(Some NSFW language in this review- it goes with the territory!)
The world is a malleable place, a set of processes hopelessly bound together by a misdirected belief of mankind that there is some persisting substance to things. Beyond that, or perhaps above it, and most certainly all around us there is emptiness, the vast nothingness of which is waiting to be illuminated by a prophet. All this is known to Kitty Jenkins: he just f*cks it up in the telling.
Kitty Jenkins has been around since the first of Backwards Burd’s comics, and he’s now the star of their first graphic novel. This isn’t a plot-heavy outing- it offers a grab-bag of short stories, often with slightly differing art styles, and collects some previously released Kitty Jenkins material (including the ‘zine’ style mini-comic they handed out at LFCC 2014 Winter). The essential plot-line of most of the stories is the same: Kitty Jenkins, a three-eyed cat with cosmic powers, gets in the way of people who are trying to live their normal lives. He usually does this by welcoming them into his ‘fourth eye’- his little cat butthole. After the person has (or fails completely and understandably to have) a cosmic revelation, Kitty Jenkins leaves them alone, usually covered in cat poop.
Essentially, the stories are a riff on the cosmic horror genre, replacing Cthulu with ‘total stoner shit’. It’s in the moments where these two influences are combined that Kitty Jenkins hits its stride- in a joyful interplay between the absurd and the religio-philosophical. In attempts at other genres- like the ‘high school’ setting of ‘Pickles and Chips’- Jenkins is out of place; on his own, he can let his fourth eye shine. A rare exception to that is ‘The Great Catsby’, where Kitty Jenkins takes the position of Gatsby himself in an adaptation/pastiche of Fitzgerald’s original, which is just so incongruous that you can’t help but lose your mind a little.
Art-wise, a mixture of illustrators are on display, and leading the charge are Daniel de Sosa and Sajan Rai. Siobhan Alcaide and Shane Melisse also contribute- Siobhan actually appears in the comic, as her dad flies around on/possibly is or becomes Kitty Jenkins. It’s that sort of comic, and it’d be hard to keep track of if the art wasn’t so on-point. The linework is broad, intricate and complex – he draws Kitty Jenkins in sets of tessellating rows, mimicking the stoner artwork you’ll see in hippy shops. He also brings inspiration from new age religious iconography, reflected in Jenkin’s avatar poses.
Kitty Jenkins separates itself from most modern humour comics by strongly aligning with the anarchic, freeform approach of the underground ‘comix’ of the 60s and 70s. This appears to be a bit of a house style for Backwards Burd- their hero Kicky Poo, who this reviewer is somewhat a fan of, is also written in the same vein. But whereas Kicky Poo is a nihilist, a vigilante without goals or values, Kitty Jenkins is a cosmic prophet, aligning himself with the pure and neutral world of doing whatever you want and messing things up for people. This makes the book completely inconsistent and often incoherent, but then that’s the fun of it. F*ck You Kitty Jenkins is one hell of a ride, and it’s exactly the kind of comic where you wish you could have a drink with the creators. Well, as it happens, you can- they’re launching the book at Gosh Comics in Berwick Street on the 23rd. I’ll be there too, looking out for Jenkins himself, hoping for a glimpse of truth through his fourth eye.