July 31, 2013
Not a single character in Underworld, the long-running alt-weekly comic strip written and drawn by KAZ (Kazimieras G. Prapuolenis, born 1959), is lovable or sympathetic. Since 1992, Kaz has been degrading Popeye, Mickey Mouse, Tweety Bird, and other characters from classic kiddie comics by re-imagining them as drug addicts, alcoholics, perverts, and killers. It works, brilliantly — the horny, murderous, treacherous characters; the stabbings and beheadings; the tampon and poop jokes; the landscapes filled with smoke stacks, trash, unidentifiable puddles, boards with nails, dead trees, and twisted oppressive buildings — because, like George Herriman, Al Cap, and Ernie Bushmiller before him, Kaz creates black-and-white surreal masterpieces. Plus, he mercilessly reveals the the deranged logic of kiddie comics: When Drafty Duck walks into Pinky Pig’s house and proceeds to stab himself, inject himself with drugs, overdose on pills, shoot himself, and step into a puddle of water where a cut electrical cord rests, for example, the punchline is: “Cartoon characters can’t die!!!” Kaz might be a crazed genius, or a misanthrope, but he’s only telling the terrible truth.