In a nondescript suburb lives Megg, a green-skinned witch, Mogg, her black cat familiar and lover, an enormous anthropomorphic Owl (named Owl) their unhinged cohort Werewolf Jones and other strange beings. Together, despite their otherworldly appearance, their activities revolve not around magic and the dark arts but around ingesting huge amounts of marijuana and making very bad decisions. Drawn with quivering lines and vibrating, soft, neon pastel watercolors, Megg, Mogg, Owl and friends seem more like avatars for all disillusioned and self-described stoners, freaks wandering through life’s mundane milieu. They seem like washed-up children’s book characters jaded by the adult world, and, as it turns out, they may very well be.
Megahex, the Fantagraphics collection of the Megg, Mogg and Owl comics by Simon Hanselmann, is not your standard issue stoner comic. Hanselmann, a Tasamanian cartoonist, has been producing comics for most of his life and uploaded a large backlog of work to Tumblr, including the Megg , Mogg and Owl comics. That was how I first discovered Hanselmann’s work, like so many fans, by scrolling back and back through girlmountain.tumblr.com or spotting comics in the live Tumblr feed. Hanselmann is an adept scholar of alternative comics and 90’s era television and is not afraid to go all meta on you, whether it’s in Truth Zone, a spin-off of the Megg, Mogg and Owl universe where the characters critique newly published alternative comic works, or on the front cover of Megahex with the retro black and white Fantagraphics logo emblazoning the top of the book.
There is, however, a more present meta element to Megahex that most North American readers may not be aware of. The characters themselves are parodies – a ‘stoned collage’ as Hanselmann puts it – of a children’s book, Meg and Mog by Helen Nicoll and Jan Peinkowski, published in the 1970’s. Whether or not the characters are meant to be Nicoll’s at a less whimsical stage in their lives is dubious and, ultimately, unimportant, but adds a whole new level of hilariousness if you know about that easter egg.
And the book is hilarious – Hanselmann’s comedic pacing is immersive and effortless to read, save for whatever cringing you might be doing at the misfortune of the character involved. Usually, Owl is the butt of such activity – he’s roommates with Megg and Mogg, their third wheel in a willing parasitic friendship and the most straight-laced of the group (or as Megg puts it“a nerd”). Megg is grungy, green, depressed and bitingly sarcastic – in other words, the perfect stoner fantasy woman. She seems to be the unspoken anchor in the group of friends, the heart of Megahex and the character Hanselmann most identifies with. Following Megg is Mogg, her ever-present, rimjob loving cat boyfriend, her dutiful sidekick and comeback soundboard. Last but not least is Werewolf Jones, who’s antics and genitals readers will quickly become acquainted with. Together, their adventures range from horrible to moment of clarity to mundane to downright cruel to surrealist moment and back to mundane again. At first, it would seem that their reality resets, a common cartoon trope wherein you know, regardless of how destroyed a character becomes, they will bounce back as if nothing ever happened by the next episode. Cleverly, Hanselmann lets on that this is not so – feelings are hurt and the past cannot be undone, characters change and when they don’t, reality catches up to them.
You may, uncomfortably, relate to some, all or facets of these characters; the pranks and bad friendships, the angst and paranoia of life’s curveballs and bad choices, the time lost in a haze of skunky smoke, weird rooms and weird times. You might even be pissed off at their horribleness or unsettled at the thinly veiled autobiography Hanselmann’s injecting into the stories (ex.“Oh God, did someone really do that with a cheese grater?!”). Hanselmann’s world may be harsh for some, but for many, myself included, it’s a wry, cartooned window on our world as seen by paranormal freaks who, despite their strangeness, feel very real and familiar. You want to wander down those blocky sidewalks with them, past gray-green dumpling bushes, exhaling green smoke, squinting through pink eyes. The 7-11 is nearby with its promise of frozen pizza and Mountain Dew, and while that disphit clerk is distracted by Werewolf Jones fellating a hot dog, you could probably steal some iCarly DVDs without him noticing. Yeah, a gravity bong and an iCarly marathon sounds pretty awesome right now, right guys? Right? You’ll smoke me down, won’t you guys?
Right? Wait, where you going? Guys?