Sometimes We All Need A “New Leash On Life”

August Lipp is a cartoonist with a singular worldview that’s equal parts charming and disturbing, and he’s unafraid to blend the two in unique ways that leave you feeling decidedly amused, decidedly uneasy, and, frequently, wonderfully perplexed. When he firmly stakes out a distinct point of view and tone he’s capable of “hitting it out of the park” like nobody’s business — Roopert stands as one of the finest comics of the past decade — but hey, every artist has a process they need to work through before arriving at wherever it is they’re going, and that’s what his recently self-published New Leash On Life is all about.

The funny thing, though, is that for what’s billed as a collection of notebook drawings spanning the 2019-2020 period, these are, by and large, remarkably finished works — Lipp puts more “sweat equity” into many ostensibly “throwaway” illustrations than some cartoonists do into their final product — but tonally they run the gamut from light-hearted comedy to queasy stuff in the mold of old-school Ivan Brunetti, with many of these uniformly impressive pen-and-ink numbers (particularly the double-page crowd scenes loaded to the gills with all sorts of mystifying addenda and errata) combining the comforting and the shocking in one go, the end result being a visual stew that’s using the entire contents of his id as its ingredients.

There’s also a wide variety of things going on here structurally and formally, with this mini presenting a heady mix of gag strips, surreal scenes, and even loosely-developed “narratives” along with those spreads I just mentioned. Of particular interest is a recurring character who we’ll just call “snail man,” who by turns is either “cosplaying” the animal in question or outright metamorphosing into one — it’s hard to say which way that’s going, I guess, but what’s not in question is that he appears to be fucking a shell-less female snail. Which I always thought was a slug. But then, I never knew either snails or slugs had lips and teeth and eyelashes, so maybe I’ve just been leading a sheltered existence. In any case, the couple seems quite happy, especially when they’re either stealing or spreading manure.

At this point, then, you likely have a good idea of what sort of stuff you’re going to find in here, and it’s all pretty breathtakingly, if occasionally sickeningly, bizarre. Some stuff even veers into “where the fuck does he come up with these ideas, anyway?” territory, such as the double-pager picturing some country bumpkin fishing in the swamp for — uhhh — naked men, but hey : it’s all good, even when it isn’t, and there’s no need for squares in the loosely-defined comics “underground,” anyway. If you can’t handle an assortment of biological freaks four-legged, two-legged, or even no-legged, you’ve come to the wrong ‘zine, but if you can? You’re in for some real eye candy.

What’s constantly amazing to me is how Lipp somehow manages to make even the most twisted denizens of his subconscious look like they probably mean you no real harm, especially when they obviously do, and most of that is down to his penchant for bulbously cartoony over-exaggeration, which he renders with a level of detail I’d classify as being downright painstaking. In fact, every single one of these illustrations is so well-done that they’re almost impossible to turn away from, even when you wish you could. This is all “weird shit,” no question — some of it even haunt-your-dreams-level “weird shit” — but it’s pretty damn hard not to be impressed by, no fooling, every single goddamn page of it.

In fairness, sure, I was a Lipp “convert” well before laying my eyes on this phantasmagoria of the delightful, the depraved, and the downright damned, but while the faint of heart may now find themselves shopping around for others to put their faith in, my own belief is unwavering. If this guy is a “cult” cartoonist, then I’m ready for my Kool-Aid any time.

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New Leash On Life is completely sold out at this point, but it’s a remarkable enough work that, hey, I thought I’d review it regardless of the fact that you can’t buy it anymore.

Review wrist check – Raven “Solitude” gray dial/black bezel model, riding a Zodiac caoutchouc rubber NATO-style field strap in burnt orange.