If there is a time of the year to read I Stepped on a Duck! by Lonnie Millsap, summertime is it. Long days allow for a particular type of meandering; a time when all activities do not have to be productive or full of deep meaning. A collection of single panel comics, I Stepped on a Duck! is mostly indulgent silliness; a book that can be read in those moments in the car on the way to a picnic or at your desk during your lunch break or any time that you want a little injection of ridiculousness in your life.
Containing both verbal and sight gags, the panels are often one-liners, full of the stuff that makes a society generally laugh: animals in bars, poop jokes, doctors and super-heroes. The jokes are smart, but not rocket science nor lingeringly insightful and mostly steer clear of politics or theory. For example, in one panel a clown is on the edge of a fast burning fire with just a flower that shoots water, while a fireman, looking on, mentions to another that “The fireclowns are a work in progress”. Funny, but not overwhelming. Unlike the obvious looming predecessor in this area of comic publishing, The Far Side by Gary Larson, the world that is presented is not the slightly altered otherworld of Larson’s cows and worms, but the regular world under a “what if” umbrella.
In I Stepped on a Duck! we see panels that ponder what if someone dropped a banana peel on the moon or heaven was radically different or skunks had jobs. The comics will make you laugh an absurdist chuckle, but are not quite enough to forward it on or make it your Facebook post. Some of the panels go a little too far for my taste, with perhaps more dismemberment than I feel comfortable with, but I wonder if this is part of the intention, to a create a humor that is slightly awkward and uncomfortable, in approach that is akin to the Louis C.K. squirm factor.
However, my biggest concern is the medium. A book of single panel comics feels novel and retro, but not in a good way. Millsap has an online presence for his comics, but the posts seem to be reposts of content created for the book, not new material everyday. Perhaps with a daily blog of new content or an app that loads the panel of the day, Millsap’s work would feel more connected to current trends and delivery methods. Though fine for that leisurely moment of summer, the material needs to be able to be in people’s hands, which is generally on their phone or e-reader. Hopefully with Millsap’s next publication, these methods will be an option and then I think he will have no problem finding an audience who want a casual chuckle in the form a one panel indulgence.