It is not easy to do what Nikki Burch does. It may look easy to some cartoonists but a lot of them simply are not cut out for this particular dance with death, mayhem and destruction. Julie Doucet is one of the best for this kind of underground comix. I think a lot of it has to do with attitude, along with the required skill of course. Even those artists who seem to have what it takes, don’t necessarily need to be out there attempting to be provocative. Burch rings true with her characters and observations.
Whatever your feelings are for R. Crumb, in the end, I believe most, if not all, people who care about this sort of thing would say the man is authentic. I say the same for Burch. She is no R. Crumb. Not yet, anyway. But she has that kind of uninhibited energy of the young Crumb. She has chosen to lay it all out there, whatever the id might be obsessing over. And what do we, as humans, tend to think a lot about? Well, there’s our own lot in life, our insecurities and prejudices and lots of sex too. In the context of raw comedic social commentary, all of that and more is served up with a healthy dose of nihilism and anarchy. The jokes can be as simple as hell, just as long as they don’t come off as forced.
For example: Burch offers for your pleasure a depiction of a couple who are not exactly stellar, more like dregs scraped off the bottom of a barrel. To add to that picture, the two of them are oddly placed together. They are walking, or bumbling, along and it looks like the guy’s foot is kicking his sweetie in the gut. He says, “Man, I fuckin hate kids!” Her response, “I agree, let’s never have any.” In the background, a cat sits on a trash can and barfs. Ah, a perfect moment.
Or how about this three pager: “The Owl and the Pussycat Run Out of Gas, in a Rusted-out Pea-green Sedan.” In this one, the owl must admit that he hitched his wagon to the wrong mate. The intense use of texture, the dark and wacky characters, the overall dry wit all add up to some fun.
“Sandwich Animal” is an impressive two pager with its brutal cut to the chase and then death. A cat is ostensibly out on a nature walk. “Oh, look at the pretty flowers.” But, all along, he’s there to kill and devour some newborn chicks. Unlike Slyvester, these chicks won’t be outsmarting him at the very last second.
Nikki Burch joins those subversive artists, like Bwana Spoons, who get it right: they don’t try too hard, they have a lot of heart and talent and know what they’re about. That’s the best way to explain such Burch cartoons as a portrait of the suicide of Boris Nevergoodenov. He never was going to kill that moose or squirrel so he may as well kill himself. You really have to be secure in your own self and work to pull that one off. I believe Burch has succeeded nicely. You can check out other Burch delights at her site and contact her about ordering this 44 page gem.