Little Bobby Big Boat’s Burnt Knuckle Sand Wedge vol. 32 – Ryan Browne

5 out of 5

A Ryan Browne sketchbook, square-bound, glossy-covered, black and white convention drawings, Kickstarter upsells, and commissions, and… glorious. Ryan Browne has the special gift of making a select few jokes funny over, and over, and over again. Whereas the recent Johnny Ryan sketchbook perhaps suggests an artist stuck between his obsessions and fulfilling fan expectations, Browne’s work is more suggesting of the kind of zeal one applies when they’re going to keep doing their shtick – of people kicked in the balls with funny sound effects – no matter what. And I suppose that sounds reductive, or, to the un-Browne-enlightened, dumb, but you should really combine your mental picture of ball-kicks with nightmarishly morphed characters – like Superman with a mini-Batman as his torso – some of the funniest facial expressions ever arted, and a general free-wheeling vibe that floats between childish glee over silly violence, and the enthusiasm of someone who seems to be enjoying what they do. It helps, of course, that Ryan is a crazy good artist with a great sense of page flow and motion, making the most absurd things (muscled up Bert and Ernies; the aforementioned character morphs, which take up a disturbing amount of these entries) look “natural” within the context of the drawing; even his ink sketches are pretty mind-blowing – and when he does a full page with tones, it’s gosh-darned art. He nails whatever joke he’s after (there’s no image that makes me trying to figure out what’s going on, or which cartoon celebrity has been swapped in and morphed), and they also all look inimitably of the artist’s hand.

It took me a few days to go through this – essentially a picture book! – because you just want to soak up each page, and then you find yourself flipping back and through and laughing at how the concepts are reused but differentiated little by little to match the sketch.