Sunday, September 19, 2010

Comics You Should Have Read: Hsu and Chan

It's fairly easy too find a solid humour comic online, but in print it's a scarce commodity. Most published comic books that people consider funny are usually action... with some jokes. Or drama... with some jokes. Oh comic books. Your name implies mirth but your delivery is often far from it. Rarely do you come across a book written strictly for laughs, and even rarer is the specimen actually done well.

This brings me too the brilliant Hsu and Chan: Too Much Adventure by the equally brilliant Norm Scott. Imagine if you took the imagination and cartoony fun of Steamboat Willie and merged it with a hyperviolent Michael Bay style car chase. That's about the level of intensity that can be found in the pages of the average issue of Hsu and Chan.

Hsu and Chan Tanaka are brothers, video game developers, and all around miscreants that are often accompanied by their odd sidekicks Chernobyl (a radioactive chipmunk) Gila Mobster (a short, reptilian gangster) and Arnie the Ground Squirrel (who, self admittedly, looks like a Sonic the Hedgehog knockoff).

Hsu and Chan was originally published as one or two pages comics in Electronic Gaming Monthly. In a fun twist, the comic book and the EGM strips took place in the same continuity. Hsu's hand a chopped off and replaced by a robot claw in the comic. This change carried over into the EGM strips but was never actually explained. Later the Tanaka brothers made the jump to blog format at, but they have since retired (in September of 2009). Scott's current online domicile is located at Spookingtons, which features an archive of Hsu and Chan and other comics done for the web.

Scott's panels are fairly wordy, but there's as much comedic energy coming out of his verbose dialog as there is in his art. Whatever mundane task the Tanaka brothers are currently engaged in, they will describe their exploits in a serious of disarmingly descriptive and sardonic monologues.

The book was extraordinary long lived for its genre. It's genre being a black and white independent humor book. The first issue was printed in January of 2003, and it was released quarterly that year. And then twice the next year. And then once in 2005. And then once again in 2009. I think issue number ten is due by 2037.

If you want to follow the adventures of the Tanaka brothers but don't want to go lurking through back-issue bins in seedy comic book stores, the first five issues of the comic are collected in a handy trade paperback.

My dream is that someday a Hsu and Chan omnibus collecting the entire comic books series, EGM strips, webcomics, and various online doodles that have since vanished into the cybernethers will see print. Until then, enjoy this picture of a car crashing into a helicopter.

Scans taken from Norm Scott's Hsu and Chan: Too Much Adventure

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