Thursday, June 12, 2014

Dennis the Menace and The Underwater Welder


So, it's become something of a running joke with me that so many super-hero comics are about guys working out their daddy issues by dressing up and beating up other people. I thought that if I got away from the genre for a while, I'd have a new range of topics to write about. That hasn't proven to be the case.

Life is just hard, dang it.  (Top Shelf Comix)

The main character in Jeff Lemire's Underwater Welder is a 30-something married man about to have a child. Mysterious events start happening and build up to a huge climax, pretty much because he never got over his father's death from at least 20 years ago. Yes, he's Batman without the cape.

In Utero
I think this is one of those stories where I'm just supposed to nod my head and go along with the fact that this grown man hasn't resolved childhood issues. It's not like he was traumatized by abuse; his dad drank and fought with his divorced mom. If that is all it takes to freeze people in a state of arrested development, then we must have a full globe of people metaphorically bobbing underwater. 

Or maybe they are all just living in 1960's suburbia. I've also recently read this 1972 collection of Sunday strips dating from 1958, 65 & 66. Hank Ketcham fully admitted that his main goal was to have a newspaper strip that would always stay in syndication and provide him with an income. 

Which means, of course, that nothing ever really happens. This is the sitcom world where there is mischief, but no actual consequences to Dennis' antics. Mr. Wilson shouts a lot, but he would never actually take a shotgun to his neighbors. Probably. 

Much as I do with Jeff Lemire, I really love Ketcham's scratchy style. Or that of one of his assistants, perhaps Ron Ferdinand. Though where Lemire's lines reflect an off-kilter world, I think Ketcham's express a pure joy, the optimism of the American dream. Dennis' suburb could easily be a sub-division tacked on to Ray Bradbury's Green Town. And I would much rather spend my time there than in the anonymous Canadian town presented in Underwater Welder. But, of course, I'm just a cranky old man. 

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