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The Collected Toupydoops Volume 1: Ground Floor

Written and illustrated by Kevin McShane
Lobrau Productions
168 pages, $14.95
ISBN-10: 0979290813
ISBN-10: 9780979290817

 

Teetereater can diss these two trendy comics fans precisely because they all speak the same language. Page from The Collected Toupydoops Volume 1: Ground Floor, ©2007 Lobrau Productions, Inc.

 

Former indy comic-book actor Toupydoops and his best friend Teetereater have just moved to Hollywood, home to America's largest comic-book companies, where Toupy hopes to star in the major comics. When his big audition falls through, Toupydoops finds himself taking dayjobs, dealing with the life of a struggling actor, and trying not to get too upset over the fact that his friend and roommate seems to get all the girls.

As high concepts go, the basic set-up behind Toupydoops is up there with the highest of them. Toupydoops is a throwback to the independent comics of the 1980s, where you knew your readers were going to be longtime comics fans, and you could thus marinate your stories in geek clichés without necessarily having to kowtow to them. This isn't a superhero book, but it references them in fast and furious fashion. (Toupy comes home from a crummy job to find Teeter reading a comic book. "Whatcha readin'?" Toupy asks. "Punisher." "Oh yeah? Which one?" "The one where he takes the law into his own hands." "Ah. I love that one.") Toupydoops is a comic book about comic-book culture for people steeped in comic-book culture — preferably people who've been around long enough and had enough life experience to see said culture from a more objective, less reverent and all-encompassing a perspective.

 

Toupydoops learns the acting life the hard way. Page from The Collected Toupydoops Volume 1: Ground Floor, ©2007 Lobrau Productions, Inc.

 

It's also quite good. Visually, Creator Kevin McShane is a solid cartoonist, with a firm grasp of composition and layout, capable of creating a fully realized environment within a stylized, cartoony style that's sufficiently broad enough to encompass competing comics styles without it seeming forced — normal humans interact with anthropomorphic animals and manga chicks, and it's all integrated sufficiently within McShane's bag of tricks to seem all of a piece, rather than disparate elements thrown onto the page without rhyme or reason.

The writing, however, is what sells the story. McShane has a good ear for dialogue, and is genuinely interested in telling a funny story about day-to-day life, with the funnybook parodies and geek elements acting as flavoring rather than spectacle. Characters define themselves by their words and actions as much as by their nerd-culture archtypes. The humor in Toupydoops maintains a steady stream of amusement because it alternates between broad comedy elements — early on, Teeter fights a human-sized cockroach for dominance of the apartment while Toupy's monkey (oh, yeah, I forgot to mention the cigar-smoking monkey) plays a videogame that mimicks the fight — and character vignettes where the comedy depends upon wordplay and social observations. The result is entertainingly breezy without seeming slight, and geeky without reading like it was written in some nerd's secret language. I can't imagine this ever selling to anyone but funnybook diehards, but I could easily see this selling to them through multiple volumes.

 

This essay appeared on the then-website of The Comics Journal sometime between 2006 and 2008.

 

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