Lucky in Love Book 1: A Poor Man’s History


By George Chieffet & Stephen DeStefano (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-354-5

The medium of comics has a number of inbuilt advantages: it is quick, it is personal, the only limits are imagination and ability and – most importantly for this magical work – it is both magically modern and potently, subversively nostalgic. A book with pictures in it is one of our oldest and most effective technological creations, but it is also astoundingly instant and immediate.

In stunning black ink on gloriously evocative sepia pages (that startling shade which so terrifies comicbook collectors, presaging the imminent crumbling to dust of their beloved artifacts) comes a light-hearted, heavy-hitting barbed-edged faux autobiography that is a moving testament to the life of the average Joe.

Teacher, poet, author and playwright George Chieffet combines with the supremely talented cartoonist and animator Stephen DeStefano (when, oh when will DC release a ‘Mazing Man compilation volume… and while were at it where’s the Hero Hotline book too?) to delineate discrete episodes in the ordinary epic of a little American with the gift of the gab, growing up Italian in Hoboken, New Jersey – just a dreaming glance away from the neon allure of New York City.

After a sparkling dream-sequence prologue which introduces us to the modern “Lucky” Testaduda, the book opens with the first of three chapter-plays starring our diminutive narrator recollecting the key moments of his long life. ‘Lucky Fifteen’ finds the horny kid on the cusp of manhood in 1943, dreaming of girls and flying and getting into the war; spending his days at the movies, shooting the breeze with his pals and trying to get laid… but always the spectre of something bigger, better and far more dangerous than “the neighborhood” is looming…

‘Lucky at War’ sees the kid a lowly mechanic rather than glamorous pilot of his dreams, still hungry for sex but as always preferring to “talk the good fight” rather than get down and dirty. Mentoring. for which read “showing off” to even callower youths than he, a trip to the off-base cat-house as the war in the Pacific draws to a close goes uncomfortably awry. Moreover when a distant acquaintance is lost in a bomber Lucky worked on, his care-free life takes a melancholy turn…

Returning home in 1946 ‘Lucky Triumphant’ finds the young veteran having trouble readjusting. For the folks in Hoboken it’s a boom-time with sons returned and the promise of peace and prosperity, but the only work the de-mobbed mechanic can get is through shamefully exploiting the memory of a dead comrade he didn’t even really know…

In lots of ways Lucky’s world hasn’t changed at all since he was that eager, horny kid, but when a genuinely honest, victorious moment is soured because of unwanted familial nepotism Lucky begins to realise that just maybe he has

Drawn in a wild and captivating pastiche of Zoot-Suit era animated styles and frenetically Jitterbugging teen movies; marrying Milt Gross’ ‘He Done Her Wrong’ and ‘Count Screwloose’ to Milton Knight’s ‘Hugo’ and ‘Midnight the Rebel Skunk’ the bold, broadly Bigfoot cartooning style used imparts a seductive gaiety to the folksy monologue and completely disguises the subtle landmines this tale conceals in the narrative.

It looks fun and funny – and indeed it is – but the content delves far deeper than mere jolly japes of yesteryear. Lucky’s journey is full of heartbreak and injustice masked by the character’s innate bravado and self-delusion, thus the festive interpretation of fantasy and reality hits you below the conscious level like a blackjack in a velvet pillowcase.

Lucky in Love is utterly absorbing, purely cartoon entertainment, strictly for adults and immensely enjoyable. The concluding volume is scheduled for release in 2013 and it can’t come a second too soon for me…

© 2010 DC Comics. All rights reserved.

Girls Bravo volumes 1-3


By Mario Kaneda, translated & adapted by Asuka Yoshizu & Steve Bunche (TokyoPop)
ISBNs: 978-1-59816-040-6, 978-1-59816-041-3 & 978-1-59816-042-0

Here’s another large slice of manga magic that took the world by storm when it inevitably transferred to the anime screen, and another of those uncomfortably inappropriate teen-sex comedies that so delight the Japanese and generally bewilder we less socially ossified westerners. Aimed at older teens this type of tale fully acknowledges and draws seemingly endless amusement from the fact that boys and girls of a certain age are hormone-crazed muskrats desperate to catch furtive snatches of each other’s proscribed bits and only conscience and social pressure keeps them from being even more intolerable than they are.

If only it got any easier with advanced age…

These tales first appeared in the Japanese magazine Shōnen Ace from 2000 to 2005 and were eventually collected in ten volumes of frantic, frenetic slapstick, excruciating comedy-of-manners gaffes, gusset glimpses, shower-scenes, fantasy fun and burgeoning young love.

‘Gārusu Burabō’ is the story of a hapless high school student named Yukinari Sasaki, a short, dim nebbish who is so put upon, teased and bullied by girls – and even his female teachers – that he has developed a condition which brings him out in hives every time anything with no Y chromosomes touches him. His condition is further compounded by the fact that the neighbours’ daughter Kirie, a girl he has known since childhood, and a girl he can at least talk to, has recently changed.

Her shy and awkward nature has developed into a crush he is oblivious to, but unfortunately said crush has devolved into a series of violent assaults every time she gets flustered, and with Sasaki, she gets flustered a lot… At some time when nobody was paying attention she blossomed into an astonishingly well-endowed young woman – something else that embarrasses her greatly and often leads to red-faced punches and kicks…

After a particularly trying day Yukinari returns home and stumbles into Kirie using his shower. He’s flustered, she’s naked and while he’s being pummelled by the blushing, panicked girl he falls into the bath… and emerges into another world and another naked girl’s bath…

But this is a completely different kind of girl. She is genuinely concerned, solicitous, even shorter than him and most importantly not screaming or hitting. Moreover Miharu can touch him without setting off his allergic reaction. All she cares about is his welfare and what earth food is like.

The world of Siren is a revelation; a magical place where women outnumber men 9-1. When her older sister Maharu spots the unattached male she makes a violent play for Yukinari, chasing him into the streets where every female in range tries to capture the fleeing boy-toy.

Miharu rescues him and they double back to her bathroom, but the pursuers are too close and the fugitives fall into the bath – and arrive back in Yukinari’s shower, still occupied by the perplexed, naked and fuming Kirie.

Miharu is apparently stuck on Earth: the perfect companion for the gynophobic lad. She never attacks him, doesn’t cause hives, has magic powers and only cares about food. Unfortunately she’s as naive as a newborn hamster and bewitchingly beautiful, so the hoi-polloi at school trail after her like dogs after biscuits, especially wealthy school stud Fukuyama, a glorious young god of manliness who hides a secret of his own: he is so male-phobic that he has an attack of hives every time a male touches him. He is driven crazy by Miharu’s indifference to him…

Meanwhile hopeless Yukinari is still being teased and bullied by all girls and regularly happening into situations where Kirie is undressed and volatile…

This first volume covers the set-up of the formulae, with lots of stories about simplistic Miharu’s desire to eat anything not nailed down, platonically care for Yukinari and tendency to be duped into wearing revealing or fetishistic clothing by the lecherous Fukuyama. Despite being always hungry and able to consume practically anything Miharu is a brilliant cook, unlike Kirie whose recipes are only really appreciated by terrorists looking for new bio-weapons. Yukinari increasingly has to spend his time protecting the gullible alien’s non-existent modesty…

Gradually the series takes a more supernatural turn as the unhappy ménage-a-trouble encounter an undressed ghost girl and Fukuyama’s sister Risa: a young sorceress convinced that beleaguered Yukinari is her predestined husband and willing to use all her wiles and witchcraft to make him hers – if it means destroying or even befriending Miharu and Kirie…

The first volume ends with a light-hearted and hottie-filled adaptation of traditional Japanese folk-tale Momotaro (the Peach Boy).

Volume 2 continues Risa’s campaign. She casts spells on Yukinari, tries to convince Miharu that her attentions are preventing the diminutive lad from forming normal relationships or shaking his allergic phobia and things get completely crazy when the Siren girl drinks alcohol and begins to replicate herself uncontrollably…

Yukinari still keeps getting accidental, unwelcome and concomitantly painful glimpses of girls whilst growing increasingly fond of Miharu, even battling the hulking alpha male Fukuyama to protect her, but when amnesiac Koyomi appears thing get very strange indeed. For one thing she is the only other girl able to resist the school stud’s dubious charms, she doesn’t give Yukinari hives and when flustered or scared giant pits open in the floor under her…She is in fact an agent from Siren sent to recover the missing Miharu, and when her memory returns she transports her quarry home before Yukinari’s tear-filled eyes…

Of course she does return, and this second volume concludes with another side story; a day in the life of sexy super-stud Fukuyama – or at least in his fevered, fetid mind…

Volume 3 opens with the cast being coerced by the ghastly Lothario into a game of strip Mah-Jong where the returned Konomi (on a secret mission for Miharu’s sister) is Fukuyama’s latest lewd target. Sadly for him she suffers from the same condition as he does – she too is androphobic and repelled by the touch of men…

Konomi’s mission is revealed and she begins searching for a perfect husband for Miharu’s strident, overbearing sister; inevitably leading to some very uncomfortable situations, as do the girls’ communal attempts to earn some extra money, before everything goes really crazy when Kirie falls through Risa’s mirror into a world where all her friends have reversed personalities…

Sweet-natured Miharu’s attempts to buy all her friends New Year’s Gifts goes painfully awry before all ends well, and her celebration of the Setsubun festival (where bad luck is symbolically removed by throwing Soya beans out of the house) also falls flat – but only because Risa summoned real evil spirits to the party… The volume ends on a heartbreakingly beguiling tale of a little girl abandoned in the snow – a story so moving it’s worth buying all three volumes just to read this sparkling gem in perfect context…

Irrepressibly juvenile but great fun and beautifully drawn, this is a series as likely to titillate as offend, but it’s all good clean smut really, harmless and charming and bound to delight girl watchers and anyone enduring puberty or recalling it with any degree of honesty…

© 2001, 2002 Mario Kaneda. English text © 2005, 2006 Tokyopop Inc. All rights reserved.

Norman Pettingill: Backwoods Humorist


Edited by Gary Groth, with an introduction by Robert Crumb (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-319-4

It’s a big planet and there are many places to hide an artistic prodigy. That’s never been more capably proved than in the case of Norman Pettingill, a lost hero of the workaday craft aesthetic who lived and died in Wisconsin, revelling in a backwoods life living off the land and supporting his family with personalised cartoons, jobbing art such as postcards and commercial signage, commissioned illustrations and simply stunning personal works: mostly natural scenes and reportage of the hunting and fishing community he lived in.

He worked in seclusion until his incredibly intense, ribald and frenetic postcard art was discovered by Robert Crumb who immediately reprinted them in his Underground Commix magazine Weirdo. These over-sized scenes were multi-layered, packed with hundreds of characters acting in micro-scenes and grotesquely raw and vulgar: like Hieronymus Bosch, Basil Wolverton and Leo Baxendale working all on the same page.

This superb book, rough and rustic with a wooden front cover, tells the life-story of this truly driven artist – who could no more stop drawing than breathe underwater. Self-taught and clearly besotted with the creative process, Pettingill was clearly not a man afraid to fill a page with extras, and the work gathered here, collected by the John Michael Kohler Arts Center (a major conserver of folk art of the American mid-west) shows a true original equally at home drawing pictures to pay bills and making masterpieces because he couldn’t stop himself.

Gathered here are many of his astoundingly frantic, charmingly gruesome postcard tableaux, featuring hunters, boozers and what we’d call hillbillies but what Pettingill probably called the neighbours, as well as more intimate personal creations; family collages, gloriously entrancing pen and ink studies of the beasts and birds he lived amongst – and hunted – and even the doodles he adorned the envelopes of letters with.

His surreal, bawdy, raw concoctions mirrored and presaged the graphic license and social freedoms of the 1960s counterculture (although he really started his artistic journey twenty years  earlier) but even though his fans today include such iconoclastic cartoonists as Crumb and Johnny Ryan, Pettingill’s appeal is far wider than just grist for us pen-and-ink pushers.

With his fondly cynical, wry observation and piercingly incisive eye Norman Pettingill became a societal camera onto a time and place in rural and even wild America that we seldom see nowadays: a warmly honest raconteur, part of a tradition that includes and spans the fierce and gentle ranges from Garrison Keillor’s elegiac (and positively local) Lake Wobegon tales to the razor-edged self-examination of the Southern kinfolk typified by the gagsters of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour: a purely American humour by and for the ordinary guy.

This first retrospective of Pettingill’s art is stuffed with more than a hundred of his most telling monochrome pieces and will appeal to cartoon-lovers and people watchers equally.

© 2010 Fantagraphics Books. Individual contributions © 2010 their authors. Unless otherwise noted all photography and art © 2010 John Michael Kohler Arts Center. Art from the collections of Glenn Bray, R. Crumb and Jim Pink © 2010 the estate of Norman Pettingill.

Dame Darcy’s Meat Cake


By Dame Darcy (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-346-0

Since 1993 Dame Darcy has been building a weird, wistful and Gothically girlish fantasy

universe in her oddly enchanting comicbook Meat Cake, as well as the occasional graphic novel and collection such as Frightful Fairytales, The Illustrated Jane Eyre, Dollerium, Comic Book Tattoo, Gasoline and others. Now an affordable black and white paperback reprinting the best moody marvels from the first eleven issues is available and keenly awaits your effulgent appreciation.

Darcy Megan Stanger is a prolific and restless artist, musician, animator, dollmaker, interior designer, fashion model, art teacher and reality TCV star – one of those ever-so-likable, infuriating do-it-alls modern society is increasingly populated by.

For some her darkly comic, magic-infested, mock-Victorian realm of slender, ethereal, hauntingly lovely gamins and ghastly side-show freaks might be a step too far. This is a stark place with no room for dull, fat people or the plain visaged…

Certainly this collection is best read in measured instalments, lest the girly-girl blend of Edwardian emo-fashion, Jazz-age make up, tragic love-stories, sinister childhoods, ghostly interventions, maids behaving badly and “fractured fairy-tale” moral instruction lose its power to affect, but the sensibilities of modern female characters thriving in a gloomy imaginative otherplace is one that is rich with entertainment potential especially when scripted with the deliciously scandalous wit of la Dama.

Although some few non-related snippets are included, the major portion of the book concerns the tribulations of a rather distinctive cast of self-absorbed, grotesque and genteel ladies of varied means and character. There’s shrinking violet Friend The Girl, the abrasive Richard Dirt, the constantly bickering conjoined twins Hindrance and Perfidia, seductive, bitchy mermaid Effluvia, Strega Pez, who communicates through a livid gash in her throat, the talkative crustacean Scampi the Shellfish, the utterly bonkers wise woman Granny, Igpay and undead, monstrous token male Wax Wolf, all living in a world at once similar and wondrously ancient and removed.

In sultry, sinister or just plain strange tales like ‘Laughing All the Way to the Bank’, ‘Shrimpboats is A-Comin’’, ‘Employ Ahoy!’, ‘Bus-Ted’, ‘Hookie Lau Breakfast Special’, ‘The Hitch-Hiker’, ‘Grave Concerns’, ‘Happy Hi-Jinx’, ‘Lessons on the Principles of Magnetism’, ‘Honey’, ‘Dirty Rich’, ‘Demon Drink’, ‘Silver Lining’ and ‘Fruit Bat’ the extended eccentric cast live their odd and abstracted lives for us whilst in longer fables such as ‘The Juicer and the Cake Walk’, ‘The Next Holy Virgin’, ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’, ‘Stained Glass’, ‘The Ghost Filly’, ‘Sweet William and Lady Margaret’, ‘EZ Bake Coven’ and ‘Latch Key Kids Cookbook’ Darcy demonstrates her love and tacit understanding of classical storytelling and particularly Gothic Romance fantasies.

Amidst the assorted unaligned graphical gags and oddments are such brief gems as ‘Ruby Rack! Ruby Rack!’, ‘The Wishing Star’, ‘Existence Forgets’, ‘Spontaneous Generation’, ‘Puppet Show’ (an homage to cartoon pioneer Gustave Verbeek), and an acerbic assemblage of actively skewed ‘Old Nursery Rhymes’ as well as some decidedly quirky autobiographical incidents like ‘Double Trouble or Freaky Friday’, ‘Paper Doll Fun!’, ‘Your Diary’, ‘My Patron’ and ‘Show Me My Hand’ but the absolute show-stealer is her baroque, wilfully whimsical satire-fest with Alan Moore who scripted the marvellously captivating ‘Hungry is the Heart’: a spectacular expose of the extraordinary life and times of turn of the century Society Maverick, Wild-Woman and Button Magnate Wellington Woolenboy AKA Jumbalor – “Damp String Woman”.

Macabre, hilarious and addictively odd, Meat Cake satisfies appetites you can’t believe you have. This is a book for girls that every comicbook guy really needs to see…

© 2010 Dame Darcy. All rights reserved.

The Book of Mr. Natural (Profane Tales of that Old Mystic Madcap)


By Robert Crumb (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-352-1

Robert Crumb is a unique force in the world of comics and cartooning with as many foes as fans, but his idiosyncratic, unflinching, controversial but always enchanting work is impossible to ignore. This beautiful black and white hardback collects a varied and impressive selection of strips starring his most famous character produced between 1967 and 1995 and as always touches on the creator’s most intimate and disturbing idiosyncrasies regarding sex and women, both in the unsettling Abstract and the painful, side-splitting, lustful, painful and loving Concrete.

Therefore if harsh language, mild blasphemy, artfully grotesque cartoon nudity and comedic fornication are liable to upset you, stop reading this review and don’t buy the book.

For the rest of us; here’s a quick rundown of what’s in store…

Mr. Natural is a short, balding, bewhiskered, be-robed guru and engagingly vulgar huckster who began selling enlightenment and simple living in the May 5th 1967 issue of counter-culture paper Yarrowstalks. His assaults on the vapidity and venality of the modern world were reproduced and absorbed by an astoundingly broad variety of truth-seekers and laugh lovers who followed the succession of strips in an incomprehensible number of places.

The little wise guy had genuine insight and even greater powers, but peddled his wisdom for crass, material cash or other, less transferable favours. Obviously, and lucky for us all, he’s the only Holy Man or preacher ever to do such a reprehensible, unspiritual thing…

Of the twenty-seven tales gathered here, ranging from single-page strips to the epic 40 page ‘Mr. Natural and Devil Girl’ there are a number of classic yarns that seemingly everyone has seen or heard of but also one or two genuinely rare experiences –  particularly the wonderfully dense and informative ‘Origins of Mr. Natural’.

A less charitable reviewer might suspect that this book has been padded out with older material simply to give the legendary Devil Girl saga – originally serialised in Hup and never before collected into book form – a more accessible and commercially appetising home… and if so I applaud the move as that 1991 tale is one of the most wonderfully jolly and unsettling pieces of work Crumb has yet produced.

Flakey Foont was the foil of many of the earlier strips and a handy barometer of Everyman America. Over the decades the ex-disciple who was beguiled, reviled and defiled by “The Natch” eventually Turned Off, Tuned Out and Dropped back “In”, but found himself losing all self-control when confronted in his happily middle-class suburban family paradise by the returned Sage and the raw, lustful female animal that was both antithetical enemy and willing slave…

Other notable gems include Mr. Natural in Death Valley’, Mr. Natural Visits the City’, ‘It’s Workaday World’, Mr. Natural Goes to a Meeting of the Minds’, ‘Sunny Side Up’ ‘Om Sweet Om’, ‘Mr. Natural Stops Talking’, ‘A Girl in Hotpants, ‘The Girlfriend’ and the utterly perfect and fully zeitgeisted Mr. Natural’s 719th Meditation’, a plethora of revelation and confrontation that still provides merriment and queasy shock in equal proportion.

Crumb’s subtle mastery of his art-form and compulsive, uncompromising need to reveal his most hidden depths and perceived defects – in himself and the world around him – has always been a unquenchable wellspring of challenging comedy and riotous rumination. This magical, mystical tome is an ideal dipping book for occasional slices of his raucous wit and the perfect vehicle to introduce any (definitively over 18) newcomers of your acquaintance to the world of grown up comics.

© 1967, 1968, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1991, 1995, 2010 R. Crumb. All Rights Reserved. Edition © 2010 Fantagraphics Books, Inc.

Wally Gropius


By Tim Hensley (Fantagraphics Books)

ISBN: 978-1-60699-355-2
Comics are the most subversive means of communication yet devised. If you’re a creator at the top of your game with no editorial restrictions you can depict and say one thing, in a manner that even the primmest censor would approve of and adore, whilst surreptitiously advocating the most unsavoury, improper and civilisation-threatening dogma. In comics there are no “tells” to give the game away and the manner in which an author writes and draws can actually enhance the propaganda or outright lies…

Have you met young Tim Hensley?

A musician, cartoonist and second-generation comics fan, Hensley’s graphic work has popped up all over the alternative scene in such magazines as Kramer’s Ergot and Fantagraphics’ sublime anthology Mome, from where the intensely sly, brash, revolutionary and mind-bendingly beguiling Wally Gropius has emerged to challenge our every precept of Capitalist culture. This book collects those Mome moments and also includes – at no extra charge – new and revised material.

This colossal 64 page hardback – 10″x 12.5″; marvellously reminiscent of the earliest English-language Tintin albums – is illustrated in a starkly jolly, primary-coloured pastiche of Baby-Boomer kids comics – and not just the obvious and overt  Richie Rich and Archie Andrews trappings, but with a tip of the pen to lost classics of a once ubiquitous, now nearly-forgotten 1960s graphic style that ranged from Mort (Spider, Beetle Bailey) Walker and John Stanley, to the animated creations of Jay Ward and those unnamed geniuses who drew such Dell/Gold Key classics as The Little Monsters and Thirteen Going on Eighteen.

Wally Gropius is barbed and edgy teen satire: the wealthiest teenager on Earth, scion of a petrochemical dynasty, he can have anything he wants. He sings in his band The Dropouts and doesn’t have a care in the world – until his father orders him to marry “the saddest girl on Earth.” With every girl in range tearfully throwing herself at him, Wally suddenly notices the stand-offish and highly hard-to-get Jillian Banks…

Wally Gropius is a devastating, vicious and subversive satirical assault on the modern bastions of Commercialism, Celebrity, and Casual Power. Wally tries everything money can buy to win Jillian, but there’s something he’s blithely unaware of…

Wally Gropius is madcap, screwball and incredibly surreal comedy, with many hidden and time-delayed laugh-traps cunningly concealed for later effect by a keen observer with a disturbingly-honed intellect and a laudable absence of taste. Take note: Money isn’t Everything and Subtext über Alles

Wally Gropius is Even Cleverer Than It Thinks It Is. Invest in it now and enjoy a thoroughly mature modern masterclass in mercantile mockery and morbidly Infantile Analysis.

© 2010 Tim Hensley. All rights reserved.

Vatican Hustle


By Greg Houston (NBM)
ISBN: 978-1-56163-571-9

The zeitgeist of the moment seems to be nostalgia, and especially a post-modern re-examination of some of our most unfortunate cultural milestones, but at least the graphic novels that are coming out of these historic plunderings are varied and readable if not universally palatable…

Another sparkling example of the phenomenon is the potentially controversial little gem under review here from cartoonist, caricaturist, designer, educator, actor and big fan of old movies Greg Houston.

This baroque, grotesque and immensely appealing pastiche of Blaxploitation movies and the no-nonsense, in your face attitudes of the early 1970s introduces Baltimore’s coolest private eye Boss Karate Black Guy Jones, who is reluctantly commissioned by Lumpy Fargo, the city’s biggest crime boss, to rescue his wayward, dim daughter from the sticky clutches of Geech Bradford, the White Pimp…

The sordid trail leads inevitably to Rome, porn capital of the world, and, after a brief brush with the legitimate, inclusive end of skin-flicks, directly to the Vatican, long perceived among industry insiders as the source of all the really nasty freaky stuff…

Meanwhile the Pope is getting horny and anxious. Chickee Falzbar his official drug dealer and wingman is late, and the brutish, two-fisted, leather-jacketed Pontiff is looking to score some tail, kick some butt and raise a little Hell. There’s a ba-aad hassle coming and Jones is gonna need all his skills to rescue Brandi Fargo from the callous hands of God’s chosen representative on Earth…

Beneath the outrageous parody and shockingly impious (nigh slanderous) treatment of Catholic tenets and icons is a witty mystery and genuinely funny adult romp which pokes bad-tasting fun at everything from Lepers to Clowns to Hobos, college girls, the sex trade and even rock ‘n’ roll, all rendered in a busy, buzzy, black and white line that appeals and appals in equal amounts.

If you’re of a religious mien and likely to take offence at religion mocked don’t buy this book.

If you are a fan of frantic fisticuffs of fury and martial arts mayhem this ain’t the book for you neither as there practically isn’t none, but if you’re eligible to vote, open (and broad) minded, can whistle the theme to Shaft and love to laugh, this might just be your favourite book of the year…

© 2009 Greg Houston. All rights reserved.

Priscilla Darling


By Maz (Humorbooks)
No ISBN:

This little gem is a relic from a simpler time (although a quick scan of the internet reveals it to be still delightfully popular and readily available) when innocent smut was good, solid business, and genteel ribaldry could be infinitely double entendred for gentle laughs. Priscilla’s tale is the slight saga of an innocent English girl of good character and solid breeding who leaves her decent, upstanding family to go in search of happiness; becoming a very modern miss after illuminating encounters with “Ban the Bomb” marchers, soviet spies, Arab slavers, Hindu gurus, Eton-educated cannibals, assorted bandits and the good old British Navy.

This type of tale was very popular in the 1960s as cautious publishers tentatively acknowledged the zeitgeist of the times by not so much “Swinging” as “Gently Swaying”, but the real appeal of this still marvelously funny book is the copious vignettes, cartoons and saucy illustrations by the author: Dutch master storyteller, film-maker, draftsman and cartoonist Alfred Leonard Mazure who worked in Britain under the pen-name Maz.

Self-taught, Mazure (1914-1974) began his career in the Netherlands in 1932 with The Chef in Nieuwe Utrechtse Courant and De Prins, before embarking on a six-year journey of discovery through Europe and Africa. On his return to Holland in 1938 he created the seminal martial arts detective strip Dick Bos, best known to older fans and cognoscenti for their unique packaging (7cm broad and 11cm high {3″ x 4″} pocket sized digests).

Maz was the victim of an appalling, draconian contract in his own country, and remained anonymous and underpaid before moving to England after the War, where he gained a certain degree of fame and success with newspaper strips such as Dad and Egbert in John Bull and Passing Show, Sam Stone and Bruce Bunter in The Daily Herald (1948 to 1950), the brilliant adventure comedy Romeo Brown in The Daily Mirror (from 1954 to 1957 when he left the strip to the even more gifted Jim Holdaway), Jane, daughter of Jane also in the fabulously comics-friendly Mirror – from 1961 to 1963 and Lindy Leigh for “top-shelf” men’s magazine Mayfair from 1969 to 1970.

Produced at the beginning of the 1960s sexual revolution, Priscilla Darling is a book crafted for an adult audience that probably knew less about sex and relationships than the average nine year old these days, but it’s undoubtedly a true guilty pleasure for anybody who can remember chaste kisses, the thrill of pursuit and the (far too) occasional coy and joyous surrender, anybody who yearns for beautifully rendered, sexually simpler times and anyone with an undying love of great cartooning.
© 1964 A. L. Mazure. All rights reserved.

Tales Designed to Thrizzle volume One


By Michael Kupperman (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-164-0

Sometimes words mean nothing, pictures tell every story and stuff is funny just because it is. That pretty much sums up the work of absurdist comedy pioneer Michael Kupperman, whose graphic samplings of old comics, strips and magazines – especially the ads – fill the pages of the too infrequent comicbook Tales Designed to Thrizzle.

Kupperman is a cartoonist who clearly loves to draw and has no difficulty isolating the innate insanity of modern living as well as the way we regard our own past – especially the not-so-important bits – which he delivers in a surreal graphic deadpan style that would turn Buster Keaton grey with envy.

He created the strips Found in the Street and Up all Night, has contributed pieces to The New Yorker, Heavy Metal, The Wall Street Journal, The Independent on Sunday, LA Weekly, The New York Times, Libération, Fortune Screw and many similar reputable magazines as well as in such comics as Hodags and Hodaddies, Hotwire, Snake Eyes, Zero Zero, Blood Orange and Legal Action Comics amongst others.

Kupperman’s first book Snake ‘n’ Bacon’s Cartoon Cabaret (2000) led to his breaking into the heady world of adult animation and he has since illustrated many books, but Tales Designed to Thrizzle is his personal star vehicle, allowing him to play his intensely stylish mind-games against a dizzying cultural backdrop of “Men’s sweat mags”, True Confessions pulps, cheesy old comics, B-movies and a million other icons of low-class Americana, all given a unique twist and spin by a man whose head is clearly too small for his brain…

This classy hardcover collects the first four issues in scintillating colour, each individual collected comic-book divided – because propriety counts – into “Adults”, “Kids” and “Old People’s Sections” and contains such instant favourites as the aforementioned Snake ‘n’ Bacon, The Manister (a hero who can transform into a banister), Underpants-On-His-Head Man, Cousin Granpa, Pagus, rowdy half-brother of Jesus, and many wildly misinformative fact features like Remembering the Thirties, Porno Coloring Books, Sex Blimps and Sex Holes or the inadequate meanderings of Storm Cloudfront, veteran weatherman.

Brash, challenging, brilliantly imaginative and always funny this is a book for every grown-up, couch-based life-form that needs a hearty guffaw every now and then – but much more now than then…

All characters, stories and artwork © 2009 Michael Kupperman. All rights reserved.

Bizarro World

Bizarro World

By various (DC Comics)
ISBN 1-84576-085-9

What do you get if you give seventy-two alternative comics creators carte blanche and a broad brief?

This follow up to the surprisingly successful Bizarro Comics again invites a coterie of small press and alternative comics creators to make sport of various hallowed DC icons. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and all the lesser gods appear in a collection of tales humorous, dolorous and just plain peculiar, drawn in an eye-wrenching range of styles. Many of those involved display a disturbing knowledge of, if not respect for, the DC continuity of the 1960s whilst others seem to centre on the TV and Movie interpretations, but the fondness for times gone by is readily apparent throughout.

Watch especially for “The Batman Operetta” by Paul Grist, Hunt Emerson and Phil Elliot, “Personal Shopper” by Kyle Baker (with Elizabeth Glass), “Legion.com” by Ariel Bordeaux and Rick Altergott, “Krypto the Superdog” by Paul Dini and Carol Lay, “The Red Bee Returns” by Peter Bagge and Gilbert Hernandez, “Bizarro Shmizarro” by Harvey Pekar and Dean Haspiel and “Where’s Proty?” by Abe Foreu and James Kochalka among the thirty-five little gems on 200 plus colourful pages wedged between thick card covers. Stand out stories for this reviewer are “Batman: Upgrade 5.0” by Dean Haglund and Peter Murrieta, illustrated by Megaton Man creator Don Simpson and the pant-drenchingly funny “Batman Smells” by Patton Oswalt and Bob Fingerman.

What do you get if you give seventy-two alternative comics creators carte blanche and a broad brief? You should get this.

© 2005 DC Comics. All rights reserved.