Halo and Sprocket
Halo, an angel, has been assigned to help robot Sprocket learn about humanity from Katie, their regular girl roommate. The simple premise of Halo and Sprocket: Welcome to Humanity has immediate appeal. Kerry Callen uses it to create modern fables that explore philosophical issues in a very entertaining way, resulting in one of the funniest comics I’ve ever read.
The first story is a great example, discussing optimism and pessimism using the traditional question of whether a glass is half empty or half full. Sprocket’s answer is unexpectedly funny due to its unarguable logic; the robot’s literalism is well-used throughout the book to great humorous effect. Halo represents spirituality, aware of the metaphysics in all things, and also possesses an amusing view of our history and motivations. Katie provides all the contradictions, uncertainties, and fuzzy bits that fill out life.
Callen fills these stories with imagination and wit, and the cartoony style is immediately appealing. Thick, confident lines are used to build just the right expression or action. One scene where Sprocket hangs its head saying (in small letters) “you disappoint me, Katie” had me laughing out loud at the perfect capture of what a robot’s pity would look like. In another story, when Sprocket wants to show emotion even though its features don’t move, duct tape comes in handy to provide facial expressions. I wound up thinking not only about visual expression and emotion but also the nature of overreaction.
One of the best stories has the group visit an art show and ponder the nature of aesthetics. Callen provides a wide variety of illustrated examples of the way people interact with and create art, whether realistic or conceptual. Other stories deal with names and how they affect perception, the laziness involved in using a mechanized lollypop (and what people find gross), and Sprocket’s confusion at how humans deal with logic and mathematical paradoxes. The story featuring a visit from a crude handyman shows how Katie’s housemates can bring benefits to her life as well as complications.
The series is mind-blowing and funny without ever being pretentious or boring. In a weird way, it’s like Sesame Street for adults: so entertaining the education slips in without notice. It’s whimsical fun with a tremendous amount of insight into human nature and psychology. The philosophical ponderings and metaphysical humor are terrific.