Marc Bell’s Stroppy is a deranged book that defies easy categorisation, and is full of densely layered social commentary. The central character Stroppy (last seen in Bell’s Pure Pajamas) is the victim of an unfair capitalist society. In the first few pages he loses his job through no fault of his own, and before too long has been beaten by private security goons and made homeless, naked, and left in debt (for the medical care the goons administer after their beating, amongst other things). Meanwhile the All-Star Schnauzer Band are running a songwriting competition which local oligarch (and Stroppy’s former employer) Monsieur Moustache is determined to win, and which leads to a power struggle. All-Star Schnauzer Band unpaid intern Sean, whose careless actions led to Stroppy’s unemployment, causes mayhem wherever he goes as he selfishly tries to further his own career regardless of the harm against others. Keeping up? The book is full of poems, song lyrics and countless pop culture references, and even features a greatest hits album in the form of a crazy golf course.
In a recent Inkstuds podcast Bell described his panels as vaudeville style not cinematic style - there are very few close ups, and the amount of detail he packs into each page is staggering - there are lots of things you only spot second time around. His instantly recognisable artwork is fantastic here, particularly on some of the later pages with just one panel rather than the four most often used. Artwork aside, whether you’d enjoy the story is likely to depend on your tolerance for the constant stream of absurdities, but if you immerse yourself in Stroppy’s world there’s plenty to savour.