I'm convinced the telecommunications network is doomed to collapse so I started making zines again! You can buy one and have it delivered to your mailbox. Old skool! #zine #comix #cartoon #drawing pic.twitter.com/mPuggYQn16— Brett Hamil (@BrettHamil) December 18, 2017
I don't think that Seattle writer and comedian Brett Hamil would be offended if I referred to his art as amateurish. He's not looking to wow you with his hyperrealistic portraits, or his three-dimensional rendering style. No, the illustration in his cartoons are fairly primitive; they're better than I (and likely you) could draw, to be sure, but not by too much.
And that's okay. Hamil is a standup comedian, and his cartoons are strictly joke delivery systems — the quickest way for him to get a good laugh out of you in the print medium. In that regard, they work really well; they're classic gag cartoons.
Hamil has collected some of his funniest City Arts cartoons in a five dollar zine titled Subconscious Hairstyle Mirroring (and other notions), and I'm pleased to report that the strips work even better in aggregate than they did singly, as they were originally published.
Like any good gag cartoonist, Hamil works within a few formulas. He imagines absurdist magazine covers (sample Infant Magazine headline: "Object Permanence: Myth or Fact?") and creates little four-item lists of observational comedy (one of the items in "Why We've Got Swagger Today:" "Found typo in the New Yorker.")
These strips are full of the kind of laughs that come when you recognize the absurd in the familiar. Schlubby middle-aged white guys are absolutely crazy about boxer briefs, for instance, and introducing someone to your favorite barista is, in fact, a major relationship benchmark. When rendered in Hamil's no-frills style, the jokes are even funnier: there's a nice back-of-the-envelope feel that saves the strips from becoming too self-important.
Hamil claims to have assembled Hairstyle as a minicomic because he believes the internet, with its weird self-destructive social media and its lack of net neutrality, is going away. I'd almost welcome internet armageddon if it meant more physical media like this.
And I'd definitely welcome another collection of comics that highlight Hamil's more strident political side. With his passionate political commentary Hamil has become one of Seattle's most outspoken citizens — the kind of angry truth-teller that politicians loathe and activists adore.
Hairstyle generally sticks to social commentary and absurdist comedy, and that feels exactly right for a debut collection. But if Hamil published a collection of comics about Seattle's consistent failure to construct a strong municipal broadband system, for example, I'd be the first in line to slap down my five bucks. When a comedian starts speaking relentless truth to power, that's when things really start getting good.