Goats: Volumes I - IV
Author: Jonathan Rosenberg
Published By: Point E Publishing
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
I was at I-CON 24 when I first took notice of Jonathan Rosenberg. We were just about to leave, when we passed his Goats table. A friend asked, “What’s that about?” and began leafing through the illustrated tomes piled on the table. I struck up a conversation with the creator. For those of you who don’t know, www.Goats.com has been around for some time now. Goats.com is a web-based comic strip, something that is becoming more and more popular in this age of political correctness. The internet cartoonist has much more freedom in subject matter and content than those who sell their works to local newspapers. The books my friend was looking through and eventually bought are compilations of the Goats strip. I made a promise to Jonathan Rosenberg that I would review his books for G-POP.net as soon as we could get the site up and running. Sorry it took so long, but my friend was loathe to part with the books. After reading them, I now understand why.
I read these books in number order: Volumes I & II (combined in one book), III and IV. However, it was interesting to learn that this was not the order in which they were published. They were, in fact, published in reverse order. Each book contains an introduction by a fellow cartoonist and one from Rosenberg himself. Although it is always intriguing to discover how other cartoonists feel about the artist in question, it’s even more intriguing to discover how the artist feels about his own work. In his witty manner, Rosenberg delights in telling us that he feels that instead of calling Volumes I and II by the title Tasty Yet Morally Ambiguous, the works should actually be entitled “Goats: The Crappy Years.” Rosenberg feels that these strips, created in 1998 and 1999, were not his best works. He insists that those found in Evil Chickens Don’t Kiss (Volume III) and Behold the Power of Ignorance (Volume IV) are much more sophisticated in both their artwork, and their comedic flair.
To quote the Jonathan Rosenberg, “Goats is a comic strip chronicling the adventures of two hapless (i.e., without hap) antisocialites, their oversexed pet goat and their chaos-inclined pet chicken.” Right about now, you are blinking furiously, wondering if you just read that sentence correctly. Yes, you read the words oversexed goat and chaos-inclined chicken. Jon and Philip are roommates, obsessed with television and beer. In the beginning of Tasty Yet Morally Ambiguous: Volume I, we learn right off the bat that Jon and Philip spend quite a bit of time on the couch, staring at the television, or at the bar guzzling beer. We soon discover that Jon is a somewhat hopeless loser in the game of love. Toothgnip the Goat makes his appearance early in the strip, a gift from the Norse God Thor. Why? Who cares? It’s funny! Shortly afterward, the two gain possession of a satanic, but cute chicken named Diablo (“I’m not cute, dammit, I’m evil!”).
The strip follows the quartet’s hapless adventures in life…well, not real life. We’re talking about a comic strip here. Thing happen that are out of the ordinary. Aliens land and become friends with Jon and Phillip. They are soon dubbed Neil and Bob. Oh, and let’s not forget that Toothgnip (yes, that’s spelled correctly) is oversexed. Toothgnip is a ladies goat, which not only emphasizes Jon’s pathetic lack of a love life, but is just downright funny! As the strip goes on we are introduced to other characters who help spice up the strip such as the sadistic computer programmer, Jerrel and Howard the Eggplant.
Rosenberg is not far off in his assessment of the artwork of Goats. As the years progressed, his artwork improved tremendously. However, I found that the strip was just as funny and full of witty satire when the strip started as it is now. Goats doesn’t have a tight storyline and this allows Rosenberg quite a bit of room to breathe. He can jump from one subject to another without worrying whether he is going to lose his audience. Jon and Philip are thrust into movie parodies, commercial parodies, and amazingly impossible situations. I can’t tell you how many times Diablo has lost his head – quite literally. The story of how Toothgnip gained his power over women is hysterical. Even producer Phillip gets into the act with his series of post-it note stick figure strips. Long time fans will delight at the behind the scenes look at what happened to characters from the strips past. There’s so much laughter packed into these books, from the characters’ every day lives to zombie bartenders to Toothgnip’s Dating Tips to Rosenberg’s obsession with trashing Brooke Shields, Scott Baio and a cast of others.
I especially enjoyed the running commentary provided under the strips in Tasty But Morally Ambiguous explaining what was going on at the time of the strip, or why Rosenberg experimented with a certain technique. I wish other strip writers would do the same in compilations of their work. It’s always interesting to know what the artist was thinking at the time or what inspired a certain strip.
In the Foreword of Tasty Yet Morally Ambiguous, R. Stevens, author of Dieselsweeties.com, writes that “Jon knows how to make a comic for geeks.” Well, if that’s the case, then I’m proud to call myself geek! I love Goats! I want more! I can’t wait to see Jonathan Rosenberg at the next ICON and beg for yet another volume of Goats…and a Toothgnip t-shirt.