The Cyanide & Happiness webcomic began in 2004 and, according to its hosting website, has an archive of over 4000 comics! There are several print collections of their comics, and in 2014 an animated show of the same name was created with a second season on the way. Even though this series has a lot of established history, don’t fret, you don’t need any prior background to enjoy any collection of Cyanide and Happiness. There’s no ongoing story; each individual comic is self-contained.
Now, those same witty, childless creators, Kris Wilson, Rob DenBleyker, and Dave McElfatrick, bring you their latest collection, Cyanide & Happiness: A Guide to Parenting by Three Guys with No Kids. This title is sure to offend your delicate sensibilities—in fact, I would wager that it aims to offend them. For those who already live on the dark side, this “guide” to parenting will tickle and delight your dark sense of humor. From pictographically illustrating the most common way to become a parent (coitus), to recommending kidnapping as an alternate method to becoming a parent, to finding messages in alphabet soup; it aims to help instill issues in your future child that will last them a lifetime and cost them a boatload in therapy.
The in-comic text is minimal, but do not be fooled, I would not consider this a text-light comic. After each comic, which typically consists of 3 to 4 panels, there is a corresponding explanation of the comic strip and its intended goal. In our case, a how-to in said parental situation. The comics are still funny and can still be enjoyed without the corresponding explanation page, but the explanations are funny unto themselves and give the comic more of its guide nature.
I find that it is hard to talk about the art in this comic. I would describe them as minimalist. There is no background and very few props, for lack of a better term, that the characters use. The characters are little more than stick people; they typically consist of a thick-lined rectangle body and circular head with stick arms and legs. There is minimal colour use—red for blood and green and blue for shirts are the most common colours that readers will encounter. Facial expressions are subtle, yet expressive—the artists are able to capture devious smirks and a variety of other expressions with ease.
It feels weird to talk about diversity and inclusion with a comic that is so obviously tongue and cheek in nature, but let’s try it anyway. The characters that we see, despite being stick figures, are mostly white males. I think the addition of more skin tones and adding some female characters beyond the procreation stage of parenting would open up this comic to a larger audience of readers.
The title suggests that this is a guide to parents, but I would argue that it’s more of a guide to fatherhood. The majority of the comics are written for a male point of view and almost always depict the father as the parent. While I’m sure that teens will find this comic funny, it is intended for an adult audience (I mentioned the baby making 101 lesson at the beginning of the comic) and adults will find more depth to the humor. Readers who enjoy dark humor and satires will enjoy this title.
Cyanide & Happiness: A Guide To Parenting By Three Guys With No Kids
By Kris Wilson, Rob DenBleyker, Dave McElfatrick
Boom! Studios, 2018
Publisher Age Rating: Adult
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NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Adult (18+)