Tickled at Knife Point : Ivan Brunetti – “Schizo” #1-4

“A man should swallow a toad every morning, to be sure of not meeting with anything more disgusting in the day ahead.” – Nicolas Chamfort

The jester gives us the bad news about humanity upfront, and we laugh and have a better day for it. 

“I have chosen the path of the clown, cowardly court jester that I am. My work merely offers a brief respite from the horror of living. Reading the comics contained herein is not unlike having your feet tickled at knife point (…) “The mark of any great artist is his willingness and ability to say what everyone else is afraid to even think…”

So goes part of Ivan Brunetti‘s manifesto of sorts for “Schizo,” his classic misanthropic funnies, three issues of which were published between 1994-98. (The fourth issue, stylistically and thematically divergent, came out in 2006.) “Misanthropic” may be the wrong term. Misanthropy is an act of laziness, as Brunetti himself points out in his opening tirade, entitled

“Why Every Single Person in the World Could Be Instantaneously  Obliterated from the Face of the Planet, And I Wouldn’t Turn to Look, Even if There Were a Loud Noise,

Or

I Hate You. I Hate You ALL!”

Why is misanthropy lazy? Because to hate humanity unquestioningly is as absurd as it is to love humanity unquestioningly. Satire is not necessarily misanthropy. Misanthropy is hopeless. Satire offers some hope: it is there as a corrective. Satirists don’t necessarily hate humanity; they love it but are disappointed at its short-comings, sort of like a nagging spouse. (“Why won’t the world just take its trash out, like it’s supposed to do?”)

“I Hate You All” extends over many many pages of sheer flagellation, (self- and otherwise), as we track a cartoonish Ivan through a nightmarish urban landscape littered with syringes and severed penises. All the while, Ivan pessimistically monologues like a  Hamlet who’s read Schopenhauer, debating the nobility of suicide, the shortcomings of humanity, and the unresolvable conflict between nature and civilization. Sometimes he’s drawn naked and fetal, sometimes he’s dressed as Charlie Brown, throughout he’s abused by bullies of both sexes (a representative man wears a Lynyrd Skynyrd shirt; a representative woman throws a brick at his head while screaming: “All men are rapists!”) No matter what, his monologue goes on uninterrupted, its dissertative eloquence juxtaposed with the comically violent, deflating imagery.

The happy, well adjusted funny man is avis rara, and so Brunetti’s disgust fits in with the tradition of Robert Crumb, Harvey Pekar, Chris Ware, and specially Peter Bagge. But his vitriol can be exhausting, and so are Schizo 1-3 as little Ivan goes on hatin’ and hatin’ and hatin’.  Issue #4 is a different matter: Brunetti, (whose covers for the New Yorker really display his versatility) skews autobiographical rants for elliptical biographical anecdotes that touch on the Marx Brothers, Val Lewton, Piet Mondrian, Soren Kierkegaard, Erik Satie, Francoise Hardy, Louise Brooks and J. K. Huysmans ( no relation to Rowling.) Somehow we sense even more of Brunetti’s worries and concerns when he’s not (openly) discussing his life: the “oh god I suck let my misery end let sulphuric acid pour on this planet” rants of cartoon Ivan are, after all, just rants; the way Brunetti portrays the romantic failures of Mondrian or Kierkegaard are much closer to confessions.

But it’s really Charles Schulz that dictates a lot of the rhythms here. Brunetti is a vocal admirer and it’s rare the conversation that doesn’t make the link between the two artists, unlikely as it would seem.

ABOVE: Good grief

I’ve always felt that seventy percent of the Peanuts comics were missing that additional panel in which Charlie Brown attempts to blow his own head off, (and probably fails). Brunetti’s work is about getting us to that obvious place.

ABOVE: “Damn woman, ruining my killing razor!”

Still:

“I’m basically a positive person, I just don’t like admitting it to myself because every time I feel almost ok, life crams a fifteen-inch, AIDS-infested dick down my throat.”

RATING: For someone so badly adjusted, this COOL!

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5 thoughts on “Tickled at Knife Point : Ivan Brunetti – “Schizo” #1-4

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