Backwards Burd have been establishing themselves as a small press collective with a noticeably irreverent and off-the-wall approach to comics for a while now. Last summer I reviewed Petty Beach (here) by Sajan Rai, one of the group who also contributes to this project, and I noted then how the delivery of their material was an all-embracing blend of the traditional and the contemporary – from old school, tactile, risographed print comics to digital content via a regular online anthology.
F*ck You! Kitty Jenkins was funded through a Kickstarter campaign towards the end of last year and is their first long-form comics offering, featuring the work of Siobhan Alcaide, Daniel De Sosa, Shane Melisse and the aforementioned Sajan Rai. The book is being promoted as a graphic novel which is stretching things a little given that it’s actually a collection of short strips. Still, there’s the best part of a hundred pages of comics here that emerged from a very well supported piece of crowdfunding so I think we can forgive the hyperbole without digressing into protracted discussion about what does and doesn’t fit the definition of that admittedly nebulous term.
The titular Kitty Jenkins is a kind of feline spirit guide whose approach to providing mystical enlightenment is a little different to the usual cosmic avatar. Kitty Jenkins takes people on spiritual journeys regardless of whether they actually have any interest in going or not, and dispenses cryptic, often meaningless life advice before leaving them in a far worse position than they were before they met him. An exuberant young woman coming home from a first date has her evening ruined by a jaunt through KJ’s psychic realms and his meaningless platitudes. A schoolboy with failing grades looking for divine direction is left high and dry by our ethereal life coach. And a junkie’s visitation from this slacker celestial messenger leaves him splattered in phantom cat poo (below) and subjected to advice that amounts to “total stoner shit”.
Pages from Sajan Rai (left) and (right) Shane Melisse’s strips
To all intents and purposes that’s the basic set-up of the first half of the book and, as a running gag, it certainly has legs once the reader gets into the rhythm of the humour. The thing with running jokes in any medium, however, is that they need to operate within a broader context – to be just one part of a larger storytelling environment – if they are to retain a reader/viewer/listener’s interest for any length of time. Fortunately, the second half of F*ck You! Kitty Jenkins seems to recognise this and the format starts to loosen up a little giving us Kitty Jenkins-style Lord of the Rings parodies, rock star satire, and literary pastiche (our purring protagonist in ‘The Great Catsby’ below left). The scatological humour (a strip called ‘The Toilet Whisperer’ for example) and transcendental silliness is still very much in evidence but the format is shaken up a little.
Daniel De Sosa’s art (left) and Siobhan Alcaide (right)
As a premise, though, the otherworldy experiences that Kitty Jenkins inflicts on his targets is as much about providing a vehicle for each of the four artists to give free rein to their imaginations and individual senses of humour, within a recurring framework, as it is about establishing a core narrative concept. Both in story structure and visually, Daniel De Sosa ably exploits the absurdity and pomposity of the faux spirituality that Kitty Jenkins espouses with some elaborately bizarre supernatural mindscapes, while in Shane Melisse’s sections it’s the juxtaposition of almost traditional kids comics-style art with toilet humour and grossness that accentuates the comedy.
That’s echoed in Siobhan Alcaide’s pages which have an unassuming innocence to them that acts as a direct contrast to the manipulative presence at the comic’s heart. And as for Sajan Rai’s material – well it’s as bawdy, eccentric and lewdly idiosyncratic as I have come to expect! There’s admittedly nothing terribly sophisticated about F*ck You! Kitty Jenkins and I can accept that some readers will find it a fairly one-note joke that possibly outstays its welcome. But the book does have its own underground-style charm – a kind of trippy Viz vibe – and a never-takes-itself-too-seriously attitude that is not without appeal. Those wanting to find out more about the project and meet the artists involved can do so at the launch of the comic at London’s Gosh! Comics on Friday 23rd January. Details here.
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