of it) featuring some of the most over-the-top jokes ever committed to paper applied to a Little Lulu/Nancy template and cast of characters. Over-the-top, gross-out, sure-to-upset at least 50% of the people who encounter them jokes married to all-time classic cartooning. That there is Johnny Ryan in a nutshell.
Most if not all of the strips in this collection previously ran on Fantagraphics’ Flog blog as part of their regular “Weekend Webcomics” feature (How do I know for sure? Because you never forget the place where you read your first comic strip that has the words “owl vagina necklace” in the punch line).
I’m not sure how exactly one goes about recommending a book like this, as it’s not only not for everyone, it’s kind of sort of not for anyone, which ironically makes it perfect for some someones. (Panel four of page 9 is perfect for 21st century comics historians; as it is surely the most intentionally provocative comics image of the decade). I suppose if you know and like Johnny Ryan’s work, then this probably for you. If you like, say, Angry Youth Comix and Little Lulu, this is definitely for you.
If jokes about every single body part on the human body (referred to by all of their colorful names), the voiding of bowels and bladders, rainbows with cancer, 9/11, 9/11 pornography, all three of the Big Three monotheistic religions to come out of the Middle East, dead babies, autoerotic asphyxiation and glory holes sound like the sort of thing that might offend you, well then, you might want to steer clear of this.
There are, of course, a good half-dozen or so completely silly jokes, however, that stand out mostly because of their silliness and their complete lack of trying to offend:
Perhaps if Sedaris’ publisher released this book, it would have a title like The First Coonstitutional Congress. Luckily, it’s published by Fantagraphics, and Ryan can thus let us know how he really feels about us right there in the title.