In psychology class we learned about a guy in the 1880s who was working on a railroad when all of a sudden a steam engine exploded and sent a rail spike straight through his head. He lived, but the accident shredded his limbic system and destroyed his ability to regulate emotions. He would be giggling one minute, ecstatic the next, then white with rage on the third. He lost all his friends pretty fast.
I was reminded of this while reading through Josh Weisbrod’s GUP, because in a way, I feel like this comic doesn’t have a well functioning limbic system. Not that that’s a bad thing, mind you. It’s interesting, comedic and unique, but I wonder how long its premise can entertain.
GUP is the story of a girl who
cried a river and drowned the whole world GET OUTTA HERE POP RADIO FROM 2000 goes to school and solves murders on the side. She apparently was adopted by something called GUP, a dwarfy guy who I am 90% sure is a robot, wields a giant mallet as possibly his only purpose, and speaks in honks. This girl Michelle seems to be experienced in the field of detective work, but our first opportunity to witness her skills comes as a newly released convict asks her to investigate the murder of his dog.
I find its tone amusing. It’s a little bit ADHD, a little bit MAD magazine, and a little bit of the stuff on MAD magazine’s cutting floor. People have this weird earnestness about them, where the women are brazenly upfront about their grudges against other women and men find it hard not to be creepy and disgusting around said women. That stuck out to me more than anything else; a female protagonist and her rival living in a world where every guy except maybe one girls’ father is kind of a creeper on some level. People act like small talk and social tact is for losers, and react peculiarly to events and other people. It’s almost like everyone in town is on uppers or something, and I think that’s the funniest thing about this.
Michelle is a great character who’s highly intelligent and somewhat jaded, but her companion GUP, where we get the name of the comic from, doesn’t even appear until halfway through the main story and afterwards is still fairly useless when the plot twists start barging in, so I think he’s a weak link. I think the next issue ought to look a little more into his origins, which is probably the plan since this issue is a setting-establishing shot in essence. This issue did a good job establishing Michelle as the brains, but GUP is going to need to get some time to make it clear that he’s the brawn and that this doesn’t make him useless. I mean, aside from piggy-back rides.
Otherwise, the rest of the writing is good. The main detective case is funny in how it makes light of all those old Encyclopedia Brown type detective stories, with plot points that would seem contrived if the story were serious. Mr. Lipstick, the convict, is pretty funny if you ask me, and he’s probably the reason I was reminded of psych class in the first place. He’s the epitome of creep, and he’s always happy unless he’s sobbing uncontrollably. He’s like the Joker if the Joker had poor reaction times and no ability to plan ahead.
The art reminds me of MAD magazine comics, with thin light lines and iconic faces, though character designs are far more normal than MAD’s caricature style. Still, I feel like the art in combination with the subject matter wouldn’t feel out of place; Mr. Lipstick alone definitely comes across like something MAD’s editors would stick in a parody. Weisbrod likes to keep things simple, but will add lots of detail and black ink to emphasize the weirdos. They say adding lines to a character’s face adds five years to their age, but in this case they also add to their likelihood of ending up in a sexual rehab clinic.
Weisbrod’s created a world where school girls can manipulate the police freely, people refuse to cooperate in a murder investigation because they’re too busy playing Nintendo, and where robots own corporations. It’s absurd, yet strangely feels grounded in reality. I feel like it would be easy for him to push it too far and make it feel like “Whoa! Look how WAAACKY this is!” which would kill its appeal, but I trust him to make issue #2 good. I think he’s got the situation under control, so yeah, I recommend you check it out. It could be a good little bit of satire on the old teenage detective stories they crammed our schools with.
TL;DR: GUP is a solid debut for Josh Weisbrod, and it could shape up to be an entertaining piece of bizarre amusement.
A review copy of Gup was graciously provided to Spandexless by the creator. (At MoCCA Fest! Which you should also check out!)