Cartoonist Stephan Pastis has long followed in the esteemed footsteps of the master, Berkeley Breathed, who would often put himself on the backs of his own Bloom County collections, at times even mingling with his creations. Breathed, who recently announced the resurrection of the Bloom County strip, may yet continue this practice with future volumes as well.
The last Pearls Before Swine Treasury, 2014’s Pearls Falls Fast, featured what I called at the time “the most audacious live-action/cartoon cover work yet”, one I didn’t think would be topped anytime soon. It turns out we hadn’t seen nuthin’ yet.
Here’s a first: the cover of Pearls Gets Sacrificed: A Pearls Before Swine Treasury, features its creator, Stephan Pastis, syndicated cartoonist and best-selling children’s book author, being roasted alive at the stake. Pig, the comic’s practical sweetheart, even brought marshmallows.
Cheering on his immolation are a requisite grumpy old couple (complete with wagging cane), a horrified helicopter mom, as well as a cadre of comic superstars (and, to be charitable, relics) from Family Circus, Dilbert, Doonesbury, Baby Blues and even Garfield all more than happy to see “Le Punster” finally pay for his hilarious heresies.
I can’t prove it, but I swear it looks like Cathy is giving him the finger (minus the actual finger, of course). Burning someone alive is A-OK, but digitary expressions of disgust are still a no go. But hey, what’s a little auto-de-fé between friends?
Fear not, Pearls fans, as “No Stephan Pastis were hurt during the making of this book. Even though we might have wanted to” says the disclaimer showcasing all the different photos and work that went into creating such a Photoshop masterpiece. Looks like we’re stuck with him for the duration.
But let’s get into the real meat ‘n potatoes of the book itself. Pearls Gets Sacrificed Is the eighth Pearls Before Swine Treasury, collecting every daily and Sunday strip that you may have seen in smaller collections Breaking Stephan and King of the Comics, spanning the comic strip’s run between September 3rd, 2012 through March 2nd, 2014. I know this because this Treasury actually tells me so; historical annotation is important, folks, and that fact that so many others don’t follow suit is shamefully embarrassing.
So why pick up a Treasury that is, essentially, little more than an exercise in double-dipping of content you may already have? Because… reasons. Yes, if you’re a hardcore Pearls fan than you’ve already seen these daily and Sunday strips before, but there’s Pastis’ commentary on every page, often self-mocking but occasionally even revelatory. The opening forward fleshes out Pastis’ experience on the road to promote his other works, easily padding out what might have been three pages of blank, existential nothingness.
And if that’s not enough, the final page is filled, inexplicably, with Pearls themed stickers. What’s next, Pastis, pop-out finger puppets? A cardboard disc that actually plays music? Mighty crafty of you, sir, might crafty indeed.
Taking a cue from the big man himself, here’s my own reconstituted encapsulations of previous reviews for both books, happily presented once again here for your reading (or re-reading) and re-buying pleasure. Waste not, want not!
Double-dipped from the original Breaking Stephan Review:
“Breaking Stephan, the fifteenth collection of Pearls Before Swine comics, doesn’t reinvent the wheel, break any new ground, cure cancer, etc. No, it’s none of those things and all the better for it. It’s just a very, very funny collection of daily and colorized Sunday strips built around the central conceit that a comic strip should make you laugh, and laugh often. Fifteen books in and there’s still gas in the tank – mission accomplished.”
Double-dipped from the original King of the Comics Review:
“So what can fans and newbies expect here? Apart from the puns (which never end), new to the crowd are the hapless penguins (and hungry polar bear), the vigilante deer who seek revenge on hunters (“by rebuking them sharply”), the buffoonish cartoon censors, and even Australian Santa, quite possibly the most disgusting character in Pearls history. Comic strip nerds finally get to see what happened to beloved characters Calvin and Hobbes, but be careful what you ask for: Calvin hocking bootleg C&H merchandise, Hobbes demagoguing on Fox News probably weren’t top guesses. Also, eagle-eyed fans will smile at the (too) brief guests from Cyanide and Happiness and Bloom County’s Steve Dallas.”
Pearls Gets Sacrificed: A Pearls Before Swine Treasury demonstrates the crass and exploitative cultural reappropriation of cultural refuse endemic to the servile bourgeoisie class…Nah, I’m just kidding. How pretentious would that actually be? Yes, Stephan Pastis is double-dipping his fans with this Treasury, but there’s enough “new” here that stuff goes down just fine a second – or third – time around. It’s also a reminder that Pearls Before Swine remains the funniest comic strip out there, and among the very few still dedicated to the job of actually being funny. And relevant.