Slowpoke: Café Pompous
This collection of weekly alternative newspaper strips by Jen Sorensen won the Xeric Grant. The name “Slowpoke” comes from an appreciation of the need to slow down to appreciate life. Slowpokes, according to the author, “value quality over quickness” and so don’t always fit into the modern world. The four-panel strips elaborate on that theme, whether presenting personal character insights or larger cultural commentary.
Café Pompous is, of course, located at the corner of Malaise and Ennui. The strips deal with three main recurring characters: Drooly Julie; Little Gus, perpetually bored and weighed down by a heavy shock of dark hair; and Mr. Perkins, a generic authority figure. He’s very tall, with a skinny head and a tweedy suit, usually carrying an umbrella. Sorensen’s characters, like those in many strips, are based around one particular characteristic, but her choices for that distinguishing tendency are unusual and refreshing.
The cartoons cover such subjects as creeping consumerism, brainwashing by TV, technology toys as trendy accessories, and the never-ending cycle of navel-gazing coffeehouse commentators. Many of the pieces are reflective of life in a university town, such as the bizarre series of strips where Mr. Perkins attempts to infiltrate a sorority. A handful of comics, dealing with the stolen 2000 election and dot coms, are a bit dated, but the freshness of the rest of the material makes up for them.
The last section, labeled Early Slowpoke, is odd, surreal nonsense, but I loved the minature golf telecast where Mr. Perkins wound up pretending he was one of the bobbing giraffes. The author pokes fun at the oddball individual, but in an accepting way.
The recurring characters are simplified and cartoony. They interact with more detailed, realisticly drawn settings and people. The thick lines defining the main characters keep the reader’s eye focused. Plus, there’s just enough background to establish the setting or situation, complete with well-chosen details. The lettering is dark, easy to read, appropriate for the material, and inviting.
There was an earlier Slowpoke Comix #1, a one-shot that contains longer stories, including Drooly Julie’s first appearance. In that comic, there’s more interaction between the regular characters, as when they try to get Mr. Perkins to give up his umbrella. Also, the reader meets MIDI Minnie, who carries her portable keyboard around with her.