What a reflective story M.K. Perker and Ken Kristenson have created. Todd: The Ugliest Kid on Earth is a dark comedy where the protagonist is a young boy who wears a bag over his head. As I read Todd’s story I began to relate his life and experiences to my own. So much so that I had to stop and ask myself, “Why?” What in my adult life is similar to Todd’s life as a bullied child? The answers that came were very revealing.
Todd is all of us. We are never shown Todd’s true face, which I think is brilliant because Todd could be anyone under there. It becomes easy for us to relate to Todd, because it could be us under the bag. His bag, which he uses to hide his face, represents the bag we all wear. I believe that we rarely show our true feelings. Day in and day out we often put on a façade, our bag, to protect ourselves from everything from heartache to disappointment.
In volume one we are introduced to Todd as an unloved bullied child, who in spite of his treatment maintains a positive outlook on life. While Todd’s optimism is fueled by his innate naiveté, it nevertheless endears him to us.
Volume two begins with a montage of panels, each one sporting Frank Sinatra’s song, “It Was a Very Good Year” drifting across the top of each panel.
Sinatra’s song, which is about growing up and learning about life, is juxtaposed against panels that show the constants in Todd’s life: Mike the bully, his unloving parents, his bratty sister, and the incompetent police force.
Todd doesn’t have a normal character arc, where he significantly changes at the end. Instead there is a sitcom feel to Todd’s story. The character learns a lesson, but at the beginning of the next episode he is right back where he started, ready to learn a new lesson. This makes the story more episodic than serial. Although, there are minor plot points that carry over from volume one.
The sitcom feel of Todd continues as the story unfolds, revealing a satiric look at racial stereotypes. The Police Chief, still trying to make a name for himself, tries to improve his public image by hiring a black police officer to be his partner. There are many highly qualified applicants, but he rejects them because he feels they are not “Black” enough. He is literally looking for the stereotype.This type of comedy shows how ridiculous our stereotypes are, and in the same vein as shows like Family Guy many stereotypes are shown in this manner. They poke fun at stereotypes of Jews, Christians, Asians, plastic surgery, abortion, concepts of Hell, etc, the idea not being to offend, but to show how narrow minded it is to think this way.
This type of comedy is important to our society. We often need to step back and take a look at ourselves, if only to see how comical some of our beliefs really are. Even institutions we hold up as sacred can be based on archaic ideals that no longer apply to us. No organization, no matter how noble, is beyond scrutiny. Not even PBS. Charlie Rose is portrayed as a demon that controls the viewers of PBS through a kind of brainwashing. While this is an extreme absurdity, we have to admit that our media definitely has a brainwashing effect on our lives. It influences what we buy, what we wear, what we eat, what we believe about current events. It affects almost everything about us.
However, the themes of identity and self-worth dominate the series. The most obvious example is Todd himself, yet here are many more: Todd’s mother seeking to regain her youth through plastic surgery, his father wasting money to collect memorabilia and attend Comic-Con. Comic-Con is an event where we can dress up as our favorite character and be what we want to be. There is a sequence where Todd enters a portal to Hell to save his sister and he encounters Satan, whose son is having identity issues and reads the Bible.
Whether consciously or subconsciously, we all go through life searching for our identity. At times we go to great lengths to establish that identity. Sometimes we can go too far and hurt so many that the identity we make for ourselves is vastly different from the one we wanted.
Perker and Kristenson’s story of a little hero named Todd explores this phenomena in a fun and entertaining way. I laughed often reading volume one and two all the while reflecting on my own life. I invite you to read it and ask yourself, “What bag do I wear, and what’s my identity underneath?”