And They Call It “Petey & Pussy : Puppy Love”

It’s a rough old world, and sometimes you’re just in the mood for a good laugh — or, better yet, hundreds of them in glorious, mind-numbing succession. If that sounds like something you could really go for in the face of the relentless onslaught of bad news that reality has become, then congratulations are in order, because you’ve definitely come to the right comics blog — this time, at any rate.

John Kerschbaum is far from the most prolific cartoonist working today (although he’s prone to turn up when and where you least expect it, and never seems to lack for reasonably high-profile gigs), but some things are worth the wait, and the decade between his first Fantagraphics book, the now-legendary Petey & Pussy, and its brand-spanking-new sequel, Petey & Pussy : Puppy Love, appears to have been put to good use, because he’s pulled out all the stops to deliver an uproarious, superbly-illustrated, eminently relatable series of intertwined misadventures of very questionable taste that is by turns charming, nauseating, depraved, down-to-earth, sarcastic, and wonderfully, gleefully, smartly stupid.

Go on, say it : kinda like life itself.

For those unfamiliar with the basic set-up of this infrequent “series” (and it really is basic) : human-headed cat Pussy (make that very human-headed, complete with receded hairline and glasses) and equally-beyond-anthropomorphic dog Petey (whose noggin also bears all the hallmarks of post-middle age) are “property” of an octogenarian, neurologically-impaired single (possibly widowed?) woman whose internet addiction precludes her from actually taking care of her three pets (the third being the spectacularly annoying Bernie The Bird, whose head is also — ah, you already know by now), but never mind, they’ve got plenty to occupy their time : Pussy’s short-tempered, irritable, self-absorbed, and a degenerate fucking gambler; Petey’s neurotic and compulsive and never met a responsibility he wasn’t eager to dodge at any cost — and Bernie, for his part, appears to be in love this time out, but the object of his affections may simply turn out to be his own goddamn reflection.

As is the tradition with the best of “funny animal” comics, a series of everyday occurrences spirals into surreal, out-of-control absurdity by dint of sheer cluelessness, obstinance, incompetence, and misunderstanding in this book, but Kerschbaum’s straight-up genius at the sadly disappearing art of story construction ensures that seemingly-disjointed plot threads such as watching over a litter of newborn puppies, hunting down (or luring out) squirrels who are making life miserable, and avoiding “the snip” at the vet’s office dovetail and/or crash headlong into each other in uniquely inventive ways that always feel like they’re being pulled out of thin air, yet somehow feel intrinsically right — if not exactly, ya know, logical.

A sure sign of skilled humor cartooning, however, is how well it manages to convince readers to shelve their preconceived notions of how things “should” be in favor of how they are within the framework of a deliberately weird, hermetically-sealed world of the artist’s personal invention that operates according to its own set of — what, rules? Laws? Neither seems to apply here, but hopefully you know what I’m getting at — and one thing I’ll say with absolute and unequivocal certainty : Kerschbaum succeeds at getting you to go with his flow with admirable ease and somehow manages to win you over with the most thoroughly unlikable characters to ever capture your heart. Petey & Pussy : Puppy Love casts a spell perhaps entirely in spite of itself, then, but it’s nevertheless a bizarrely unbreakable one, and even though your sides will be hurting like hell from laughing so hard by the time the last page rolls around, you’ll still in no way be ready for it to be over.

6 thoughts on “And They Call It “Petey & Pussy : Puppy Love”

      1. Ant

        It’s on it’s way to me now, the first book is very close to my heart indeed and I love Kerschbaum’s work in general…I forgot to check, is it a hardcover? I hope it’s a hardcover. The first book was beautifully designed too. And Kerschbaum really knows how to get the most from a nine-panel grid. Just excellent cartooning on every level!

        Like

      2. Ryan C. (trashfilmguru)

        This one’s a paperback, and while I probably would have preferred a hardcover as well, they did a nice job on the design here, with French flaps on front and back covers containing a color cartoon that “splits” down the middle. You’ll see what I mean when you get yours, it’s pretty inventive and works nicely.

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