From Stephen Pastis.
An age appropriate collection of Pearls Before Swine comic strips.
This is one of my favorite recent discoveries. This version of Pearls, because I’ve loved the comic strip since discovering it back in 2006 I believe.
Somehow I’ve only written about Pearls once before on this site. I remember the excitement of this news and if you don’t realize how cool this strip can be, here’s that post.
But to go back before going forward on this book review. I had graduated college and was living in California for a summer with my then girlfriend. I couldn’t see the forest for the redwoods at the time, but the relationship was bad. We had to travel with a box of therapy stuffed animals and this made perfect sense to me at the time. My days were overly structured, from what I watched to when I worked to what I was allowed to do, down to how much toilet paper I used. Most people would rebel against such an environment by treating themselves to something in order to escape. But my finances were controlled as well. I needed something as a support, an outlet, and also free. Thank you to the break room at my then employer for subscribing to the local paper. Inside the comics page was a deceptively simple new to me strip called Pearls Before Swine.
I dug through and found older newspapers. In this situation I was “allowed” to hang out at the local libraries, which thankfully had some Pearls collections. I devoured every panel I could. Stephen Pastis took a self deprecating wit and artistry and channeled it into a showcase for the jaded and optimistic perceptions that lie within all of us. The series is outlandish, thought provoking, silly, dad jokes, resonating, depressing, parental. Any emotion you can think of, there’s a Pearls page that commands a fridge magnet.
This collection takes some of the more adult ideas out but with a perfect amount of sarcasm and wit for the kids. In color too! A perfect book for that grade school into junior high age. All the attitude and confidence but no actual experience to go with it age. The characters are adorable, the book is ridiculously silly, but then there’s painfully deep truths hiding behind dot eyes and four fingers.
(Images are copyright Stephen Pastis and Andrews McMeel Syndication used here solely for review purposes.)
This one in particular hurt a bit.
Like all great art, Pearls shines a mirror on modern day that the viewer isn’t ready for. There’s a lot in the world that is messed up. Some days are worse than others and it’s tough to find anything positive. This strip is a masterpiece in making you laugh while slowly ripping off the bandage.
It’s also a rarity in modern pop culture. All new characters, from a new creator, that exist on their own. Sure, sometimes Pastis makes a joke about another comic strip but he doesn’t rely on a shared pop culture knowledge like so much other modern entertainments do. As everyone complains about endless remakes, reboots, and sequels an original unexploited creation deserves a bigger spotlight.