Angora Napkin original hardcover graphic novel
Writer/Artist: Troy Little
Editor: Carol Little
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Price: $19.99 US
I always make a point of checking out creator Troy Little’s latest comic-book endeavors, not only because he hails from the same home province as your friendly neighborhood reviewer but because his storytelling on Chiaroscuro (originally self-published and later collected by IDW) was so compelling. Little offers up something quite different, both in concept and visually, with this latest project, and his experiences in the world of animation really show through in this oddball comedy about a raunchy girl band and its adventures in the realms of the supernatural.
Angora Napkin is really a study in contrasts. The main characters are in many ways charming innocents, but they’re also crude and depraved in their own way. The cartoony look of the character designs and the action initially suggests that the property was developed with younger readers in mind, but the humor and some of the dialogue demonstrate clearly that’s not the case. You never really know what to expect from Little and Angora Napkin and therein lies its strength and appeal.
The members of Angora Napkin — Molly, Beatrice and Mallory — are on their way to a major gig that’ll be broadcast all over the world, but even a career-making concert isn’t enough to distract the girls from a great party. And man, do they happen upon a doozy in a graveyard. The musicians flirt, drink and thrash with the undead and the denizens of the underworld. It’s a surprisingly jubilant, cool crowd, but one among them — a ghoul name Dennis — finds the afterlife is a real downer. Unfortunately, Angora Napkin’s efforts to cheer him up go awry, as the group ends up turning him into a nihilistic villain bent on bringing about an apocalypse. Hijinks ensue.
John Kricfalusi provides a brief introduction in this graphic novel; Little worked for the Ren and Stimpy creator on other projects, such as The Ripping Friends. Kricfalusi’s influence on the style Little has adopted for this project is quite apparent, though Little opts not to offer the kind of exaggerated detail one can find in John K.’s cartoons. One can detect a hint of the style Little employed in Chiaroscuro, especially in his depictions of Mallory and Dennis. At times, the art of Angora Napkin reminded me of the visuals on another weird, morbid humor comic: Arsenic Lullaby. I enjoyed the artwork for the dust jacket as well, as Little’s choice to emulate the design of 1950s EC horror comics serves as a great way to point to the supernatural bent of the plot.
It felt as though Little wasn’t quite sure how to end this story, as it takes a weird mockumentary turn at the end involving a long-dead, oppressive authority figure and political persecution. It’s a sharp, odd turn in the story, and it really adds nothing to the charm of the main plot. Little and Nick Cross (who co-created Angora Napkin for animation) offer up some quick comic strips featuring the band in the back of the book, and it’s an interesting look at earlier approaches to the property.
Despite the distorted but simple look of the characters, a surprisingly raw approach to sexuality pops up in the storytelling from time to time. It’s not titillating, but it is entertaining. Again, it’s part and parcel of Little’s use of dichotomies here. Most of the time, the main characters seems like silly little girls on their own looking-glass adventures, but then Little reminds us they’re women, with carnal qualities, desires and appeal. Another study in contrasts is Mallory, who’s initially portrayed as the most messed-up, despondent and weird member of the band, but ultimately, she’s the most sane and grounded of them. Furthermore, she’s the voice of reason even though she never says a word — another dichotomy.
Angora Napkin is akin to Josie and the Pussycats, if Josie, Melody and Valerie drank absinthe, were promiscuous and longed to act as heralds of a revolution. At first, it seems simply like an oddball, goofy study in excess, but the louder side of the plot and characters hides the fact that Little has hidden some clever but twisted thinking and worldviews in the script. the topsy-turvy notion of the girls trying to convince a zombie that death is worth living is smart and entertaining, and their jubilant diatribe about everything that’s wrong with the world of the living is quite relatable. Mind you, the characters are so extreme, it’s difficult to relate to them. Really, what the band (and its unrestrained enthusiasm) represents is the reader’s id. The reason it’s so easy to delve into their exaggerated, over-the-top adventures is that similar fantasies, frustrations and foolishness are all unfolding in that small corner of our brain to which we confine our own Mollies, Beas and Mallories. 8/10
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