Brian Chippendale’s new book “If ‘n Oof” is a rollicking adventure comic that reads like an explosion of fun and energy.
“I kind of picture ‘If ‘n Oof’ as one long ’70s jam,” Chippendale said. “It’s got that pace, and every once in a while a pretty melody will crest as you’re grooving away.”
“If ‘n Oof” is an impressive object, almost as thick as it is wide. The cover, a collage work with drawings, screen printings, scraps of paper and spray-paint trails, is crazy with color. Clocking in at 650 pages, the comic’s chapters are amusingly referred to as “Giants.” Each page is one giant panel, making the door-stopper a fun and rhythmic read.
And he fills those pages in with super dense and detailed art; one gets the sense that Chippendale had to really pack it in, with the comic’s proper beginning and ending within the book’s endpapers. His choppy line is tightly controlled, kind of like a punk Gary Panter (“Jimbo”), if Gary Panter could get more punk rock.
“My favorite comics have always been comics that read really cinematically,” Chippendale said. “They lead you around the page and you can see how the characters and figures move and whether the movements make sense. I love that stuff.”
A story about two best friends (If, a tall boy whose head looks like a volleyball with Dumbo ears, and Oof, a small, mute dude with invisible pockets that can store an infinite amount of things) who go on a video-game-inspired quest to overthrow a tyrannical king in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, “If ‘n Oof” seems to be a look into a dark and twisted fantasy world as viewed through the eyes of extremely positive characters. At one point, a denizen in a blasted nightmare realm tells Oof, who has been battling the likes of ice cream androids, caped ninjas and swarms of roaming cannibals, that he’s the first bright-eyed fellow he’s seen in a long time.
“I think I first came up with the characters just as a joke. I had this one minicomic I made in ’99 or 2000, maybe 10 years ago. It was this tiny little comic, maybe 2 inches by an inch and a half,” Chippendale said. “And then suddenly, around 2008, I dreamed up this big, epic story.”
Chippendale, based in Providence, R.I., is best known for being the drummer of seminal noise rock duo Lightning Bolt and for being one of the co-founders of Fort Thunder, an extremely influential art collective in the mid to late ’90s. The Fort, which is actually the second floor of an old textile factory, came together when Chippendale, then a printmaking major at the Rhode Island School of Design, and three other artists from the school needed somewhere cheap to live. Eventually, Fort Thunder became the residence of more than a dozen young artists. Not that they could get any sleep, as the warehouse became an important venue in the Providence underground noise rock scene.
It was at the Fort in ’96 when Chippendale started working on “Maggots,” an extremely dense semi-autobiographical work that made his name and style instantly recognizable, if sometimes only to casually reference the book’s supposed impenetrability.
“I drew that at a time when I didn’t have any other reason,” Chippendale said. “There was no publisher and there was no audience. I just filled that book, which was a Japanese book catalog I was just drawing in, and I had a lot of time. I was just broke and hanging out and doing that book; that was about halfway through Fort Thunder, and at that time I had zero aspirations for being a cartoonist.”
But these days the man is extremely busy — recently, as Chippendale was wrapping up a world tour with Lightning Bolt, he was also putting together his first solo art show at Brooklyn’s Cinders Gallery. On top of that, he also regularly updates a gag web comic, “Puke Force.”
“When I was doing “If ‘n Oof,” I would just have figments of ideas I knew I couldn’t use,” Chippendale said. “‘If ‘n Oof’ was such a long, drawn-out process that I wanted something that could balance it out. Just so I could draw stuff quick and get it over with in a day or something. But now, it’s become something serious, yet another stressful thing in my life I have to deal with.”
Brian Chippendale’s website (mostly dedicated to his band Lightning Bolt) is laserbeast.com. His personal blog is marvelous-coma.blogspot.com.