Little Maakies on the Prairie

By Tony Millionaire (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-392-7

Tony Millionaire clearly loves to draw and does it very, very well; referencing classical art, timeless children’s book illustration and an eclectic mix of pioneer comic strip draughtsmen like George McManus, Rudolph Dirks, Cliff Sterrett, Frank Willard, Harold Gray, Elzie Segar and George Herriman seamlessly blending their styles and sensibilities with European engravings masters from the “legitimate” side of the storytelling picture racket.

Born Scott Richardson, he especially cites Johnny (Raggedy Ann and Andy) Gruelle and English illustrator Ernest H. Shepard (The Wind in the Willows, Winnie the Pooh) as definitive formative influences.

With a variety of graphical strings to his bow such as his own coterie of books for children, (particularly the superbly stirring Billy Hazelnuts series), animation and the brilliant Sock Monkey, Millionaire still finds the time to produce a deeply odd weekly strip entitled Maakies which describes the riotously vulgar and absurdly surreal adventures of an Irish monkey called Uncle Gabby and his fellow über-alcoholic and nautical adventurer Drinky Crow. They are abetted but never aided by a peculiarly twisted, off-kilter cast of reprobates, antagonists and confrontational well-wishers.

In the tradition of the earliest US newspaper cartoon features each episode comes with a linked mini-strip running across the base of strip – although often that link is quite hard to ascertain. Nominally based in a nautical setting of 19th century sea-faring adventure, replete with maritime monsters and stunning vistas, the dark-and-bitter comical instalments vary from staggeringly rude and crude through absolutely hysterical to conceptually impenetrable, with content and gags utterly unfettered by the bounds of taste or wholesome fun-squelching decency.

Millionaire even promotes his other creative endeavours in his Maakies pages, brings in selected guest creators to mess with his toys and invites the readership to contribute ideas, pictures and objects of communal interest to the mix This penetratingly incisive, witty and even poignant opus is his playground and if you don’t like it, leave…

Launching in February 1994 in The New York Press the strip is now widely syndicated in US alternative newspapers such as LA Weekly and The Stranger and globally in comics magazines such as Linus and Rocky. There was even an animated series that ran on Time-Warner’s Adult Swim strand.

Since continuity usually plays second fiddle to the avalanche of inventive ideas, the strips can be read in almost any order and the debauched drunkenness, manic ultra-violence in the manner of the best Tom & Jerry or Itchy & Scratchy cartoons, acerbic view of sexuality and deep core of existentialist angst (like Sartre ghostwriting The Office or perhaps The Simpsons) still finds a welcome with Slackers, Laggards, the un-Christian and all those scurrilous, lost Generations after X.

This latest lush landscape hardcover collection provides still more of the wonderful same with such spit-take, drink-coming-out-of-your-nose moments as ‘The Brainy Balls Procedure’, a visit to ‘the Cootie Farm’, the secrets of ‘Booze Vision’, ‘The Universal Moon Genius’. ‘The Neanderthal Super-Genius Society’, ‘Rainbow of Illness’, a sordid selection of ghastly interspecies progeny, assorted single entendres and bodily function faux pas and more mandatory, gory death-scenes.

If you’re the kind of fan who thrives on gorge-rousing gags and mind-bending rumination this is a fantastic and rewarding strip, one of the most constantly creative and entertaining on the market today and this latest collection is one of the very best yet. If you’re not a fan of Maakies this is the ideal chance to become one and if you’re already converted it’s the perfect gift for someone what ain’t…

© 2010 Tony Millionaire. All rights reserved.