Reviewer: Will Cooling
Title: Tozzer 1 & 2 (of 5)
Writer: Rob Dunlop
Artist: Peter Lumby
Publisher: Ablaze Media Ltd.
Tozzer is a boy with a gift, an opportunity, and a whole load of problems. His gift is his ability as an illusionist (magic), his opportunity is to be enrolled in the highly prestigious Boarboils School of Drama in Hollywood and his problems are, well everything else! As the new school term begins he has to contend with his foster parents trying to kill him after he accidentally nearly cut his foster mother in half, his long time rival (who bears an uncanny similarity to a certain rapper) taking his girl Hornie after seducing her with an awesome rap, said rival Rod and his gang threatening to kill him, one of his new teachers attacking his quaint ability to make “special effects by hand” and finally a well know monkey fiddler is searching for him. Oh and there’s the strange behaviour of their puppet-holding Head of Security Jules and some guests at Boarboils who bear a certain resemblance to such stars as Vin Diesel, George Lucas, Michael Moore, Leonardo Dicaprio and Leatherface.*
That synopsis gives you a pretty good idea of what type of comic we’re dealing with here. This is a Scary Movie style spoof and whilst there is a plot and character development within the spoof its fairly standard American Pie style stuff i.e. the good guy’s girl goes off with the phony Jock, said Jock wants to kick the good guy’s face in, the good guy doubts himself and is still in love with his girl and the best friend/sidekick stands by him. All of which are played perfectly well and are given enough room to develop without adding a degree a depth to the comic that would run counter to the tone set by the spoofs.
Now there’s nothing wrong with taking the mick out of celebrities, most of them get way less than they deserve. The problem for much of these comics is that it devotes a lot of energy and time to taking the mick out of one element that is evidently not true-Michael Jackson! Now I have no problem with (some) of the jokes as many are fairly funny especially the idea that in his search for Tozzer is forced to cut off his expensive body parts to bribe the locals for information but they are two problems; one minor and one major. The minor one is a question of taste, as anyone who read my Unfunnies 1 Review knows I’m more than a tad unapproving when it comes to jokes about child abuse. I just don’t think it’s appropriate. That said Dunlop manages to keep the focus on Jackson’s personality to the extent that it provokes more irritation than disgust. The major problem is that making jokes at Jackson’s expense is just boring! The jokes are by and large retreads of what comedians have been saying for a decade and there’s something distasteful and tiresome about kicking somebody when they’re so down. The result is that a good portion of the two issues’ humour (especially issue 1) falls flat and seems forced.
However, underneath his poor choice of target there’s no doubting that Dunlop knows how to hold up celebrities for mockery and humour and with some of the guest stars he shows it to great effect. Perhaps the highlight of the two issues has to be Michael Moore’s prominent guest appearance in issue 2 with the big tub of lard mercilessly rip to shreds with his leaps of logics, vindictive pet hates, faking of scenes and his obesity all providing plenty of scope for some enjoyably mean-spirited humour with the wonderful exchange between him and a pizza delivery guy being the highlight. He also gets some nifty gags (well its more one gag that he repeats) at Vin Diesel’s expense portraying him as buffed up, unintelligible police officer who is escorted by his own personal subtitles whilst Leonardo Dicaprio in “Catch Me As You Can” mode provides some fun exchanges and contortions.
The other two major objects of derision are George Lucas and Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction mode. Now really these should open up the comic to the charges of being stuck in the early nineties again but Dunlop manages to pull it off. The stuff with Lucas is an amusing satire of his attitudes to direction as he takes a class on film direction with his obsession with and devotion to CG relentlessly spoofed. The Samuel L. Jackson stuff works because he largely ignores the actually character he’s spoofing and instead uses it as a straight man for some off-wall humour involving a Yoda glove puppet and 70s music and in doing so provides some of the funnier moments of the comic. Indeed, Dunlop when he strays from merely spoofing celebrities often produces better comedy i.e. the guest appearance of two KKK members and the lapse security checks at Boarboils. It’s a shame he doesn’t do it that often.
Fundamentally this is a sound comic with solid writer and art from Peter Lumby that has an angular cartoony style similar to Anthony Williams and is perfectly suited to the comic. This is especially due to Lumby’s excellent gifts as a satirical cartoonist with his versions of Michael Jackson, Vin Diesel and Michael Moore all being enjoyable distortions of his targets. However, despite this there is a flatness to the issues. Partly that is caused by his poor choice of targets, the Michael Jackson stuff really drags the first issue down where it’s allowed to dominate and it’s a major relief to see it relegated to the opening pages only in the second issue. However, a more significant problem is one of pace. If you look at many of the movies that share this comics tone they have an extremely fast pace with jokes launched at a rapid rate. Due to this they feel raw and energetic and create and atmosphere where you wonder what they’re going to do next. Whilst this comic is by no means compressed it often feels sedate in its pacing, for example the Lucas scene in issue 2 takes four pages despite there being only one joke. This is simply too long to develop the atmosphere that made the likes of the Scary Movie films and the recent Team America World Police such thrills to watch. In addition, with the exception of the Michael Jackson stuff this is actually quite a “safe” comic with little in way of violence, sex or bad language. Due to this it simply doesn’t feel like it has the energy or the rawness that such a comic really needs to have. So whilst there’s plenty of potential in Tozzer with the fundamentals largely sound at the moment a handful of mistakes drag the comic down.
*From now on I’m referring to any celebrities featured by the name of the celebrities instead of the wafer thin parodies Dunlop presents them as.
Thanks to Rob Dunlop of Ablaze Media Ltd for providing me with materials for this review.