Jim Benton is known to most readers for his Wimpy-Kid-esque notebook novel series, Dear Dumb Diary, and some are also fans of his absurdist humor in the more recent Catwad comics. A new title, Clyde, was released in 2019 by Yoe Books, a small press run by Craig Yoe that primarily publishes Yoe’s work and adult comics. Clyde is blurbed by Dav Pilkey, the reining king of absurdist and naughty humor for kids, so readers are quite likely to pick this up off the shelf. Unfortunately, their parents and caregivers, although perhaps not the kids themselves, are likely to be disappointed.
Clyde is a yellow bear with very angry eyebrows and jagged teeth. His first introduction to readers shows him sitting under a tree and suddenly yelling “YOU DUMB MOTH” at a small white moth fluttering by. Clyde continues to yell at the moth and call it names, because it’s flying outside during the day and because he’s BAD. He then sprays “BUTT” on a tree with red paint and stomps off to throw rocks at the pond, trying to hit a fish.
Clyde is determined to leave “nice” Cubville and go to Grizzly City, where he can be really bad. On the way, he runs into a very perky butterfly, whom he detests, especially when the butterfly knocks him out! Clyde finally makes it to Grizzly City, but he’s not as big and bad as he thought he was. In fact, every time he gets scared he farts—which happens a lot in the scary city. Clyde makes his way back to Cubville, where he reluctantly rescues his grandma (a turtle), but he’s still determined to be bad somehow.
The art is full of pastels and cheery colors, from the green and blue landscape to the yellow and pink butterfly, Melissa Sue. When Melissa Sue has her defining moment that changes her life (it involves a thermos) the art shifts to glowy pink, purple, and violet hues. The creatures are all caricatures, with expressive eyes and eyebrows showing whether they are bad, good, or just confused. The smaller insects, like Melissa Sue, show emotions with their wings and little lines of emotion around them, since their faces are too small to see. The characters have a similar, lumpy look, with different colors for the different animals. Fish are yellow, the turtle is purple, Clyde is a light peach, etc.
There’s not really much of a plot to this story; Clyde, although purporting to learn a lesson, proves in the end that he’s just as bad as ever and the book pokes fun at overly sentimental “good” characters just as much as the “cool” bad ones. There’s lots of yelling, name-calling, and a generous sprinkling of crude humor (Clyde’s brother is named “Tinkledirt”). The meandering, absurdist, and crude humor will attract die-hard graphic novel fans and readers who liked Proimos’ Apocalypse Bow Wow, Toto Trouble by Coppee, and Benton’s own Catwad. However, most readers will be satisfied with the more straightforward plots of Dav Pilkey and parents are unlikely to appreciate the message that it’s cool and funny to be mean to others.
By Jim Benton
Yoe Books, 2019
Publisher Age Rating: grade 2-4