The Chuckling Whatsit
By Richard Sala
(Fantagraphics Books, Paperback, 9781560972815, 200pp.)
Publication Date: November 2005
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In "The Chuckling Whatsit," Sala weaves the gothic cartooning traditions of Edward Gorey and Charles Addams with a densely constructed, melodramatic murder mystery involving astrology, ghouls, academia and outsider art. Part noir, part horror and part comedy, this labyrinthian tale of intrigue follows an unemployed writer named Broom who becomes unwittingly ensnared in a complex plot involving mysterious outsider artist Emile Jarnac, the shadowy machinations of the Ghoul Appreciation Society Headquarters (GASH), and the enigmatic Mr. Ixnay. Sala's deadpan delivery makes this ingeniously layered narrative a roller-coaster ride of darkly pure comic suspense.
Sala's drawing style, while most often compared to Edward Gorey, also reveals the influence of everything from Hollywood monster movies and Dick Tracy to German expressionism and Grimm's fairy tales. It's a style that's perfectly suited to the narrative, constantly flirting with Sala's fascination for the grotesque and lending palpable tension to the gruesome riddle of "The Chuckling Whatsit,"
Sala's eclectic career includes contributions to Art Spiegelman's "RAW" magazine, MTV's "Liquid Television, The New York Times, Playboy" and his ongoing "Evil Eye" comic book series from Fantagraphics, though "The Chuckling Whatsit" remains his most popular work.