You're All Just Jealous of My Jetpack, by Tom Gauld, is to literature and history what Gary Larson's The Far Side is to biology and beehive hairdos. Gauld takes on Dickens and Shakespeare with whimsical glee. He muses on the creativity of artists and writers while conjuring ridiculous asides.
My favorite example of this can be found in the comic "Fragments of Dickens's Lost Novel 'A Megalosaur's Progress.'" For starters, why such an incredibly random dinosaur? Is a megalosaur more inherently funny than a Tyrannosaurus Rex?
Strangely, yes. Gauld's peculiar specificity is clearly an asset. That terrible lizard in his dapper top hat is irresistably funny as we investigate other clues to the lost Dickensian work. "Abandoned as an Egg," "An Unexpected Inheritance," and "Becomes a Gentleman" all hit various beats of Mr. Dickens' work in prehistoric form.
A considerable amount of Gauld's work focuses on creativity and how art and literature are formed and interpreted. "The Street Tom Waits Grew Up On" is a single shot of an old town with landmarks such as "Accordian Players' Graveyard" and "Abandoned Clown Shoe Factory." Just the sort of decaying oddities that could conceivably inspire the musician to be so dang strange.
As you can see, a lot of Gauld's humor is in lists and diagrams. It is also based on having an insider's knowledge for some of his subjects. I had to do research for about five strips as I was reading the book. Challenging, yet rewarding.
Gauld's comics were created for the British newspaper The Guardian, but they work so well as their own collection, unified in theme and style.
Fans should check out Gauld's other book, Goliath. That title focuses on the Biblical villain, who honestly likes to do clerical work but is forced to take part in battle because of his intimidating size.
I also suggest checking out Hark a Vagrant, by Kate Beaton. Though both Beaton and Gauld explore literature and history as subjects, Gauld is able to achieve more with less. His characters, often in profile, have pinpoint eyes and expressionless faces, conjuring both sadness and humor in their images. He also doesn't curse as much, which Beaton seems to fall back on a lot for humor.
You're All Just Jealous of My Jetpack is a splendid way to kill an hour or pat yourself on the back for your cultural literacy. Whatever your motive is, you'll have a blast!