Review by Frank Plowright
Frank Flöthmann has carved himself a unique niche by producing wordless comic strips with simpler versions of Mii-like characters and using pictograms in dialogue balloons where necessary. The title may be in German (it translates as Men Without Words), but the strips themselves can be understood in Vanuatu, Venezuela and Vietnam, Laos, Lesotho and Lithuania.
If you’ve not seen any of Flöthmann’s more complex work then these fifty gag strips, each spread over two pages, will impress as interesting experiments with form, which they are. Each strip has a splash page followed by three tiers of up to eight further panels, jokes about men that don’t generally cast them in a positive light, as per the sample strip. They’re also portrayed as over-confident, know-it-alls, fickle, selfish, competitive and too easily swayed by gadgets among other traits.
The cartooning is wonderful, the idea of the pictogram dialogue clever, and the restricted choice of bold colours interesting. Flöthmann’s now very adept with the format, and is able to compress complex ideas into the two pages while keeping the art simple. One notable strip occurs on a plane in which a woman asks for help putting her bag in the overhead locker. This needs conveyed, as does a flasher and the concept of the plane hitting turbulence, and Flöthmann’s pictograms are precise and informative. Also admirable is a Christmas tree gag reduced to just five very effectively composed panels, but too many of the actual gags are predictable, and even the best of them only raise smiles rather than belly laughs. It leaves the form and presentation superior to the content, but that still counts for a lot.