So this is what it must feel like to take an acid trip! Having never dabbled with drugs personally in my life, this now seems like an appropriate benchmark to judge what the experience must be like, a gateway comic as it were. Having just finished Buttertubs by Donya Todd, I must admit I’m rather taken aback, reeling in fact. The comic follows our hero Buttertubs, a heroic dog that for some unexplained reason is highly flammable, setting anything he comes into contact with on fire and oh, he sweats butter… yes you did here me correctly. We follow Buttertubs on his various adventures throughout a world which resembles something out of a Monty Python sketch, where he and his owner try to rescue various damsels in distress as well as a spectrum of other macabre characters, only to fall afoul of Buttertubs inability to do anything right, largely due to the fact that he is made out of butter.
Slip hazard and cholesterol aside, Buttertubs is a loveable character, framed all the more so by his partner/owner, a foul mouthed woman who cries out the most random of obscenities at her trusted comrade such as, ‘Buttertubs you slippery little bastard!’. Moreover, the antagonist the Hotdog Queen also finds many a creative way to insult the heroic duo, my personal favourite being when she refers to the two as ‘Butterturds’.
Charming if not bonkers characters aside, the issue is this; narratively the comic is, to use a butter analogy, spread pretty thin. Although the comic is one that does not take itself too seriously, I find Buttertubs at a loss with itself and struggle to identify a key demographic who would read it, the content extremely niche. The plot plays out rather like an episode of Adventure Time yet the language within the comic would immediately switch a parent off to buying it for their child. Moreover, in a market more saturated than butter itself, it is my opinion that the comic would not jump out at the mainstream comic reader as opposed to some of the bigger hitters out there.That said, one of the redeeming features of the abstract/absurdist comic is its artwork which crosses the age divide both appealing to children and adults; if only the dialogue did so also, I believe Buttertubs may have wider appeal. I’m all for thinking outside of the box and offering alternatives to the mainstream but it feels style over substance has won out the day here.
For me as a reader of comics and as an overall fan of the medium, first and foremost on my list of comic musts is a plot which both engages me and has some form of longevity. At the end of Buttertubs I had no real desire to continue reading the comic, there was little in the way of intrigue to engage me further, no investment in the characters or narrative whatsoever. As a one shot it offers an alternative to the mainstream in an admirable fashion but is I believe, unsustainable in its development of a interconnecting narrative.
So did the comic butter you up or leave you feeling likes you’d spent the better part of twenty minutes chasing the dragon? Let me know in the comments below or on our Twitter page.