Tooning out: Comic stars dogs of quiet desperation

Tooning out: Comic stars dogs of quiet desperation
Jon Allen

In his stories, it’s a dog’s life.

A Red Hook cartoonist will launch his collection of short stories featuring hard-drinking dogs, cats, and other suburban creatures with two events this week. Artist Jon Allen will sign copies of his book “Ohio is For Sale” at new comic shop Mama Says Comics Rock in Carroll Gardens on June 25, and read from the comics at Halyard’s bar in Gowanus on June 30.

The book contains five tales about a group of anthropomorphic — but misanthropic — animals living in a suburban dystopia. The contrast between the adorable characters and their bleak outlook, as they wrestle with jobs, relationships, and occasional literal demons, was influenced Matt Groening’s comic strip “Life in Hell,” said Allen.

“There was something about the way the characters suffered so much, but then they’re these cute, goofy rabbits, so you don’t expect it to be as heavy as it is until you really dig into it,” he said.

Also, he said: “I think I’m just channeling all the dumb cartoons I watched as a kid.”

The challenges his characters face come from his own experiences outside of Waterbury, Connecticut, said Allen.

“I grew up in a suburb of a depressed manufacturing city,” he said. “Most of the inspiration for the comic comes from the dumb stuff my friends and I would do to keep ourselves entertained — feeling like that town was the entire world, wanting to get out but having no idea where to go, and winding up just driving around and hanging out in parking lots and diners all night.”

Park it: Allen says that his comic stories were inspired by his teenage years, when he and his friends spent their night hanging out in diners and parking lots.
Jon Allen

He chose Ohio for the title of the book because, after spending a week crashing on a friend’s couch there, he felt it was the epitome of an economic and cultural dead zone.

“There was nothing to do and there were drive-thru liquor stores everywhere,” he said. “There’s something mysterious and sinister about those quiet suburban towns.”

The event on June 25 will feature two other artists, as well as free beer from Brooklyn Brewery. The show on June 30 will feature readings from Allen and three other Brooklyn indie cartoonists: Dean Haspiel, who draws the comic Red Hook, Ellen Lindner, and Aaron Cockle, followed by a performance from local band the Dead Painters.

Summer Comics Kick-Off at Mama Says Comics Rock [306 Court St. between Sackett and Degraw streets in Carroll Gardens, (718) 797–3463, www.mamasayscomics.com]. June 25, 5–7:30 pm. Free.

“Ohio Is For Sale” book release party at Halyard’s Bar [406 Third Ave. at Sixth street in Gowanus, (718) 532–8787, www.barhalyards.com]. June 30 at 7 pm. Free.

The sales man: Red Hook artist Jon Allen will launch a collection of his funny animal comic “Ohio Is For Sale” at events on June 25 and June 30.
Photo by Louise Wateridge