Thee Comic Column #149: Penny – Adventures in Coping

PennyIconHave you ever had one of those days? One of those weeks? Months? Well, about three Wednesdays ago I was having a day. My cat Tom had been stricken with an unexplained ailment that saw his rear legs cease to work properly (he’s since recovered). I’d spent the night before at the vet, where I’d received no real conclusive answers despite the $500 I spent, and ended up coming home and basically crying myself to sleep while holding my cat. It continued to the next day as I woke up at 4AM for work, exhausted both mentally and emotionally and was treated to especially brutal doses of LA traffic on the dreaded 405. The day elapsed in a sad daze, and as I drove home in that hellwater traffic I had an epiphany and said f*ck it: I’m stopping at the Comic Bug. It was #NCBD and I figured I had just enough cash left over from the vet to pick up the new issue of TMNT, as well as issues 2-4 of my new obsession We Can Never Go Home. And as always, the moment I walked through the door of my favorite shop in CA everyone working there and several of the regular customers made me feel fantastic as we sank into the rejuvenating confines of passionate discourse.

Pleasantries and recommendations dispersed and considered, I eventually ran into my friend Rafael Navarro, illustrator extraordinaire and one half the Guns A’Blazin’ team. Rafael was situated at an event table with a gentlemen by the name of Ruben Gerard. The soiree – complete with merch, enormous color backdrop and a blue tooth speaker elegantly beaming comic book movie film scores out into the store – was for Mr. Gerard’s collections of his Penny comic strip. Having an on-again-off-again relationship with several comic strips that date back to my childhood I immediately sought more information. I’ve always harbored the fancy that there is a fascinating juxtaposition to be made between comic books and comic strips; kind of a microcosm reflects the macrocosm if you will. The amount of planning, restraint and fine-tuned execution it takes to present a singular theme or idea in a strip is something I simply cannot fathom, and let me tell you, reading through the copy of Mr. Gerard’s Penny: Adventures in Coping that he so graciously gifted me to try and lift my obviously downtrodden spirits was an exercise in amazement. Here is a man who has created  a strong, realistic female protagonist and set her adrift in a microcosm of the real world so deftly populated in three panels or less that if you pick up a volume of Penny and open to any page, chances are pretty good you’ll have had a comparable experience to the protagonist. Or, at the very least, know a woman who has.

Penny works as a telemarketer to (barely) make ends meet and if that’s not bad enough her boss Kim is a materialistic believer in the modern caste system, i.e. exploitation of the *ahem* middle class. And Penny is her target, because for her part, our hero doesn’t quite get the idea why, to paraphrase a quote an old Grotus song, trading five days for two isn’t seen as a supreme waste of our time on this planet. She also doesn’t understand why logic is the enemy and everything has to be so counter intuitive all the time, and this of course means she doesn’t jive with Kim’s corporate mentality. So there’s sparks, and rubs, and tongue lashings. From both sides. Kim works Penny over when she’s in a bad mood and looks to her for validation when she’s not, and Penny’s always there to take it and give it back in a way that Kim never quite comprehends.

Sound familiar?

Penny has learned how to handle these situations, and that’s half the charm of the strip. It’s office politics illustrated in a mildly cynical but also lovingly optimistic tone that both gives the middle finger to and carries a handkerchief for the ups and downs of the modern age. In a word, Penny is just about as human a character as you’re going to encounter in a strip, and as you follow her through her day, again and again, you gain a little bit of insight into your own day and the people that populate it.

And that’s all before the aliens, Pensha the Princess Primal or any of the other alternate Pennyverse characters are introduced. Interested? To quote the old commercial, “Ya gotta buy the book.”

And you can do so here, directly from Mr. Gerard. Or here. Or here. Or at The Comic Bug if you’re in So Cal.


Can’t find a comic shop? You can always use old reliable Comic Shop Locator at 1-800-COMIC-BOOK. Or you can take some of my recommendations. If you live in the greater Chicagoland area I recommend any of the wonderful four locations of Amazing Fantasy Books. In Los Angeles it’s The Comic Bug. Las Vegas it’s Alternate Reality Comics. San Francisco? Try the Isotope Comic Lounge and if you happen to venture a little further North I’d say you have to visit The Escapist Comic Book Store in Berkley (with the wonderful Dark Carnival Books next door and owned by the same folks). Read on!!!



Shawn C Baker

Shawn C Baker

Shawn lives in Los Angeles where he co-hosts Drinking w/ Comics, writes screenplays and fiction and has been known to drink quite a bit of beer. Good beer.

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