Oh, Magic Whistle. What do you have against a table of contents? If you’re intimately familiar with all the artists listed in the tags, you’re in luck! If, like me, some of the names were at least mildly unfamiliar, best of luck to you in determining who did which story. Except for the Sam Henderson bits, of course. If you’re not familiar with his style, I don’t understand why you’re buying Magic Whistle anyway. Or how you can draw breath without a functioning sense of humor, but that’s your problem, not mine. So we’ve established that all right thinking people love Sam Henderson, what can I tell you about this issue specifically? There’s the Lonely Robot Duckling story by Steven Weissman, a haunting tale of living too much in the digital world and getting advice about disconnecting from it all. Also featuring horrific violence, of course. There are a couple of strips done in old timey comic strip art, with boxy panels and tiny writing underneath. Possibly by Jim Campbell? They were also my clearest indicator yet that I am seriously getting old, as the tiny text was too tiny for me and I gave up on both of the strips. But if you’re still young and healthy and haven’t had terrible eyesight for most of your life, have at them! Stay Out of the Closet by Jen Sandwich tells the story of the time she ruined Christmas, but mostly it let us peek into the world of her family, her parents, and the various tricks they all played on/to each other around the holiday. Yellowed Kid by Roy Tompkins shows us a “3D” space adventure featuring Frankenstein’s monster and a planet filled with cheese. Finally Honey by ____ shows us a disturbed peeper (more disturbed than most based on the subject matter of his peeping), the ways that the family deals with said peeper and their delightful holiday meal. And I haven’t even gotten to Sam’s bits yet! There’s the immaculate conception of Dirty Danny, a sentient snowman discovering heroin, even the return of Gunther Bumpus and his cat door. And lots more (Sam probably contributed to about half of the comic), but why spoil it? If you’re already a fan you either already have this or are going to get it now that you know it exists. For the rest of you… take a chance on laughter! $9.99
Magic Whistle #3.2
Oh, Magic Whistle. The world can’t be all bad as long as you’re still around. This is another issue of the latest iteration in the series, in which Sam keeps doing his thing but he brings in other cartoonists to also do their thing, which lets him put comics out on a more regular basis to keep the rest of us happy. I’m just assuming everybody in America is reading this by now; since it’s been around since the mid 90’s there’s no excuse not to be reading it. This time around we have Tom Van Deusen with a tale of how great life is for Jeff Bezos, and Seth Cooper with another story of Zissy and Rita, which is a series he’s been working on since the early 90’s. I’d tell you more about the other strips by people not named Sam Henderson, but there’s no table of contents and nobody else signed their work, so other stories (that may be by Brigid Deacon, Devin Flynn or Amy Lockhart) include an adorable puppy and the incredible shrinking man who takes an unhealthy liking to it, how everybody wants to have sex all the time in the hopes of briefly distracting themselves from the inevitability of death, and three single page strips, each with a different theme. I’m pretty sure I’ve guessed who did which strip, but I’m not positive and I’d rather not get it wrong. And then there’s Sam’s strips, dealing with single panel gags, the continuing story of Cappy Jenkins, a dropped piece of pizza, and a billionaire trying to find somebody worthy to leave all his money to. So yeah, it’s Magic Whistle. Of course it’s funny and you’ll love it. If that ever changes, I’ll let you know! $6
We can all agree that the world would be a better place with more Magic Whistle in it, but Sam Henderson is just one man with other demands on his attention. What’s the solution to this problem? Bring in more funny artists! That’s the general idea with this latest version of Magic Whistle, and it’s a fantastic idea that works splendidly in this first issue. Sam does his thing better than most funny people so you know going in that that’s going to be good (check the handy chart to see what gum is called in your state; Ohio is “Pennsylvania asparagus”). But what about the newbies? Well, to start with, I think they’re all oldbies (i.e. people who have been making comics for years now), so no worries on that front either. John Brodowski (if you’re a regular around here that should be a familiar name) has a series of strips involving Sid and Sid (basically a carnival barker and a mute ghoul, although it’s probably best not to know for sure exactly what they are) spreading knowledge and horror wherever they go. Manuel Gomez Burns picks apart the traditional gag comic, spending a lot of time with the character in the last panel who always plops over in horror/outrage/hilarity and exactly what might make this character tick outside of the frame. Leah Wishnia devises the ingredients necessary to create the perfect spitball and show the devastating effects of such an object. Jesse McManus’s comic might require some knowledge of older Magic Whistle strips (mostly the ones where the bear and the human exchange body parts with each other with joy and hilarity), but he injects some unsettling realism into that hypothetical situation. Finally there’s Ansis Purins, another familiar name to regulars around here, with an oddly sweet tale of brothers with little in common who go out to plant a tree. And because it’s Ansis, some version of zombres are of course involved. Here’s hoping that increasing the pool of funny means more Magic Whistles in the world, because we’re all going to need something to laugh about over the next few months, he said, injecting a slight political note into an otherwise non-partisan review. Don’t vote Trump, you dummies. But do buy this comic, because it’s funny. $5.99
My favorite Sam Henderson is filthy Sam Henderson, and he’s fully back in that mode with this issue. The last thing I read of his was an all-ages collection of strips, which was still great, but severely lacking in the number of “fucks” thrown around. And, as the man has proven countless times in his 20+ years of making comics, he has no trouble putting out a thoroughly hilarious comic. Which, as always, is problematic to review, as there’s only so many times I can say that this part or that part was comedy gold. If you’re new to comics and just now hearing his name, there’s a wealth of older material out there from the man that I’d highly recommend if you enjoy laughing. If you’re already a fan, then you should know that the strips in here include some very modern pickup lines, the return of Dirty Danny, easy ways to ruin a joke, an update of his classic strip about LSD with him using his modern sensibilities, how the older cast was always better on SNL (told from a perspective 700,000 years in the future), new shows coming this fall, and Nancy and her exploding head. Scattered around the comic are his usual single panel gag strips, and nobody does them better. Still, the highlight of the comic was the story on high school urban sex legends and the descent of that story into complete madness. The image of that guy slipping on the condom, rolling down the stairs and eventually turning into a giant rolling ball of snow had me practically crying, which is as high a mark as a funny book can achieve. Anyway, there probably wasn’t much doubt from anybody who has read this site for any length of time that I was going to highly recommend it, so no surprises there, but come on, who doesn’t like to laugh? Buy this and laugh! $4.99
What’s the better way to go about making comics? Putting a book out every few months (this discussion is for the people who at least manage to put a book out every few months, by the way), or just putting one big book out a year? Sam is going with the second option. I think it’s a shame, because his book is exactly the type of thing that I like to see on a regular basis. Graphic novels in waiting (everything by Seth or Chester Brown, for example), those can come out in bigger books and I’m fine with that. The world has to be made funny to me at least a few times a year! Still, that being said, this issue is tremendous. The larger size means there can be a few huge stories in here, including a couple of them in color, which is an experience by itself. Other than that, it’s almost 100 pages of Sam Henderson. Isn’t that specific enough? OK, included in here in an exploding dog, Bill Cosby, Dirty Danny, newlyweds, Gunther Bumpus, Hamburger Joe, and hippies vs. beatniks. That’s just in case you wanted me to sum up a complex and huge issue in one sentence, anyway. $11.95 might seem a little steep, I know, but keep in mind that this is the only issue for the year, and it’s all new material from Sam Henderson! What are you, stupid or something? Click on the title if you want to buy the book, or just go to your comic store, as long as it doesn’t suck.
What possible reason could I have for letting this page stagnate for so long? Got me. I guess I just figured that everybody out there already knew that Sam Henderson is at the top of a short list of the funniest people in comic books. Well, don’t you already know that? This one is mostly about Chugbot, a drinking, dancing, cock-blocking robot made by a nerd with a dream of fitting in. And no, that doesn’t mean that there’s a moral to the story. The “Eyes Are Up Here” page didn’t do much for me, everything else was hilarious. Are there various degrees of hilarity? If so, some page were of a higher degree than others, but it’s all funny. If you don’t know who he is buy this immediately, if you do know who he is maybe you’re not keeping up on his new stuff, and that means you’re stupid. Unless you have a legitimate reason not to, but what reason could you possibly have not to laugh?
Magic Whistle #1 (mini comic)
It’s another trip down memory lane!Â This time it’s the first issue of the Magic Whistle comic, and shame on you if you don’t know what this is.Â If there is a hierarchy in my head of comics folk who got me interested in this small press business, it’s people like Sam Henderson who KEPT me interested.Â This was always one of the funniest books out there, and at the time he was fairly prolific for the field, putting out four or five books a year.Â Possibly a little more or less, but he was always one of the few people to consistently put out funny work.Â This is the first issue of the comic, but not the first thing he’d done, as a number of his even smaller minis were collected in a Magic Whistle #0 set.Â So how about it?Â Does it hold up?Â If it isn’t already abundantly clear, it’s difficult to judge things objectively through a cloud of nostalgia, but… yes.Â Yes, it is still hilarious.Â He’s funny before you even get to the comics, as he mentions in the intro that if you got this book through a boyfriend or girlfriend, you shouldÂ think about whether you’d still be with that person in a few years and how you should probably go ahead and get your own copies of his books just in case.Â Now that’s salesmanship!Â Some of his funniest comics are of the single panel variety, so it’s pointless to attempt to describe them.Â Longer stories in here include hippy high school, Monroe Simmons and his unknown popularity, how beer will make girls you don’t know want to fuck you, and his “always funny” series.Â That, kids, is something you’ll have to see for yourself in the collections, as I couldn’t put any of them up here without somehow making them unfunny.Â He also includes a couple of pages of humor from the 50’s, which are funny in their own special way.Â Really, what I always loved about his books is how they were more of a complete reading experience.Â Sounds stupid, but bear with me: there was always a bunch of single panel comics, a few longer stories, the “always funny” series, oddities (like that stuff from the 50’s), and some obvious personal care that was often oddly lacking in other minis.Â Of course, it’s possible that you just don’t share this sense of humor and think it’s all stupid, but I can’t relate to that.Â The link above has all kinds of his stuff up for free, so if you’re not familiar with the man that’s an excellent place to start, as I’m sure this is way, way out of print.