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Shrimpy and Paul and Friends

by Marc Bell

For many years prolific Canadian underground cartoonist Marc Bell’s playful, circuitous “Shrimpy and Paul” comics have appeared in magazines, anthologies, and zines – venues that never did justice to the labyrinthine structure and lush density of Bell’s work. Here in his first collected work, Shrimpy and Paul and Friends, Bell is finally given the opportunity to show his work as it was intended to be seen. He has re-edited the bulk of the “Shrimpy and Paul” stories into three cohesive chapters, while still including supplementary pieces that explain peripheral characters.

Shrimpy plays the enigmatic and mischievous catalyst to Paul’s rationalist straight man. Shrimpy looks like an egg in a jumpsuit, Paul a walking sausage with nipples. Paul calls upon an innumerable cast of equally iconic characters such as Miss Polly, Chi-Man, Cubby, and Sue the Tooth to help him while his friend retreats further into an impenetrable yet maddeningly familiar world of mystic behaviour. Bell fills out his panels with dense but not overpowering details, and the complex dream logic of his world is on par with comics master Jim Woodring. This is no small achievement. Bell’s work is both sophisticated and accessible enough non-comics and has earned him a large and loyal following.