With my extended sojourn into the world of Scottish comics in the wake of all the swag I got at Glasgow Comic Con, I’ve been ignoring my actual list of submissions people have kindly sent me. Particularly shameful is that I have kept creator Chris Garrison waiting, after him going to the effort of sending me a print copy of his comic, Jakey the Jerk, via international mail. Sorry to leave you hanging, Chris!
Jakey the Jerk #1 is actually a collection of strips from Garrison’s Zoo Laffs webcomic, as featured on the Dumm Comics website. These particular strips tell the story of a misanthropic, womanising little mountain goat, the Jakey (and the jerk) of the title. When I first started reading, I wasn’t overly impressed. The formulaic, done-in-one formula that the early pages followed seemed to suggest that the whole book would just be a collection of Jakey making a sleazy come-on only to be rejected by a beautiful lady. Amusing, but lacking in any real substance.
But then, something unusual happened. A few skits in, I became aware that one particular tale, where Jakey pairs up with hippie girl Sassafras Vallee for a hiking trip, was lasting longer than the other ones. Garrison was breaking from his formula, telling a story that was being given more room to breathe, and that by the end, quite to my surprise, was actually quite moving. Things don’t necessarily go the way you’d expect, and after coming across as quite unlikeable and one-note in the earlier pages, Jakey grows into quite a sympathetic, nuanced character. Not bad for an anthropomorphised talking goat.
The art, also by Garrison, is pretty rough, albeit with a nice anarchic tough that gives it a bit of a Ren & Stimpy/Spongebob Squarepants vibe. But as with the writing, once we get into the book’s second half, it turns out there’s more at work than initially meets the eye, with Garrison skillfully handling facial expressions to both hammer home comedic beats and to tell us about the burgeoning character dynamics between Jakey and Sassafras. I particularly love the design of Sassafras, she looks adorable with her wee hat!
This “comic of two halves” feeling is heightened by the fact that there actually is a split in the middle, where we get a couple of additional shorts unrelated to Jakey, presumably other entries from the Zoo Laffs category. I liked these, as little short instant punchlines. It struck a nice balance as Jakey began to grow into a more longform tale. Sometimes it can seem like making a print comic out of an existing webcomic can be a bit of a redundant task, but Garrison makes a good job of creating a good showcase package for someone like me who had never read Zoo Laffs or visited Dumm Comics.
Overall, my reaction to Jakey the Jerk #1 was positive. When I started it, I didn’t think I was going to like it. But by the time I was finished, I was left wanting to check out the webcomic and find out what happens next. That’s a sign that Chris Garrison is doing something right. Consider me won over.