For me, reviewing comics fell by the wayside (as it did for the WGI crew in general) due to holiday stress, but speaking for myself, there were other reasons. I originally intended to review House of Fun the week it came out, which was followed a week later by the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. It seemed weird to want to review a literal “funnybook” so soon after, but it didn’t feel wrong. I guess it took me a while to formulate why.
On face value, there’s already a lot to recommend. It’s the first time Evan Dorkin’s material has been seen in comic form since the cancelled Dork series from Slave Labor Graphics. I also believe it’s his first full color issue of all-humor since his run on Bill & Ted’s Excellent Comic Book.
This Dark Horse one shot title collects a lot of the same strips you’d find in Dorkin’s old Slave Labor titles, including Milk and Cheese and his hilarious newspaper strip parodies featuring returning characters like Myron the Living Voodoo Doll and others (what happened to Phil the Disco Skinhead???). His “Murder Family” sitcom parody has always felt a little dated and tepid to me, in light of how his serial killer characters look tame compared to “Honey Boo Boo.” Still, I just figure that’s just my taste since I like his comic book gags (I vote for more of his take on Comic Book Haiku), and as Dorkin might say, what’s more dated and tepid than comic books?
But it’s his first finished Eltingville Club strip in ages that stands out the most. When it was first anthologized in Dark Horse Presents, the strip seemed muddled down amongst the stale sci-fi that has kept me away from that series. In Dorkin’s forum, it is allowed to breathe. It’s filled with the obligatory slow vs. fast zombie jokes, but more than that, the strip is about troubled youth. The Eltingville are not homicidal, but they’re still regular teenagers with real problems.
Though he’s likely seen as a mainstream comics jester, Dorkin covers real life more effectively than most popular comic creators, particularly the sadder side of life that those like Brian Bendis, Mark Millar and others only create silly parodies of. We don’t all become killers if ignored, but it would be nice if this misery was affirmed more and not just buried with power fantasies.
House of Fun alone covers bad friendships, abusive relationships and arrested development so well, some might think Dorkin is still in his teens. I went through my own bastard youth years, however comparably milquetoast, and though straight happy endings aren’t funny enough to be in I’d like to think that if more comics like this were made available when I was younger, their very existence would have convinced me that things get better.