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Fish Head Steve!

Fish Head Steve! Fish Head Steve!

Fish Head Steve! back

Jamie Smart


Page 45 Review by Stephen

“I think your head is really swish
"Even though it’s a dead fish,
"I dream about you every day,
"You’re handsome in a fishy way.
"Fish fish fish, Steve Steve Steve.
“And then I kinda ran out of rhyming words.”

Hooray! Hooray for stupidity! Hooray for hopelessness! Hooray for manic zeal delivered at sixty gags a second, as if fired from a machine gun made out of ice cream and jelly. Hooray!

At which point I have no choice but to invoke comics’ comedy legend Roger Langridge for the above is pure FRED THE CLOWN with elements of ART D’ECCO: LOUCHE AND INSALUBRIOUS ESCAPADES lobbed in later. And earlier. Throughout!

I also rate Mr. Smart right up there with MILK & CHEESE’s Evan Dorkin both for his cartooning exuberance and each page’s fun-filled, pun-packed hyperactivity. The only difference is that (after squirreling a copy away for yourself) you can also buy this for your kids, safe in the knowledge than they won’t begin on the gin and then trash your living room.

There is a knock-out visual punchline to Fridge-Freezer Alice’s declaration of doting adoration but it’s difficult to replicate that in a prose review so bless you, Jamie, for supplying its interior art.

Jamie Smart is just the funniest on Twitter – and there’s some pretty fierce competition from the likes of Gary Northfield, Neill Cameron, Warren Ellis and @LizzLizz – for his brain seems to fizz all day long, exploding with random scenarios that would never occur to a mentally healthy human being, then either splurging them into the Twittersphere regardless of the consequences or throwing them down on paper.

Here we have a town full of freaks – gormless and gleeful – with animals, vegetables and minerals for heads. Some of those heads are even semi-sentient! Selena, for example, seems to have merged with a purple, upside-down cat with a will of its own, while Alan’s bread-head is thankfully unaware when birds deign it so high up in their pecking order. Bestest of all is Cowboy whose head is a fully functioning cow – and cows, as you know, tend to go plopsies.

The book climaxes in a couple of five-page flourishes, but the majority of these misadventures are two-page gag-athons meticulously composed to incorporate a single, giant, introductory panel setting the sanity-free scene with a protagonist’s portrait and brief editorial commentary (like Stan Lee used to in the early days of Marvel) or just landing you right in the deep end. My favourite is ‘Farmer Wars’ wherein the entire town has become obsessed with the livestock equivalent of Top Trumps or Pokemon gaming cards. The golden collectible is Farmer Joe with “Vocabulary 10, Tractor Driving 10, Goat Grappling 10”, but lookout for Farmer Giles: “His lack of pasteuring skills is legendary”.

Everyone has taken to wearing a farmer’s flat cap, while Cowboy’s cow has gone one further and determined to smoke a pipe. “Moof!”

And herein lies one of the many keys to the success of Smart’s cartooning: throwaway background jokes, visuals and sound effects, which fill every page to bursting point. Other than Dorkin, I cannot think of a comicbook creator who delivers it so fast and thick.

It’s also in the mouths and eyes. The mouths range from petulant to gasping, empty and dismayed, open shouty-shouty or pure Leo Baxendale (see The Bash Street Kids in THE BEANO), especially Cowboy’s cow with its tube-like “Moof!” when a thermometer’s stuck up its bottom. Combined with the histrionic, wide, white eyes and mad, black-dotted pupils this, I exaggerate not, is cartooning genius.

Anyway, it’s about time I returned you to our regular schedule on Spumville TV:

“Coming up later: a pig in a speedboat, pudding-wearing fashion ideas, and Doctor Fwapfwip’s Fwopding Fwoopfwup!! Cowboy, this is scheduling gold!!”
“We’ll be TV stars!”

Squelchy squelchy! Moof!
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