Spleenal – absurd, sweet, sex-obsessed, sentimental and very funny
by Nigel Auchterlounie
The key to reading Spleenal is realising that, although Spleenal may be a sex obsessed idiot, he’s a sex obsessed idiot with a heart. And it’s that emotional, guilt ridden streak that keeps the book on the very thin line between well observed comedy and complete filth. Because no matter how much sex Spleenal manages to have, he’s always going to come out of it loving his wife (who is far, far smarter than he is) and adoring his kids.
It’s just a brilliantly funny fantasy comedy where all the temptations and everyday frustrations get taken up to at least 11 with Spleenal getting to do every stupid thing every stupid man ever dreams of when they realise that all of those young men’s dreams just aren’t going to happen. And here in Spleenal it goes about as badly as you might expect, and it’s funny and stupid and rather dirty.
Spleenal contains five stories; some from the Spleenal blog, some new for this collection but all re-worked and re-coloured here. The three shorter tales act as interludes that look at Young Spleenal, Teen Spleenal and Student Spleenal and give us some little insight into what exactly turned him into the repressed, angry, guilt ridden, frustrated man he is today. Clue; it’s all about falling in love/lust with front bottoms at a very early age (something which had Louise (wifey) giggling like a schoolgirl):
(Young Spleenal’s eureka moment – oh, the trouble that’s going to cause him in later life…… from the Young Spleenal tale in Spleenal by Nigel Auchterlounie)
Around these interludes we have the two main features; Spleenal’s Spanky Comic and The Day After The End Of Time, one of which is exactly what it sounds like and the other is like Calvin’s Spaceman Spiff adventures taken to an entirely new level. And all the way through them both you get Spleenal’s obsession with sex, comics and the ginger one out of Tatu and a whole lot of funny.
Poor Spleenal, you really can’t be mad at him for long, as soon as he gets anywhere near the possibility of the guilt free sex he think he wants the guilt kicks in almost instantly, the panic follows and he conspires against himself to get it all spectacularly wrong. When a young fan gets in touch and offers him all the commitment free more sex he could want he takes a look at his life as failed comic artist, trapped husband and father and leaps at the chance. Except with Spleenal it couldn’t possibly be that easy – and it’s soon pretty obvious to his wife exactly what’s going on:
Fortunately his dear wife is very understanding. Very, very understanding. Understanding doesn’t really cover it. She’s far too clever to let Spleenal get away with this, but the planned confrontation with Spleenal’s spanky girl doesn’t exactly go as planned. Although, like she says, if Spleenal seems to be a far better husband and father this way, why the hell shouldn’t she get something out of the whole thing……. (Well, I did say that Spleenal’s wife was the smart one)…..
Even in the time travelling sex romp that is The Day After The End Of Time, where our man realises that his life could all be so much better if he were to just go back in time and stop his younger self having sex with his future wife, he manages to be completely derailed by a combination of his guilt, obsession and his impossible to ignore love for his wife and we get to see a seemingly never ending procession of Spleenals travelling around the time-stream making a thorough cock up of it all – albeit in a bloody funny and entertaining manner. You may have trouble keeping up with exactly which of Spleenal’s future selves you’re dealing with but you’ll have so much fun doing so that it wont matter one bit.
(Multiple Spleenals all with one goal – sex. Preferably with lesbian sex-bot wives. But somehow, he still manages to mess it all up)
Spleenal may be many things, but the one thing it manages to be above all others is bloody funny. Spit out the coffee funny at times. The real worry with Spleenal is that someone’s going to pick it up and turn into “digusted of Cheltenham” over it. Indeed, over on the publisher’s blog, Kenny Penman says this:
So, here’s the thing, what do you do when someone sends you a comic which is both beautifully drawn and very funny but at the same time about as lacking in political correctness as you can get. That’s Spleenal, Nigel Auchterlounie’s fantastic, totally misanthropic comics creation. At first I wondered about it, too many years of reading the Guardian obviously oversensitising me to some of Spleenal’s more endearing moments – like the constant use of bitch when referring to womenfolk, general obsession with sex or rampant obnoxiousness. More I thought about it though I realised how much I enjoyed the cartooning and manic energy of it all. Then Isobel, our translator and editor, read it and laughed her socks off. Right, deal done then, we’ll publish that.
But in the end, although it might be hard to see a sex comic about spanking and featuring an army of lesbian sex-bot wives as a morality tale, it’s comes down to the fact that sometimes, just sometimes, the world we have, right here and right now, is pretty wonderful and the lives and loves of the moment, frustrating and infuriating, may just be perfect for us.
Or it could just be a very funny comic with lots of neurotic, guilt-ridden sex. Either way it’s funny. I prefer the former, where the laughs have just the right hint of sweet sentimentality as well.
Spleenal’s stuff is not for the faint hearted, but it’s very good and it’s very funny. Artistically Spleenal is doing some lovely things, those nice lines and good layouts keep grabbing your attention. So point yourselves over to the weblog and Flickr pages and take a deep breath before diving in to see what he’s all about. Then pop over here and buy the book. Hell, buy several – Christmas is coming and stockings need filling.