At one point while reading GUP #1, an anarchic comic caper by cartoonist Josh Weisbrod, I had to look up and make sure I was reading issue #1. There is no real backstory for our protaogonist, Michelle, aside from what we can gather from snatches of dialogue, and no explanation of who GUP is and why he can only say “HONK!” Instead, we’re thrown in at the deep end into an already-established world, with the narrative kicking off right away and us being left to play catch-up. But this actually works in the story’s favor, with Weisbrod sidestepping the obligatory “origin issue” that could have been formulaic, and instead launching right into the fun stuff.
Drawing inspiration from sources as diverse as Inspector Gadget, Zot! and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the basic setup of Weisbrod’s comedy series revolves around high-school student Michelle, whose adoptive father (the GUP of the title) seems to be a genius inventor (and possible robot?) who fights crime with super-science and a hefty mallet. Michelle has to fend off both her father’s villainous enemies and high school rivals, with hijinks ensuing. It’s a suitably fun, madcap narrative, with events zipping by at a merry pace, and the humor ranging from the farcical to the surreal. There wasn’t really anything that prompted any belly-laughs, but I was smiling with amusement throughout.
Weisbrod skillfully walks the line of telling a story that feels as complete and satisfying as an episode of a TV sitcom, while at the same time offering little nuggets of info about larger mysteries and bigger stories that could bring us back for future instalments. Perhaps my favourite aspect of this particular issue was Mister Lipstick, a frankly bizarre villain who readily alternates between preening wickedness and hysterical blubbing.
The art is simple, reminiscent of Archie Comics in a way. But in spite of the simplicity, it’s always clear, and surprisingly detailed in the establishing of locations. The zany nature of the story could have perhaps benefitted from some bright colors, but Weisbrod makes the black-and-white work well enough. It’s a light, breezy visual style that’s the perfect complement to the narrative.
It’s all rather lightweight, undemanding fare, but GUP #1 is warm, gentle fun, and if you’re tired of “grim-n-gritty” in all your comics, this could be just the remedy you’re looking for. A charming comic that serves as a worthy showcase for Josh Weisbrod as an emerging talent.
GUP #1 is available to buy from Josh Weisbrod’s website, as well as various comics stores in New York City.