Sunday, April 23, 2006


Beautiful Stories For Ugly Children [1989 series]
30 issues [1989 - 1992]
1 - 30

Perhaps not technically a comic book, this series by Dave Louapre and Dan Sweetman was usually more profusely illustrated prose fiction, but with the artwork being more integral to the storytelling than most illustrated prose. It was published by DC's Piranha Press line, their only on-going series (they mostly did one-shots, a few mini-series). Each story pretty much stands alone (except #13, which is a sequel to the story in #1 about clowns on the run. The two were later reprinted with a new third chapter as A COTTON CANDY AUTOPSY), though there are a few recurring settings and references to other stories.

Louapre's writing is hard to describe, it's an art sort of quasi-fantasy/horror filled with odd bits of sarcasm and cynicism, and yet with flashes of hope popping up at the oddest points. But not that sissy kind of hope, the kind of hope which only serves to mock you. Sweetman's art is also unusual, very dark, with a lot of tight hatching and heavy ink wash effects, all reinforcing the cynicism of the writing.

I didn't pick up the book when it started, not having heard much about it. A few months later, having read a few other Piranha Press books and being intrigued by some of the ads I'd seen for it I tried an issue, I think it was #3 ("Diary Of A Depressed Tap Dancer"), and liked it well enough to pick up some more. Among those was #6 ("Happy Birthday To Hell"), a real break-through issue and maybe still my favourite. I can read it whenever I'm feeling down and it picks me right back up. And I can read it whenever I'm up and it brings me crashing right down to Earth. It's that kind of thing. I kept reading for the rest of the run, missing a few issues (especially around the hiatus, between #18 and #19, when they toyed with changing the format, releasing a single one-shot with three stories of various lengths before returning to their normal format with a more open cover design that emphasized the story titles rather than the series name or issue number). I did pick them all up eventually.

This is a book I want to write some more about when I get a chance, but for now I'll just list a few favourites:

#6 - Happy Birthday To Hell
#8 - Die Rainbow Die: A Story Of Hope
#12 - Beneath The Useless Universe
#25 - Legion Of Ogs

There's a website for the series with quite a bit of material, including a few animated shorts by Louapre and Sweetman (one of which is BROKEBACK CIRCUS, so updated fairly recently), and which mentions that they had a reprint book lined up but the publisher went out of business so they're shopping it around again. So keep hope alive, ugly children everywhere, but be prepared to be crushed by it. Cause it's like that.

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