Judd Winick’s Barry Ween — Intelligent Childish Humor

posted September 30, 2002 by Jer

Jer

Take the concept behind Dexter's Laboratory, add the social commentary of The Simpsons, and the creative profanity of South Park. I give you The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius by Judd Winick.

The initial concept isn't remarkably original. Barry Ween is a 10 year old super genius, who chooses to keep his vast intellect a secret from the prying world. His only confidant is his best friend Jeremy, his excitable Latino peer, whom Barry can count on to chose a bag of Oreos over a Nobel Prize for scientific discovery any day of the year.

What makes Barry Ween a work of art is it's realism despite the extraordinary. While Barry is capable of buoying Europe's economy by covertly sabotaging a secret trade embargo, he still must endure his elementary school music teacher attempting to get a room full of 10 year olds to sing "John Jacob JingleHeimer Schmidt." School and social interaction are the only obstacles Barry faces that are not self imposed.

It is Winick's observation of school as an arena for social interaction that I love most about Barry Ween. The character Barry is far more intelligent then his peers and teachers, but his obvious inability to fall in line makes him look like the idiot by general observation. Still, Barry never sweats it. He knows how to poke a bully's shoulder and make him go blind. He knows how to retort so harshly that his verbal assaulters will require years psychiatric therapy. He gets the same abuse we all did in grade school, but he handles it totally smoothly.

Judd Winick is no rookie to social commentary. His book Pedro and Me (which at time this was written, I still need to read) is a very serious observation of his real-life friend Pedro's fight with AIDS. Winick is also an artist who's work you will recognize and not know why. He was the illustrator for The Complete Idiot's Guide series of computer instruction books, as well as author of two previous comics, Nuts & Bolts and Frumpy the Clown

The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius is rated PG-13. There is quite a bit of colorful South-Park-esque profanity, and a good deal of childish dialogue regarding both poop and sex. Despite the obviously adult dialogue, the characters - even Barry - are believably 10 year olds. The realism despite absurdity is one of Barry Ween's greatest charms.

Click here to buy The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius from Amazon.com. Barry Ween can also be found in comic stores and normal book stores. Click Here for more information on Judd Winick and his work. (Studio Splurd receives no proceeds from links.)