So — Wuzza “Buzza Wuzza,” Anyway?


The short answer to the question posed by the headline of this review would likely be “a self-published comic by cartoonist Jeff Ralston (or, as he credits himself, Buzza Wuzza, which also happens to be both the series’ title and the name of the anthropomorphic cat who is its nominal “star”) presented in a generously over-sized magazine format,” but that’s really only scratching the surface. It’s quite clearly a labor of love, perhaps with emphasis on the labor : Ralston produced no less than 19 issues of Buzza Wuzza Comics And Stories during the recent pandemic-engendered lockdown, and unlike any number of artists who are understandably happy enough to send yours truly a comic or two for purposes of reading and reviewing them, he actually went so far as to send me all 19 of his comics this past August. Hence the still-inexcusable delay on my part in getting this analysis/appraisal written — that’s a big ol’ pile of comics to read, and I never like to half-ass anything. If Ralston wanted me to read ’em all, then read ’em all I shall — and did.

Early on in said reading, though, it became apparent that tackling these in small chunks was the way to go — Ralston has created an idiosyncratic world unto itself here, where only his own made-up-on-the-fly rules apply, and given that none of the strips he’s put pen, ink, pencil, brush and occasionally even magic marker and collage cut-out to have carried over from issue to issue, there was no need to worry about my always-tenuous memory failing me altogether or, less drastically, requiring some sort of jolt or kick-start to get back into the flow of things. Issue, say, 12 is every bit as accessible as issue one, and there’s a kind of beautiful simplicity to that which should appeal to anybody out there either bored to tears with, or simply seeking respite from, long-form comics narratives. Complexity is great and all, but who needs it all the fucking time?

Which, come to think of it, isn’t a bad segue into a discussion about Ralston’s art. By and large this is agreeably simple stuff, done with no particular concern for the trappings of visual sophistication, and while I’m not sure this is down to this being as “good” as Ralston can draw or a deliberate stylistic choice on his part, it doesn’t really matter : what he’s come up with, by dint of either decision or default, is an immediately accessible and utterly cohesive visual language that doesn’t necessarily “impress” per se, but intuitively feels right for the kind of vaguely absurdist humor strips that are, it’s fair to say given the large sample size at my disposal, his stock in trade. Ralston’s ensemble generally partake in what can loosely be described as “madcap adventures,” and as such it helps to not only have them delineated in a kind of free-for-all scrawl by the artist, but also to be in the right frame of mind yourself to absorb this kind of intellectually non-taxing stuff — for my own part, I found reading an issue to cap off a long day at work was the way to go, and while that may sound like me damning this entire project with faint praise, I assure you it’s not : after all, who can’t use a couple stupid laughs after eight or more hours of workplace drudgery?

And so it is that Ralston can accurately be said to be more concerned with doing a particular thing and doing it reasonably well than he can be “accused” of being too overly ambitious. Issue 11 breaks the mold by being a prose and mixed-media affair, and it’s plenty interesting as a one-off, but there’s a definite sense by the time it’s over with that Ralston is perfectly content to return to regularly-scheduled programming for his next installment, and I have a hunch most readers will be on board with that decision, as well : when you’re in a bit of a creative groove, after all, there’s no need to rock the boat too terribly much, and by that point in the series it’s plainly obvious that such a groove has, indeed, been achieved. If I can level any specific criticism at this comic as a whole it would probably be that it boasts little to no progression, either in pure storytelling terms or in terms of the methodology behind the creation of said stories, but again, I should stress that I don’t have a huge problem with that given the project’s aims, which strive for a kind of tenuous balance between unpredictability and consistency, with Ralston more often than not succeeding at delivering both.

Anyway, characters come and go from the revolving door of Ralston’s imagination according to their utility to each issue’s particular story (or stories), but it’s a pretty damn likable bunch of animals (Buzza Wuzza, Judy Moon, Clancy The Cop, Dr, La Paz, Wuv Bunny, Messy Rabbit, Smokey The Cat) and people (Pal, Stressy) as well as the occasional ghost, robot, monster, and devil (among others) that populate the series’ core cast, and if you wonder what all they get up to beyond “hijinks ensue,” it’s generally stuff like going to Mars, solving mysteries, fighting crime, playing in shitty bands, visiting Stonehenge, serving in combat, going to jail, etc. — in other words, yeah, “hijinks ensue.” My favorite issue is of the bunch is probably #17, a full-length story called “Friends Of The Library,” but on the whole each installment isn’t too far removed from every other in terms of both overall tone and overall quality. I’m not sure if Ralston took much by way of breaks when writing and drawing these things, but they very much feel the end product of an artist who got a head of steam to do something quite specific and stuck with it until he’d done everything he wanted to do within the parameters he’d set for himself.

Which wouldn’t, I suppose, necessarily preclude Ralston from spinning more yarns set in his little de facto “universe” should he feel so inclined — after all, “just kinda doing whatever” is about as open-ended as premises come — and I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to checking out more if he makes more. These aren’t comics that will turn your world upside down or anything, but they will entertain you, especially if your sense of humor is just a touch off-kilter, and despite what the self-styled “intelligentsia” out there may tell you, there’s nothing at all wrong with cartoonists who want to entertain their readers. In fact, it’s a pretty damn noble goal in our increasingly dark world.

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There doesn’t seem to be much by way of distribution for Buzza Wuzza Comics And Stories, but interested parties are directed to contact Jeff Ralston directly at buzzawuzza1@yahoo.com if you’d like to order up and issue or two — or even all 19, I suppose.

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 for as little as a dollar a month. 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 “So — Wuzza “Buzza Wuzza,” Anyway?

  1. Pingback: Lisa Marie’s Week In Review: 12/6/21 — 12/12/21 | Through the Shattered Lens

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