Review: Real Life Adventures comic from the May 24th New York Post

by Emily LAWTON
 

To my mind, this comic has one of the more boring names on the Comics and Games page. How could Real Life Adventures possibly compare to “La Cucaracha” or “Baldo”? Still, after several weeks of perusing the comics provided in the NY Post and the Daily News, I have come to the conclusion that they are decidedly less funny than real life. And: “Adventures.” Always good. So maybe there is some promise after all.

This strip is composed by two gentlemen, Gary Wise and Lance Aldrich. Gary and Lance would have you believe they’re just regular guys, observing the hilarity of everyday life. So, let’s see it.

This is a one-panel comic. The characters are a man and a woman with exactly the same faces, but different hair. The man has blonde hair and the woman brown, plus he’s a little beefier than her. If you’re still having trouble telling them apart, look for the earrings and the purple shirt. These are the earmarks of femininity.

There are three speech bubbles filling the top half of the panel. They alternate man-woman-man, thus conveying a short conversation. In comedy terms, it goes Set Up-Reaction-Punchline. It’s a classic formula. The joke is as follows:

Man: I’LL BE IN THE STUDY TENDING TO THE AFFAIRS OF THE ESTATE.

Woman: YOU MEAN YOU’LL BE IN THE KITCHEN WRITING BILLS?

Man: WHY IS IT SO HARD TO LET ME LIVE WITH MY ILLUSIONS?

Hilarious. But why is it so funny? Well, first of all, we have a parody of a man’s self-aggrandizing behavior. A guy like this (for ease, I’ll refer to him as “Frank”) doesn’t have a study. He doesn’t even have a den, an office, or a rumpus room. All he has is a workbench in the basement. You’ll notice he has a short sleeve shirt on, and no tie. He’s got a seven dollar military haircut. His wife wears plastic earrings. Frank isn’t a wealthy man.

The woman (“Ellen”) only has one line. At first glance it seems inconsequential, but look again. While the gist of it is obvious — Frank will be paying bills — what she says is something quite different: you’ll be in the kitchen writing bills. This kind of subtle wordplay and change-up is a way of keeping the reader on his or her toes — and aware of the action intended. By using the word “writing” Ellen gives a verb that the reader can visualize — Lance and Gary have taken you out of the panel and into the future actions of these characters. If Ellen had said “paying” instead (which would be normal usage), the action would be too abstract.

The body language of the two characters betrays them further. Frank is facing away from Ellen and his shoulders and slightly stooped. He looks like a beaten man. They both have a pudgy roundness that implies they don’t put any effort into maintaining their physiques. Ellen wears a shirt identical (except in color) to Frank’s, which serves to minimize her “feminine assets.” I believe they are both weary of their lives (and each other) but she seems slightly more accepting.

Is this Real Life? Frank clearly wishes it was not his real life. A searing indictment of American middle class? Unclear. Is this an Adventure? It is not.

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