A comic artist from Manchester, N.Y., mines life's ironies
Red Jacket grad and Syracuse University alum Nicholas Gurewitch is a published comic artist whose strip, “The Perry Bible Fellowship,” has been printed in 30 papers across the globe.
The comic strips fill the covers of one book, 2007’s “The Trial of Colonel Sweeto and Other Stories,” and Gurewitch says he wouldn’t be averse to inking another. He has appeared on a national Fox News show, spoken at comic conventions and ranked on Amazon.com’s top-250 bestsellers list.
Soon, a TV pilot will be on the way as well. A British production company has asked Gurewitch to shoot a 12-minute live-action show “in the spirit of the comic strip” this summer that might eventually be shown on British TV.
It’s a lot of success for a 26-year-old, but the mellow and even-keeled Gurewitch seems to take it all in stride. “I’m accustomed to unplanned things occurring,” said Gurewitch. “I don’t know if I get surprised.”
The Perry Bible Fellowship — which has run in U.S., British and Canadian newspapers for almost four years and before that was featured in Syracuse University’s Daily Orange newspaper — uses a variety of drawing styles and characters, and a dark sense of humor, to illustrate the ironies and inconsistencies of daily life in today’s society.
Some strips contain adult themes — the “Colonel Sweeto” book includes a note in the frontispiece stating it is “for mature readers” — but in others, the humor is just twisted enough to be goofy.
In a strip called “New Specs for Ken,” three ears of corn are hanging out in a cornfield when one, named Ken, asks his friends if they like his new glasses. Just as the friends start to compliment Ken’s glasses, the rays of the sun, focused through the lenses, start to heat up Ken’s kernels. By the third panel of the strip, the poor husker has been turned into popcorn.
In another strip, called “Today’s My Birthday,” a grin slowly creeps across the face of a little boy when he wakes up and realizes it’s his big day. He jumps on his bed, giddy with excitement. Meanwhile, in the final panel of the strip, the grim reaper stands over a macabre abacus and moves a bead from one side to the other, counting down the years the little boy has left before the reaper pays him a visit.
Many of the strips, including “Today’s My Birthday,” feature generic-looking figures with white, circular heads and white hands. That style grants the characters a degree of anonymity — and readers can more easily laugh at the pain or humiliation of an anonymous character than one who looks more realistically human, says Gurewitch.
But even with the often simplistic character-design and the short format of the strip — each is just three or four panels long — Gurewitch says he loves “thinking about the needless back-story of each character” and “outlining an entire universe” for each strip.
Gurewitch started drawing the Perry Bible Fellowship in 2001, while he was studying filmmaking at Syracuse University. The strip started as way to entertain himself and a trio of college friends — Evan Keogh, Jordan Morris and Albert Birney — who helped to supply him with ideas and have test-driven many of his comic strips before publication.
Gurewitch has been told that he started drawing at just two years old. The humor in his strips, he says, comes not from any formal cartoonist-training but from his own childhood and growing-up years.
“I have always been observant of various ironies that exist throughout life,” said Gurewitch. “The trials of growing up are all the training you need to discuss life artistically.”
Until recently, Gurewitch was supplying new comics for mass publication on a weekly basis, a task that required some serious discipline.
But once he would sit down at the drawing table, inspiration usually didn’t take too long to strike. “I think what requires force is the entry into the process,” said Gurewitch — the rest just flows from there.
In February, Gurewitch announced he would stop penning regular strips for the newspapers in order to focus on other projects. But he hasn’t stopped drawing altogether and says he has enjoyed the freedom of being able to work on screenplays and experiment with longer-form comics, breaking the confines of the three- or four-panel newspaper strip.
His comics — which, again, are for mature readers — can be seen on the Perry Bible Fellowship Web site, www.pbfcomics.com.
Contact Hilary Smith at (585) 394-0770, Ext. 343 or at hsmith@ messengerpostmedia.com