Michael Kupperman's Mark Twain's Autobiography is Designed to Thrizzle

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No less an authority than Conan O'Brien has said that cartoonist Michael Kupperman "may have one of the best comedy brains on the planet." Kupperman's Tales Designed to Thrizzle is the most notable humor comic currently in print (issue #7 comes out in November).

Drawing inspiration from Mad among other influences, Kupperman's brand of humor is punchy and ridiculous: men fall to their deaths climbing into floating sex blimps; a snake and a strip of bacon become a popular buddy cop team. Like the best satire, it reflects a vision of our world that is simultaneously accurate and abstracted.
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Kupperman's new book, The Autobiography of Mark Twain, 1910 - 2010, comes from the same comedic source. Twain, imagined here as a farcical cipher, takes readers on a guided tour of his adventures through the 20th century, as he influences all manner of historical and cultural moments -- including World War II, the Warner Brothers gangster films of the 1930s, and the first Peanuts strips (which, according to our narrator, Schulz had originally titled Li'l Shits). Unlike Thrizzle, The Autobiography relies primarily on text to tell the story, with the pictures serving more or less as illustrations (there are, however, a couple of comic strip interludes along the way). Twain has appeared in segments of Thrizzle, too, as half of a superhero/adventure duo with Albert Einstein.

We corresponded with Kupperman recently via e-mail, and discussed his comedic influences, the fake Mark Twain, and the inherent absurdity of our commercial culture.

Did you attend art school? What kind of formal training did you receive as an artist?

I have a BFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York. I studied fine art. At that time I had no clear idea what I wanted to do with my life. It wasn't until a couple of years later that I committed to comic drawing, but drawing had always been my main focus.

Who have been your biggest comedic influences? Have you been receptive to different comic sensibilities at different moments in your life?

My comedic influences are endless and ongoing. Monty Python was a big influence early on, and the books they produced have been a big influence on Thrizzle in particular. They really put a lot of invention and work into those books, which is why they're the finest books ever produced by a TV franchise. I believe Eric Idle was the Python who worked the hardest on them; he deserves a lot of credit.

Some of my comedic influences are deliberately funny, others are not. The unwittingly bad, the pompously ineffectual, the flimsily maudlin -- these are all genres I warm to. The Sunday comics page on 9/11 this year was a good example. Like it does anyone any good to see Hagar and Momma weeping.

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Twain & Einstein meet Oscar & Felix
What is it about Mark Twain -- or the idea of Mark Twain -- that keeps bringing you back to him as a subject?

Well, it's not really him, obviously. It's this character I've created using him as a template. In some ways it's a classic modern farcical character -- blithely self-contradictory, faux-roguish yet easily shocked. He has some of the same qualities you find in Homer Simpson.

How did The Autobiography start out? Did you plan it as a book-length work?

It started as something I was just doing for my own amusement -- which is the best way to start any project -- and developed from there. Finally I called Fantagraphics and told them I wanted to do this book, and they said "Okay!"

People seem to react to absurdist humor with either enthusiasm or frustration. I wondered if even a successful humorist like you ever feels difficulty communicating with an audience.

It's nice you consider me a successful humorist! I feel plenty of frustration, because I'm working in the comics/"graphic novels" field, where my kind of humor is unknown. Humor in comics tends to be either coyly unfunny or flatly unfunny; the kind of humor that finds favor in magazine publishing tends to be the kind where you chuckle lightly, quite possibly because you've recognized a reference. I really do feel, in the modern scene, very alone, and not always in a good way, because I am meta-textual and funny.

You enjoy mining the impact of creeping commercialism on our culture -- for example, your Hardy Boys parody that turns into an ad for terrible biscuits. Is commercialism something that's on your mind a lot?

Isn't it on everyone's mind? Advertising has become a constant jibber-jabber at the corner of our computer screen and in our ears. I think Philip K. Dick was genuinely prescient on this and other aspects of our culture.

Also, advertising is inherently funny because it is someone lying to you. The more shaky and unreliable the language and tone are, the funnier it becomes.

--
Follow Casey Burchby and SF Weekly's Exhibitionist blog on Twitter.



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Biblical Prophet
Biblical Prophet

CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR'S COURT WAS NIKOLA TESLA.Einstein not just wrong but Albert you knew you were lying, you knew Nikola Tesla went faster than light. The Biblical Prophet"Let the future tell the truth, and evaluate each one according to his work and accomplishments. The present is theirs; the future, for which I have really worked, is mine." -Nikola TeslaFASTER-THAN-LIGHT MESSAGES WERE SENT TO THE PAST   Einstein the figurehead. Tesla died on the cross for our sins. Disaster the sacrifice that was let to be... or no more Vegas and Wall Street you see. Revelation I'll write and one day send Faster-Than-Light."All of my investigations seem to point to the conclusion that they are small particles, each carrying so small a charge that we are justified in calling them neutrons. They move with great velocity, exceeding that of light." Nikola Tesla, July 10, 1932"If you only knew The magnificence of the 3, 6 & 9; then you would have a key to the universe" -Nikola Tesla That decision was the U.S. Supreme Court Decision No. 369 which said Tesla invented Radio not Marconi BUT... THE SUPREME COURT LANDMARK DECISION WASMADE AFTER TESLA WAS DEAD SIX MONTHSI SOLVE THE RIDDLE OF TESLA. "Fragments of Olympian Gossip"By Nikola TeslaWhile listening on my cosmic phoneI caught words from the Olympus blown.A newcomer was shown around;That much I could guess, aided by sound."There's Archimedes with his leverStill busy on problems as ever.Says: matter and force are transmutableAnd wrong the laws you thought immutable.""Below, on Earth, they work at full blastAnd news are coming in thick and fast.The latest tells of a cosmic gun.To be pelted is very poor fun.We are wary with so much at stake,Those beggars are a pest—no mistake.""Too bad, Sir Isaac, they dimmed your renownAnd turned your great science upside down.Now a long haired crank, Einstein by name,Puts on your high teaching all the blame.Says: matter and force are transmutableAnd wrong the laws you thought immutable.""I am much too ignorant, my son,For grasping schemes so finely spun.My followers are of stronger mindAnd I am content to stay behind,Perhaps I failed, but I did my best,These masters of mine may do the rest.Come, Kelvin, I have finished my cup.When is your friend Tesla coming up.""Oh, quoth Kelvin, he is always late,It would be useless to remonstrate."Then silence, shuffle of soft slippered feet"I knock and the bedlam of the street.Nikola Tesla, NoviceNikola Tesla caused more than 27 days of world record uplift earthquakes in Alaska commencing on September 3, 1899. These events commencing in nature on such a precise start is so highly unlikely that it's uniqueness can be mathematically proven unnatural. Tesla's signature with timing on an earthquake which historically are seen only as an act God or nature, was signing as his the biggest footprint man had ever made left while also embarresed billions of minds needing more than a century to notice. Early pioneers in the field of seismology were led by his peer, friend and inventor of the seismograph John "Earthquake" Milne who at The Isle of Wight was by far at the forefront of knowledge on earthquakes. John Milne assigned every world shaking earthquake disturbance with a consecutive "Shide" number for consecutive designation record numbers British Association For The Advancement of Sciences was the foremost authority worldwide in noticing, tracking & understanding earthquakes. Nikola Tesla sought out John Milne's approaching number and nailed that Shide No. 333 on September 3 at 3:03 pm epicenter time knowing a mathematical signature would be artistic perfection one day realized when Shide numbers were buried. 3:03:27 pm or 3h03m27s or Room #3327 at The Hotel New Yorker that Nikola Tesla had to spend ten straight years everyday making sure death would engrave the greatest accomplishment man had made forgotten by mankind man made earthquakes.He hinted... Tesla did things in threes in public acting obsessed with the number 3. For example, it was not uncommon to see him walk around a block 3 times before entering a building. He was adamant about staying in a hotel room with a number divisible by three in front of reporters. Room #3327 because the Knob Hill Apparatus in Colorado Springs caused the 1899 Alaskan Earthquakes commencing on September 3, 1899 at 3h03m27s or 3:03:27 pm epicenter time. That was a year divisible by 3 times 3, a month divisible by 3 times 3, a day divisible by 3, an hour divisible by 3, a minute divisible by 3, a second divisible by 3 times 3 times 3 and for Christ's sake it was Earthquake Milne Shide No. 333... and it lasted 3 times 3 times 3 days. duhDO THE MATH...The chances that any earthquake occuring in nature begins in a year divisible by 3 is 1 chance in 3.  The chances that any earthquake occuring in nature begins in a year divisible by 3 times 3 is 1 chance in 9. The chances that any earthquake occuring in nature begins in a year divisible by 3 times 3 in a month divisible by 3 is 1 chance in 27. The chances that any earthquake occuring in nature begins in a year divisible by 3 times 3 in a month divisible by 3 times 3 is 1 chance in 81. The chances that any earthquake occuring in nature begins in a year divisible by 3 times 3 in a month divisible by 3 times 3 on a day divisible by 3 is 1 chance in 243. The chances that any earthquake occuring in nature begins in a year divisible by 3 times 3 in a month divisible by 3 times 3 on a day divisible by 3 IN AN HOUR DIVISIBLE BY 3 is 1 chance in 729. The chances that any earthquake occuring in nature begins in a year divisible by 3 times 3 in a month divisible by 3 times 3 on a day divisible by 3 IN AN HOUR DIVISIBLE BY 3 IN A MINUTE DIVISIBLE BY 3 is 1 chance in 2187. The chances that any earthquake occuring in nature begins in a year divisible by 3 times 3 in a month divisible by 3 times 3 on a day divisible by 3 IN AN HOUR DIVISIBLE BY 3 IN A MINUTE DIVISIBLE BY 3 ON A SECOND DIVISIBLE BY 3 is 1 chance in 6561. The chances that any earthquake occuring in nature begins in a year divisible by 3 times 3 in a month divisible by 3 times 3 on a day divisible by 3 IN AN HOUR DIVISIBLE BY 3 IN A MINUTE DIVISIBLE BY 3 ON A SECOND DIVISIBLE BY 3 TIMES 3 is 1 chance in 19,683. The chances that any earthquake occuring in nature begins in a year divisible by 3 times 3 in a month divisible by 3 times 3 on a day divisible by 3 IN AN HOUR DIVISIBLE BY 3 IN A MINUTE DIVISIBLE BY 3 ON A SECOND DIVISIBLE BY 3 TIMES 3 TIMES 3 is 1 chance in 59,049. NOW YOU MAY SAY THERE HAVE LIKELY BEEN THAT MANY WORLD SHAKING EARTHQUAKES SO these 1 in 59,049 odds that it occured naturally without being caused by man at that intended specific moment is not actually astronomical or impossible... but when you see that it recorded THE WORLD RECORD LARGEST UPLIFT IN THE HISTORY OF PLANET EARTH A WORLD 47FT AT SEA LEVEL YOU HAVE TO MULTIPLY 59,049 TIMES 59,049 BRINGING ODDS IT WAS NATURAL TO 1 IN 3,486,784,013 "All repeated acts or operations I performed had to be divisible by threeand if I missed I felt impelled to do it again, even if it took hours." -Nikola Tesla ... and for Christ's sake it was Earthquake Milne Shide No. 333 and lasted 3 times 3 times 3 days. This is from the USGS regarding the 1899 earthquakes at Yakutat Bay, Alaska. They lasted 27 days. September 3 to 29, 1899 and included four or five world-shaking disturbances and hundreds of minor shocks. During four weeks there was almost constant palpitation of this part of the earth's crust. The shocks were most severe on September 3, 10, and 23, and were great on the 15th, 17th, 26th, and 29th. On the 10th there were over 50 small shocks and two world-shaking disturbances. The greatest faulting took place on September 10. The greatest uplift that had ever been recorded in the history of the world took place on September 10, 1899. MAN MADE EARTHQUAKES. -Biblical Prophet   

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