So often these days it feels like the only way to get a laugh from a comic is via a comic strip. Is it due to the length being shorter so a punchline can fall sooner or is it something else? Of course, comic strips come out at a fast pace which makes the experience a different one when they are collected.
I’m pretty certain creators aren’t writing a weekly strip with the intention to have someone read 150 of them back to back. If you do read that many in a row and it still makes you laugh, is it proven to be a fantastic read? With Fantagraphics Publishing Megahex that just might be the case.
Megahex (Fantagraphics Publishing)
Published in August 2014 from writer and artist Simon Hanselmann, Megahex follows Megg, a drug addict witch and her cat Mogg (also drug addicted). They spend most of their days depressed taking bong hits and trying to entertain themselves with the least amount of effort possible. Their roommate Owl, an anthropomorphized owl tends to be at the butt end of their schemes which almost always go too far. Or maybe not far enough in Megg and Mogg’s mind. This volume collects strips from the past five years as well as over 70 pages of new material and quite frankly it’s fantastic from beginning to end.
Sometimes it gets serious… but then that seriousness makes it even more funny.
To say this is humorous to any adult is probably an understatement, but I know what you’re thinking, “a drug comedy, I don’t do drugs no thank you!” Well gentle reader you’re dead wrong. True, much of the storylines have drug use in them, but much of the humor originates from a place anyone can relate to: raw and relatable characters. This comes mostly from the fact that they are dealing with depression and boredom and end up getting into peculiar situations because of it. Truly their lives are lacking and the drugs are just a way to fill the time. When things do go wrong, or feelings are hurt the characters continue to remark in frank fashion which continues this very relatable experience. Many of the exploits in the book occur because characters are simply reacting to their situation and environment; that includes being too lazy to do something only to end up doing something far more complicated and tiring instead to letting significant others perform sexual acts the character may not be comfortable with.
Sadly, or not so sadly for us, Owl takes the brunt of their boredom cures as they pull prank after prank on the gullible character. So often Owl turns to Mogg and Megg for help in great distress but in their relaxed stoner demeanor they take nothing at all seriously and see his real life problems as a way to knock him down a peg. By book’s end it’s clear their constant prodding of Owl is what gives their lives meaning because without hilariously messing with him what is the point anyway? It’s as if they need to knock him down because they’re lives are so meaningless. Examples of messing with Owl include getting him drunk when he’s just gone clean to elaborately messing with his clothes and clock so he can’t score that dream job of his. At times it might seem to go too far and ultimately be offensive, but with humor like this pushing boundaries is part of the reason it’s so worthwhile reading. It’s all rather ruthless, but when it comes from a half baked Mogg and Megg it’s hilariously wrong. They do it, in some sense, because they love the poor bastard.
Man, they are so immature!
Part of the fun in reading Megahex is seeing how they’ll up the ante and get Owl even more. For all their worthlessness and inability to clean for themselves and entertain themselves, Megg and Mogg are very good at messing with Owl. Of course, the sheer fact that none of these characters are human helps make the book so funny.
Considering Megahex is in comic strip format much of what happens in Megahex is called back on later on. This makes the read a more rewarding one because each new story, or episode as Hanselmann calls them, doesn’t erase what came before it. The setup is largely the same as each story occurs, but the characters tend to go in and out of funks along the way.
All that said I’m sure some people just won’t like this. There are certain types of humor that require you to be in the right state of mind. This book remains relatable and interesting because of the characters and their behavior, but some might find them to be big losers and not worth their time. All that said, if you look to the truth of who these characters are I think anyone can get a laugh out of it. And for those of you that are big fans of teasing you’ll really love this.
Hanselmann also has an odd relationship between Megg and Mogg which slowly reveals itself as the story progresses. I won’t ruin it here, but there’s some weird stuff going on between them. This allows Hanselmann to instill some commentary of the sexuality persuasion and it’s awkwardly humorous. Really all of the topics touched on, from poverty, to drug use, to lack of ambition delve into a place that’s oddly beautiful and hilarious. All of the characters in this book are oddly honest, even when they’re not with each other. We’re seeing a side of them that’s human which tends to be very brutal. Which is what it’s like when you’re hanging out with friends in the woods. You’re bored and sometimes will do anything for a laugh or for adventure. In some ways Hanselmann has captured the beauty of American boredom and all the hilariously unfiltered emotions that come with it.
The art is more about telling the story than wowing us with good looks. Many of the panels are basic storyboards of sorts, conveying direction and position. I can’t help but think the simplicity of Owl is what creates such hilarious jokes though. His reactions tend to be one thin line for a mouth which makes him all the more cartoony. He lends a kid book look to semi detailed backgrounds and much more detailed Megg. The watercolors also add a kids book vibe that makes the more adult themes all the more hilarious. Hanselmann plays around with color, especially when the characters are tripping. At face value it all looks rather simple and juvenile, but when you get to reading it the acting of the characters is so strong you’ll forget all about detail and only want to see where the story takes you.
Seriously why are they your friends?
Is It Good?
This is an incredibly rewarding read that deals with very adult issues most 20 somethings can relate to. Watching these characters busy themselves when their lives are so meaningless reminds us how incredibly entertaining life can be without frill or froth.
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