Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius 2.0 #2, which was published by Oni Press and is cover dated March 2000. This scan is from The Big Book of Barry Ween, Boy Genius, which was published in 2009. Enjoy!
Judd Winick’s Barry Ween comics are brilliant, hilarious, profane, and very nice to look at. One wonders what kind of lobotomy DC editorial performed on Winick when he went to work for them, because we haven’t seen this guy in a long time. Come back, Good Judd Winick! We miss you!
I apologize for this scan – the trade is a giant omnibus kind of thing, so the middle of the book doesn’t get flat on my scanner and the edges get blurred because the gutters aren’t very wide. If you can’t read it, Winick writes that Hemingway describes genius as the ability to learn at a greater velocity, and Barry (who’s writing this in his journal), writes “I do learn fast, ergo, I move fast. So fast that is causes unforeseen errors. Like the time I knocked the Earth out of the sun’s orbit.” This entire page is just set-up, as Winick just wants to show us what kind of dude Barry is. So he’s snarky, brilliant, arrogant, and far too clever for his own good. Obviously, the fact that there are kids in this comic doesn’t make it a kid’s comic, as Jeremy (his best friend there in Panel 3) is obsessed with his genitalia, and Barry, as you can see, uses some bad language. Winick has a lot of fun with the conceit of Barry being a super-genius but who also does some genuinely stupid things, and we see that in Panels 2 and 3. This page is also a good example of some of the understated (yes, understated) humor in the book – when Barry knocks the Earth out of the sun’s orbit, he can only suggest that Jeremy should probably put on a jacket. This kind of humor is throughout the book, and it shows nicely on this page.
Winick’s art is a good blend between realism and cartoony, as Barry has his giant head and wild hair, but Jeremy is proportioned like a “normal” kid and Hemingway, as goofily posed as he is, looks “realistic.” Winick does a very nice job with Hemingway’s expression in Panel 1, Barry’s grumpy expression in Panel 2, and his wide-eyed terror in Panel 3. Winick’s art isn’t complicated, but it is detailed, and Winick makes sure that Barry’s room looks like a kid’s, even though he’s a bit precocious in his comics taste. There’s not a lot of storytelling in these three panels, because each of them are pretty discrete, but they do give us a good idea of what the comic looks like, and you can make up your own mind if it’s the kind of style you like. Winick’s storytelling is actually quite good throughout the book, but this page isn’t a very good example of it.
This page does encapsulate Barry Ween pretty well, and if you chuckle at this page, you’ll probably like the series in general. Winick deserves plenty of scorn for his DC work, but not for Barry Ween. If you like this page but haven’t read it, I suggest you get on it!
Next: I liked this artist before he worked for DC and Marvel and all you johnny-come-latelies suddenly discovered him! That’s right, I’m snooty and you have to like it! Hey, wait, where are you guys going? Come back! There are plenty of archives to go through! I’ll buy you a latte! (Note: I will not buy you a latte.)