Best Of British: ‘Bunny Vs Monkey’ – New Format, Same Funny Funny Funny

by Richard Bruton

I last talked of Jamie Smart‘s pant-wettingly funny Bunny Vs Monkey with the release of Book 3 through Scholastic Grafix.

Well now David Fickling Books here in the UK have reissued the first volume in a new digest size – perfect time to tell you all over again just why Bunny vs Monkey is the funniest thing around!

Bunny Vs Monkey has been running in the weekly Phoenix Comic here in the UK, with very few pauses, since it began back in late 2011 with issue zero – 2-pages every week, the same small cast, the same woodland location. And yet Jamie Smart has not just kept it fresh but made it funnier and funnier and funnier, week after week after week.

It’s also been collected a fair few times now, first by David Fickling Books in the UK, then by Scholastic Grafix in the USA, but both those reprints were in US comic format. And US comic format isn’t the best format anymore for kids comics – not in the USA and not in the UK. You want to see what format kids love?

Yep, that’s the format – the digest-sized, paperback-sized, Raina Telgemeier‘s Smile sized, Dav Pilkey‘s Dog Man sized format.

That’s just a small sampling of the comics on offer here at my local Target store in the US (I split time between the UK and USA, even in these Covid times). There’s a load more just round the corner from this display. Remind me again everyone how kids don’t read comics? Yeah, right. What you mean is that kids don’t read the sort of comics you remember. They read an absolute bucket load of comics in this digest format.

And that’s precisely the reason the publisher has decided to reformat the books – mass appeal, just like it says on the cover, to those Dog Man fans!

So, seeing as there’s this new format version out of one of the funniest and silliest books around, something that I guarantee you, your kids, your kid’s school library, any kid you know even will absolutely love, I figured it’s as good an excuse as any to tell you more about it!

(One small word about some of the images on here first though. I couldn’t get my hands on a digital copy and had to take photos of the hard copy pages – hence why they’re a lil’ bit pants.)

Right then, so it’s back to the massive sugar-rush of Bunny Vs Monkey, where a motley crew of woodland creatures just try to live a quiet life and have fun. It rarely works out that way. So once more, we’re checking in with the wonderfully put-upon Bunny, just looking for a quiet old life in the woods, along with his friends, the super sweet but ever so thick Pig and Weenie, the mysterious Le Fox, the incredible stunt-thingy that is Action Beaver, and the mechanised mayhem of Metal Steve to start with here.

But the biggest problem with Bunny’s plan for a quiet life happened when Monkey appeared, blasted in after a space probe mission goes very, very wrong. Monkey hits the woods hard and stays, a whirling dervish of chaos, always with some new plan to takeover the woods, usually involving Bunny getting a huge headache in the process. And then we get the marvellously silly machinations of Skunky, the brains to Monkey’s ineptitude, regularly coming up with new inventions that invariably go wonderfully, stupidly wrong – the Cluck Cluck Zeppelin, Frog-O-Saurus, Pig-O-Tron 5000, Caterpillarzilla … insane creations that never seem to work quite as intended.

Yep, it’s all fantastically manic and stupendously silly is Bunny Vs Monkey, with Smart’s big, bold cartooning always working hard to deliver so many gags. But, as the series has gone on, we’ve also seen Smart develop the characters for his woodland gang, adding so much more than all the brilliant slapstick with often surprising elements of emotion, sadness, and even melancholy to the manic madness.

Smart’s comic timing is absolute perfection and his sense of the absurd really works here. The skill of making something so manic, week in and week out is on show with every strip you’ll find, never losing the sense of insanity and comedy, always capable of putting a smile on your face. Just like this…

Yep, that’s just the sort of wonderfully funny stuff you’ll find all through Bunny Vs Monkey – brilliant, glorious, funny, funny stuff.

As for how the publisher and Jamie Smart have adapted the original material to this new format – it’s a seamless thing, with panels being moved around and extras added in where necessary, but it’s never obvious, never detracts from the laughs. In fact, there are several times here where the additional panels actually makes things funnier.

Here’s the scene you’ve just had, side by side with the original…

That duplicated panel doubling up the bear image before Pig delivers the line, ‘I put a hat on him,’ just adds something to an already funny gag, gives the offhand funny line from Pig the chance to breath and get funnier. Similarly, the addition of that final blue panel on the new page gives us a chance to see the payoff of the gag whereas before it was lost on another page.

But in the end, it’s no problem how you get your fix of Bunny Vs Monkey, as long as you get it!!!

Oh, Action Beaver – how I love you! Although here, the best line has to go to Pig – ‘pudding angel!’.

It’s just one example of just how smart Smart really is when it comes to putting together a great comedy strip. He’s a master at that touch there, the comedic off-beat moment.

The funny comes from the main events happening on the page, yet there’s always something else, a comedic off-beat that hits before or after the main beat. And it’s oh so funny every single time he does it.

Smart just makes Bunny Vs Monkey funny. But to make it funny again and again without ever losing the flow and the control of everything going on, to juggle all the characters, to keep making things inventive AND funny – that just shows a perfect control and understanding of what it takes to be funny.

Yes, Jamie Smart‘s Bunny Vs Monkey is super smart, incredibly clever when it comes to putting together the comedy – but hey, what do we care about that, we’re just too busy holding our sides when the laughter gets too much.

Jamie Smart‘s Bunny Vs Monkey Volume 1 Digest is published by David Fickling Books and available right now – it contains stories that previously appeared as Bunny vs Monkey 1: Let the Mayhem Begin and Bunny vs Monkey 2: Journey to the Centre of the Eurg-th.

 

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