Monday, March 1, 2010

Review - Kyle Baker Cartoonist and The Bakers

Kyle Baker, Cartoonist
The Bakers: Do These Toys Belong Somewhere
The Bakers: Babies and Kittens
by Kyle Baker
2005 and 2006 Eisner Winner for Best Writer/Artist - Humor

These books are the flip side of Dork. Dork was dense; these are fluffy full page, silent cartoons. Dork targets a mature audience of twenty to thirty year olds; The Bakers is so accessible I'd hand it out to anyone from eight to eighty. Dork was about as black as humor can get; these books are so cheerful they could be prescribed to people with clinical depression. And while I liked Dork I loved these offerings from Kyle Baker.

The reason I've combined these together is that Kyle Baker, Cartoonist and The Bakers: Do These Toys Belong Somewhere have an identical format and even share some of the same cartoons. And as long as I was talking about the first books it made sense to combine it with the other one. The first two books are a collection of cartoons. Most of them have no text other than a caption. Cartoonist are mainly single illustrations while Do These Toys expands things to multiple panels and occasionally going for two or three pages. Babies and Kittens on the other hand is a single story in a traditional comic book format.

Most of these stories are about Kyle Baker and his home life. His wife, children, and himself are the only characters in The Bakers. They have the usual domestic problems; a lost tooth, a poorly cooked dinner, and getting the kids dressed to go out. In Babies and Kittens a mouse loose in the house puts them in mind to get a cat but Kyle is allergic to them. The cartoons in the other book are more free form taking on any subject that came to mind.

Because these are so brief and so simple it makes commenting on them easy. The sour notes in the comedy are rare. This is material that has been fodder for jokes since the first caveman comedians but the reason for that is they are completely universal themes. You have lived a bleak and lonely life and have my sympathies for it if you cannot recognize the scenes in The Bakers. None of this comes across as rehashed Bill Cosby routines because Baker is exceptional at telling a joke through the art.

Baker's art drips with style. His characters are astoundingly expressive as they have to be since they often have to carry the narrative or joke without saying a word. There's a section in Babies and Kittens which is a long cat and mouse cartoon and Baker is just as adapt with the animals. These are beautiful books and the skill demonstrated in the artwork is what makes them worthwhile.

I loved all three of these books and in case I haven't made it obvious I strongly recommend all of them. The best way to sell them to you, though, is that Babies and Kittens can be read on Kyle Baker's website. There is absolutely no reason not to try it out other than the fact that the real book looks nicer than the small flash animation on the website. These books are completely charming and worth checking out.