All That, Plus The Kitchen Sink : Chris Cajero Cilla And Greg Petix’s “Swonknibus”


Whether you love comics like this or hate them, the simple fact is that we need more like them : legitimate “anything goes” creative free-for-alls that have nothing limiting them other than the scope of the author’s imagination — or, in the case, the authors’ imaginations, plural.

The “comic like this” in question is Swonknibus, a newly-released collection of cartoonist Chris Cajero Cilla and writer Greg Petix’s weekly Swonk strip that ran in the pages of the University of Arizona student newspaper The Daily Wildcat from 1995-97. It’s more than that, of course — Cilla published this under the auspices of his own Sardine Can Press (apparently there’s also a hardback version available as a print-on-demand job from Lulu) and has seen fit to include an intriguing smattering of ‘zine content he created with Petix from roughly the same time period, and to round the entire package out with three pages of extensive footnotes — but for purposes of this review, all you really need to know is that if Swonk is to your tastes, the supplemental material is sure to be as well, and if it’s not, then it won’t be. Fair enough?

How, then, to best decide whether or not Swonk is, indeed, to your tastes? Well, let’s see — if you like random pop culture references, even more random pop culture send-ups, absurdism thinly veiled as satire, absurdism for its own sake, satire for its own sake, political humor, entirely amoral humor, gross-out humor, gross-out shit that isn’t humorous, stand-alone strips, multi-part strips, recurring characters, one-off characters, and all kinds of stuff that either does or should make you feel at least a little bit guilty for laughing at it, then congratulations. You’ve come to the right place. There’s something in here to both please and offend just about everybody.

I’m a longtime admirer of Cilla’s comics, but this is my first time even hearing of Swonk, let alone actually seeing it, and as such it’s interesting to note the ways in which it both is and isn’t what a person would expect from the “warts and all” early work of someone who would go on to become an auteur cartoonist. A fair amount of the divergence from expectation can likely be chalked up to Petix’s influence, of course — he wrote this material, after all — but it’s equally interesting to note how markedly similar their sensibilities are in so many key respects, and therefore easy to see why collaboration was such a natural thing for them. They both share a decidedly askew view of reality and aren’t afraid to take the piss out of just about anyone and anything, but they both have a gift for making nonsense make sense (if — errrmmm — that makes sense), and so don’t be too surprised if much of what’s on offer here ends up feeling to you like it could just as well have been the product of one mind rather than two.

Still, in many ways, that’s the ultimate mark of success for endeavors such as this one, is it not? When what’s on the page reflects the creative output of two people who are on the same page, the results are often terrific, dare I even say alchemical, and so they are here — albeit with an added caveat, that being : if you take offense at the notion of being offended (not even necessarily easily offended) and can’t get past it, you’d do well to avoid this collection altogether. There are absolutely no sacred cows in the world of Swonk, and while that makes he strip very much an artistic inheritor of the underground legacy, well — if the undergrounds bugged you, this will too. And for many of the same reasons.
For my own part, though, what can I say? I loved this book. But then slapdash regurgitations direct and unfiltered from the id have always been my cup of tea, and while I’m not at all dismissive of those whose life experiences have led them to develop more delicate sensibilities for any number of entirely valid reasons, I don’t think all comics should be forced to cater to said sensibilities by any stretch — especially when there are already so many comics that do so as a matter of course. It takes a cast-iron stomach and maybe even a vacationing conscience to enjoy much of Swonknibus — but if you have at least one or the other, preferably both, then you’re in for a great time.

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Swonknibus is available for $12.00 from the Sardine Can Press Storenvy site at https://sardinecanpress.storenvy.com/products/31736386-swonknibus

Also, this review is “brought to you” by my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics. Subscribing is the best way to support my continuing work, so I’d be very appreciative if you’d take a moment to give it a look by directing your kind attention to https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

One response to “All That, Plus The Kitchen Sink : Chris Cajero Cilla And Greg Petix’s “Swonknibus”

  1. Pingback: Lisa Marie’s Week In Review: 11/29/21 — 12/5/21 | Through the Shattered Lens

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