I Don’t Get It is the third book in a series that collects creator Shannon Wheeler’s rejected New Yorker comic strips. Upon hearing the words “rejected” you probably think “well they must not be that good.” Well you’re wrong. Why the hell would any publisher publish three books of something that “must not be that good”? Don’t answer that, it’s actually quite the opposite case. After reading these one panel comics that were rejected, you begin to wonder… how good are the ones that made it through? For me these collections can’t come fast enough and that’s kind of a terrible thing to say when you think about it. I’m hoping that Wheeler’s work will be rejected over and over by the New Yorker so that I might have another volume to enjoy. Why? Because I’ve never laughed so hard.
This is going to be a strange comparison, but as a child Scholastic would bombard our school with monthly or quarterly flyers of books that we could order through the school (probably the case in most schools). There were two days that became very exciting because of this. The day the flyer arrived and the day the books arrived. Whereas everyone else in my class order books, ones that you read and contained no pictures, I read comic strip collections. It was the only thing I ordered or cared about. Sure eventually I picked up my fair share of Goosebumps, but for me it was always Calvin and Hobbes, Garfield and whatever else I could get my hands on that resembled either a comic or comic strip. Reading I Don’t Get It was like experiencing the adult version of that feeling.
Every page made me laugh. Some more than others, but there was a verbal chuckle for at least every page. Now it’s not that I’m easy to make laugh or even hard; I simply enjoy laughing. I’m aware that I have several variations of my laugh which may or may not be the norm. I have one particular laugh that bellows from me when I’m extremely amused by something and this book brought forth that laugh on more than one occasion; particularly on a panel involving a cat and a mouse trap, again about an art gallery, but there were many others. It got to the point that my wife was annoyed with me because I was acting like a little kid while reading it. At several points I had to put the book down in order to dry my eyes and rest my gut from laughter.
So what is so damn funny you ask? Wheeler manages to at times make you feel incredibly smart, these are when you get the joke outright and understand the layers of your own personal knowledge that you needed to use in order to get the material. It’s a rewarding feeling. But on the very next page he can make you feel dumb as shit. It’s not his intention of course, but as time wears on not everything stays fresh in the brain. I had to look a few of the jokes up and the minute I read a words definition the synapses in my brain made the connection and bang! Instantly funny again.
You could call it a thinking man’s style of comedy, but really he pulls from so many social events that it would be hard not relate or understand the vast majority of content. And even looking up the meaning of a word didn’t ruin a joke for me. In fact in the case of the first one you’ll read, it only made me laugh more. It’s a joke that’s better read out loud because like me you’ve probably never written this name in your life, but know what it is.
I probably haven’t done this volume justice at all with my review, but it’s rare for a comic collection to stir up so much joy and honestly make me feel and act like a kid again. Was that Wheeler’s intention? Probably not, but I’m thankful it happened that way.
Out of three volumes I Thought You’d Be Funnier, I Told You So and I Don’t Get It, I would have to say this newest volume is the best. Wheeler has hit is proverbial stride. Every joke hits the right chord and even though they weren’t created with a specific theme in mind, it ended up that way. In fact if I hadn’t told you these were all rejected by The New Yorker then you would never have known. It’s that organic feeling. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy. I know it’s dumb to say this since it’s the beginning of the year, but it’s going to be hard for another graphic novel to beat this book.
Writer/Artist/Creator: Shannon Wheeler Publisher: Boom/Boom Town Price: $17.99 Release Date: 1/22/14
NOW READ THE PREVIEW!