Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children: A Cotton Candy Autopsy Trade Paperback Review

Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children: A Cotton Candy Autopsy
DC Comics - Piranha Press
Softcover Trade Paperback
112 pages
$12.95 (1991)
ISBN 9780930289898

Contributors: Dave Louapre and Dan Sweetman

Reprints: Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children #1, 13 + original final chapter

Synopsis: The big top is burning and the clowns are raging drunk, have stolen a car, kidnapped the two-headed lady, and are making a run for it.  Their journey from the circus is surreal and deadly.  These clowns aren't friendly or nice, but will play your kid's birthday party and steal all of your booze.  Watch out!

Bingo and his wife, Addy - the Two-Headed Lady, make a run south of the border to start over in a Mexican circus.  The two lovebirds (or is that three?) attempt to make a new life for themselves, but trouble has a way of catching up to people.  Will they be linked to the circus fire in America and what secret is Addy's 'quiet head' hiding?

Clowns and fire don't mix...with alcohol
Joey Punchinello is supposed to be dead, but somehow he's alive and starting over with the same mistakes.  Can a leopard change his spots and can a clown really change his stripes?   Joey will either get a new lease on life or suffer a final, fatal clown-beat-down - what sounds more likely?

Pros: Real clowns and really drunk clowns, harsh and honest portrayal of circus life - it ain't pretty or fair, unique story with some great insight into real clowning, highly disturbing, alt-rock band Mr. Bungle used Sweetman's clown artwork for some of their albums in the '90s

Cons: I'll never look at clowns the same way again (brrrrrr!), Sweetman's art reminds me of prison art - I bet he did time, kinda depressing, black and white, somewhat fanciful and unrealistic at times

The only good clown is a dead clown...
strapped to the hood of your car
Mike Tells It Straight: Real clowns and circus folk aren't all smiles and laughs for the crowd.  Have you ever seen a clown walking down the street in broad daylight?  It's freaky and there's something about clowns that makes normal people uneasy.  Who are they under that makeup and how can they live the clown life?  Now imagine seeing a falling down drunk clown after midnight?  Clowns get messed up in real life - either by self-infliction (booze and drugs) or other people (no one feels bad after hitting a clown).  The stories are sad, twisted and fascinating all at the same time.

This book is far off the beaten path and oddly compelling.  Classic reading for true alt-comic fans.

UPDATE 2013:

Director Derek Cianfrance has been attached to a film adaptation of A Cotton Candy Autopsy.  He directed Blue Valentine in 2010 and The Place Beyond the Pines in 2013.  Both starred Ryan Gosling, but only actor Ben Mendelsohn (who also starred in The Place Beyond the Pines) would be involved in this project.  I think this story would make a pretty hardcore film and hope it actually makes it to the big screen!

TO BUY and Recommendations:

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