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KC Green, creator of the long-running Gun Show webcomic, draws with an unmistakable style that resembles modern-day Cartoon Network shows like Regular Show — only I’m pretty sure he got there first. There’s also a bit of Spumco influence, too. However, Green doesn’t draw to the sometimes off-putting lengths that John Kricfalusi does. It’s clenched smiles through puffy cheeks, wide-eyed double takes, rubbery bodies and simple character designs that are super-cute. I mean, a cool frog riding a dolphin will never not be adorable. A lot of humor can be mined just from the sheer goofiness of his drawings.
Gun Show is also a webcomic that dares you to laugh at the macabre: It’s filled with blood and guts, pentagrams, sacrifices and decapitations. A lot of it is disturbing, even accounting for Green’s Looney Tunes-style cartooniness. For example, there’s a comic where he envisions Frasier and Niles Crane as some sort of magical warlocks who try to resurrect the poor dog Eddie. This involves arranging a dinner party in which the guests are victims for a demonic sacrifice. The absurdity comes from how callously all the characters handle the violence. For some reason, the Frasier-style comics are some of the bloodiest strips he’s ever drawn, perhaps because radio psychiatry just exudes menace.
It’s difficult to pinpoint what makes a lot of Gun Show tick, but if I were to hazard a guess, I’d say it’s because he’s mastered the nonsequitur punchline. Perhaps there’s a point in the strip where we’re so indoctrinated to the violence that we only expect the worse, so when a relatively tame gag shows its head — such as when spectral beings take umbrage at people falling into their holes — I chuckle to myselfm partly out of relief. Oh, good! No one was violently skinned today!
That said, “getting violently skinned” is a pretty common Gun Show punchline. And it’s often pretty hilarious, too. It can be repetitive, though, which is a peril that many longtime comics have to face; it doesn’t matter whether they’re in print or online. Eventually you garner a fan base, and it expects to see jokes that are in the same vein as the ones that garnered return readers and/or a few thousand Reddit upvotes. Eventually, you end up with a comic that’s all lasagna jokes or having a case of the Mondays.
Which I why I’ve come to value Green’s attempts at long-form storytelling. Perhaps his most heralded effort has been the “Anime Club” stories, which follow three passionate anime fans and one pompous, tantrum-throwing jerk. It lampooned the insular, sometimes pathetic nature of fandoms with exaggerated caricatures of familiar fan types. The series became so popular that Green collected the stories in a print edition.
Lately, however, Green has been dabbling with a series called “Graveyard Quest.” Compared to “Anime Club,” “Graveyard Quest” is closer to the free-wheeling, anything-goes craziness of Gun Show. The series stars a very old, lumpen gravedigger who’s been digging holes for hundreds of years. He leaves the bones of his mother next to his bed to keep him company. One day, the spectral form of his jerk dad (drawn as a tiny blue flame) whisks the bones away to Hell. In a bout of depression, the gravedigger finds a passage underground and is greeted by a mystical mole. What follows is almost a twisted version of Alice in Wonderland. The gravedigger ends up on a Wild West train filled with ghosts, fights with worms that form into a giant hand, and meets up with the ferryman on the River Styx. There seems to be a journey of self-discovery as well, with the gravedigger working out his daddy issues, but it doesn’t get in the way of the flat-out absurdity.
“Graveyard Quest” is filled with some interesting visuals and a boatload of imagination. The same visuals applied to elicit a quick laugh look just as nice in scenes that are meant to convey action. It may be not a laugh-riot as some of the more sharable strips, but even taking a more dramatic bent Gun Show is well worth following.