Omaha the Cat Dancer Complete Set (part I)


By Reed Waller & Kate Worley with James M. Vance (NBM/Amerotic)
Set ISBN: 978-1-56163-601-3
Vol. 1 ISBN: 978-1-56163-451-4, vol. 2 ISBN: 978-1-56163-457-3, vol. 3 ISBN: 978-1-56163-474-3

These books are intended to make adults laugh and think and occasionally feel frisky. If the cover images haven’t clued you in, please be warned that these items contain nudity, images of sexual intimacy – both hetero and homosexual – and language commonly used in the privacy of the bedroom and probably school playgrounds whenever supervising adults aren’t present.

If that sort of thing offends you, read no further and don’t buy these books. The rest of us will just enjoy one of the best graphic novel experiences ever created without you.

Omaha the Cat Dancer began during the 1970s as an “underground” venture and over the torturous decades grew into a brilliant but controversial drama of human fallibility with all the characters played by funny animals. What most people noticed was the matter-of-fact and constant inclusion of graphic sex acts.

The series was subject to many obscenity seizures by various muddle-headed stickybeaks over the years, inspiring the formation of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. One classic case apparently involved the local defenders of morality raiding a comics store because Omaha promoted Bestiality!

As there’s only so much excitement a man of my advanced years and proclivities can endure (and probably only so much me you can stand) I’ll be to reviewing these seven tomes in two batches rather than in totality but I will remind you each time that the whole saucy saga is available in a supremely economical shrink-wrapped gift set that you’d be crazy to not take advantage of.

After an introduction by late-coming co-scripter James Vance and Reed Waller’s original intro from the 1987 collected edition, The Complete Omaha the Cat Dancer volume 1 gathers the short story appearances from a number of Counter-culture Commix as well as some out-of-continuity infilling short pieces so readers can enjoy what can best be described as the official Directors Cut of the tale.

The wicked wonderment begins with the very first ‘Adventures of Omaha’ from Vootie in 1978. Vootie began in 1976 as a self-published fanzine founded by Reed Waller and like-minded artistic friends who bemoaned the loss of anthropomorphic comics – once a mainstay of US comicbooks.

When contributors also griped that there wasn’t much sex in comics either, Waller, taking inspiration from R. Crumb’s Fritz the Cat and responding to an intensification of local Blue Laws, created the evocative, erotic dancer and compared her free and easy life-style against a typical, un-elected, interfering know-it-all moral guardian busybody. Blue Laws are particularly odious anti-fun statutes – usually instigated by religious factions – designed to keep the Sabbath holy by dictating shop-opening hours and generally limit or ban adult entertainments like clubs and pubs, and their repressive use (in fact and fiction) became a major narrative engine for the series.

‘Why they Call Her Omaha’ introduces young stripper Susie Jensen who hits the metropolis of Mipple City, Minnesota (a thinly concealed Minneapolis) and signs up with a modelling agency where she meets fellow dancer Shelley Hine. Over lunch they bond and pick a better stage name for the gorgeous but naive newcomer, whilst ‘Kitten of the Month’ and ‘Omaha centrefold’ reveal the first glorious results of her managements efforts. No-holds barred sexual action returns in ‘Shelley and Omaha’ with the girls, now popular erotic dancers, meeting some guys who will play a big part in the unfolding drama to come.

In ‘Chuck and Omaha’, which officially heralded the beginning of scripter Kate Worley’s stunning contribution to the series, Jerry – one those aforementioned pick-up guys – introduces Omaha to Chuck Katt, a shy artist who will become the great love of the sexy kitty’s life. ‘Adventures of Omaha’ sees the budding relationship progress whilst ‘Tip of the Iceberg’ moves the grander story arc along when Mipple bans nipples in the opening shot of a political power-grab using Christian and Family-morality pressure groups as unwitting, if fervent, patsies…

Although it comprises less than 50 pages the preceding material took nearly fifteen years to produce. For years Omaha had no fixed abode; peripatetically wandering from magazine to Indie book and even guest-shots in the occasional mainstream publication. From Kitchen Sink’s Bizarre Sex #9-10 in 1981-2, a pastiche page in E-Man (in 1983 and included in volume 2), Dope Comix #5 (1984), she even starred in a story from Munden’s Bar Annual #2 in 1991. Often stalled for creative, not censorship, reasons Omaha finally won her own title in 1984 from SteelDragon Press, but vanished again until 1986 when Kitchen Sink Press finally took over publication. For further details I strongly advise checking the lovely official website at www.omahathecatdancer.com.

Volume 1 switches to high gear and addictive narrative mode with the 40 page ‘Omaha #0’: a single page recap followed by a powerfully compelling yarn wherein the forces of decency make life increasingly difficult for the adult entertainment industry. With stripper bars closing Omaha is recruited to dance for “The Underground”: an exclusive, ultra-secret, high-class bordello that caters to the darkest desires of America’s ultra-elite of: businessmen and politicians many of whom are actively leading the Decency campaign…

Shelley is involved too, recruiting contacts from her old profession for more hands-on roles. Meanwhile Chuck has reapplied for his old advertising job where his old girlfriend Joanne makes life uncomfortable. However she has other problems as powerful forces are drawing Omaha and Chuck into a far-reaching and sinister scheme…

On opening night all the elements for disaster converge as the “Movers and Shakers” get more debauchery than even they can handle: someone has doped the entire proceedings leading to a violent, destructive orgy and set up cameras to record the whole event for blackmail purposes. As they flee the club hitmen try to kill Chuck but shoot Shelley instead. Believing her dead, Omaha and Chuck run for their lives. Heading for Joanne’s house Chuck reveals that he is the son of Charles Tabey: monomaniacal millionaire businessman, undisputed ruler of Mipple City and the probable target of the assassination…

Narrowly escaping another murder attempt they find Tabey and Joanne are intimately involved and are horrified to find that the millionaire was behind the whole thing, intending to mould Chuck into the kind of son he needs. The man is also clearly raving mad…

The traumatised, terrified young lovers jump into their car and head for California in the short ‘Adventures of Omaha’ vignette and the first volume concludes with the contents of ‘Omaha #1’ as they reach San Francisco tired, hungry and broke.

Grateful for the kindness of strangers, they soon discover Joanne waiting for them and find that Tabey is not their only persecutor. During a drunken three-way another hired killer almost ends them all…

From a well-intentioned, joyous celebration of open living free-loving modernity Omaha had evolved into a captivating adult soap opera and conspiracy thriller of mesmerising intensity and complexity…

Volume 2, with a reprinted introduction by Kate Worley, eases into the enticing adult entertainment with the aforementioned ‘Hotziss Twonkies’ parody from First Comics’ E-Man #5 before issues #2-5 enlarge the sinister saga. In the aftermath of their latest close shave, Chuck and Joanne antagonistically spar whilst the increasingly traumatised cat dancer wanders the streets of San Francisco. When she is abducted by Tabey, who is moving against all his old enemies, Chuck and Joanne fall into bed…

Meanwhile Jerry, who also works for Tabey, is busying sorting the fallout from the club riot and shooting. In a secluded palatial beach-house Omaha discovers that Chuck’s dad has been watching over them for some time and soon discovers another shocking secret….

Omaha was utterly groundbreaking in its mature treatment of gay and disabled relationships; offering the sound and common sense opinion that this is what all people think and do and after all, “it’s just sex”…

Paralysed but not deceased Shelley is also sequestered in the house. She is a long-term Tabey employee and slowly developing a relationship with her nurse Kurt Huddle, and the manic tycoon has convinced Omaha to stay and help care for her. Back in Frisco Chuck has rekindled his old relationship with Joanne, utterly unaware that she has the films and photos taken at the club on that terrible night.

Rob Shaw, gay photographer, enters the picture, as developer and guardian of the contentious materials and old friend of Joanne. Chuck misses Omaha and the tension leads to him splitting with Joanne and moving in with Rob. The cat dancer too is lonely and finds unsatisfactory solace with Jerry again, but when Tabey goes off his meds Jerry arranges for Chuck and Omaha to reunite, leading to a dreadful confrontation between father and long-estranged son, as an apparent result of which the millionaire takes his own life…

Together again at last, Omaha and Chuck comfort each other as the repercussions of Charles Tabey Sr.’s demise shake the country and the cast. The close-knit group endure loss, guilt and outrageous press scrutiny as the matter of inheritance crops up. Against his wishes, Chuck might be incredibly rich and saddled with unwanted responsibilities but there are some unspecified problems with the will.

The plots thicken when Joanne and Rob have a falling out and as all this is going on, back in Mipple City a powerful new threat makes his move. Senator Bonner was one of the patrons at the Underground that fateful night but now he’s making a move for total power, stirring up a wave of fundamentalist hatred and anti-smut indignation with his “Crusade for Decency”…

Volume 3 (covering issues #6-9 and with an introduction by Trina Robbins) follows the action back to Minnesota, but things are difficult for Chuck and Omaha who can’t seem to re-establish their earlier, innocent rapport. They go house-hunting, whilst in San Francisco Rob Shaw is visited by thugs after the photos of the riot at The Underground. His shop destroyed, the photographer narrowly escapes burning with it…

Mipple City’s Blue Laws are more draconian than ever. When Omaha and Shelley, who has moved into the ground floor of the Cat dancer’s new house, visit their old workplace the Kitty Korner, they discovers that the performers now have to dance behind plate glass – which makes tucking punter’s tips into g-strings really tricky…

When old friend Shawn turns up he tells Chuck and Omaha of the plan to redevelop A Block – that part of town where all the artists, musicians and strip clubs are. Something needs to be done to stop it – and now, Chuck might just be the richest, most influential degenerate in town…

As the lovers go furniture shopping Shelley and Kurt look for a suitable physical therapy clinic – preferably a non-religious, non-judgemental un-condescending one – and later whilst Omaha helps Shelley move in, Chuck and Jerry make plans to fight the destruction of A Block, but as ever, there is far more going on than the lovers can imagine…

Omaha wants to get back into dancing and as Chuck becomes increasingly mired in the running of his father’s many businesses, Kurt learns some of Shelley’s murky history and Joanne and Jerry compare notes and make plans.

Rob turns up in Mipple after more attempts on his life, convinced that he needs to find his attackers’ boss before his luck runs out and the book ends on a shocking note for Chuck when he discovers that long-dead mother isn’t…

All these volumes, printed in black and white and at 8½ inches by 11, much larger than the original comicbooks, also contain many full page illustrations (many from the delightful art-book The Erotic Art of Reed Waller). This saga is one of the turning points of comics history – a moment when we could all provably say “this is socially relevant, capital “A” Art” – as viable and important as the best play or film or symphony: don’t miss this opportunity to make the whole marvellous classic yours forever…

© 1978, 1981, 1982, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987-1996 Reed Waller & Kate Worley. Contents of these editions © 2005-2007 NBM. All Rights Reserved

Bigger Nothings: The Little Nothings Gift Set volumes 1-3


By Lewis Trondheim, translated by Joe Johnson (NBM/ComicsLit)
ISBN: vol. 1: 978-1-56163-523-8 vol. 2: 978-1-56163-548-1 vol. 3: 978-1-56163-576-4
Gift pack ISBN: 978-1-56163-599-3

I first became aware of Lewis Trondheim’s subtly enchanting vignettes in Fantagraphics’ Mome comics anthologies rather than through its internet presence and it’s an utter delight for this old duffer (me, not him) to see this blend of cartoon philosophy, personal introspection, whimsical inquiry and foible-filled observations gathered into such handy tomes for constant re-reading.

With over 100 books sporting his name, (which isn’t actually Lewis Trondheim but Laurent Chabosy) the writer/artist/editor and educator is one of Europe’s most prolific comics creators: illustrating his own work, overseeing animated cartoons of such print successes as La Mouche (The Fly) and Kaput and Zösky and editing the younger readers book series Shampooing for Dargaud.

His most famous works are the global hits ‘Les Formidables Aventures de Lapinot’ (translated as The Spiffy Adventures of McConey) and, with Joann Sfar, the Donjon (Dungeon) series of nested fantasy epics (see the translated Dungeon: Parade, Dungeon: Monstres and Dungeon: the Early Years).

In his spare time he has written for satirical magazine Psikopat and provided scripts for many of the continent’s most popular artists – such as Fabrice Parme (Le Roi Catastrophe, Vénézia), Manu Larcenet (Les Cosmonautes du futur), José Parrondo (Allez Raconte and Papa Raconte) and Thierry Robin (Petit Père Noël),

He is a cartoonist of uncanny wit, piercing, gentle perspicacity, comforting affability and self-deprecating empathy and prefers to control scrupulously what is known and said about him…

A little while ago the well-travelled graphic introvert began drawing a deliciously intimate cartoon blog wherein all the people Trondheim knows are rendered as anthropomorphised  animals (with him a dowdy, parrot-beaked actor/director) which has been edited into a series of enchanting full-colour albums. Page after page of introspective, whimsical, querulous and enticingly intriguing reportage has emerged since, and thanks, presumably, to the global recession you can now pick up the first three in an extremely economical bargain gift pack…

Volume 1, The Curse of the Umbrella, features ruminations on gardening and possessing a vegetable death-touch, introduces his family, examines the love-hate relationship with technology and computer games and covers the dramas of becoming first time cat-owners at an advanced age. Hypochondria and the internet’s impact as an enabler of such recurs, as do work-processes for the self-employed, keeping fit, snacks, memory, death, bird-poop, the weather and travel to comics events in exotic locations such as the Reunion Islands and Edinburgh. The daily bulletins explore little events and really big themes and there are also purely visual moments that you just have to see to get…


In volume 2, The Prisoner Syndrome, the cascade of cartoon delights continues with more of the same whilst adding summer beach madness, floating with the fishes, exploring volcanoes, ecology and hotel wastefulness, comic convention memory (so different from the regular kind). There’s animal antics, travel, energy-saving, visiting Africa, Guadeloupe, Romania and London, the differences between men and women, global political crises and the heartbreaking helplessness and inevitable consequences of seeing your pet die.


Uneasy Happiness, the third and final volume in this collected set, sees the bird-faced gentleman amicably nit-picking and further musing his way through the life of an old and successful comic creator: travelling to conventions, making stories and dealing with the distressingly peculiar modern world, especially focusing on his increasing hoarding proclivities, concerns over his creative and financial legacy, mice in the bookshelves and packing…

The ruminations and anti-dramas regularly range from his inability to de-clutter (every comic maven’s weakness!), toilet etiquette (public and private), gadgets, marriage, parenthood, the actual science in TV shows, how mad cats are, brilliant ideas that come when you’re asleep, computers, and getting old, interspersed with reactions to the many wonderful places he has visited on the comics convention circuit (Venice, Portugal, Fiji, Australia and others in this volume).

All genteelly re-coloured for book publication, these Little Nothings have become some of my favourite 21st century graphic novels; gently contemplative, subtly pleasing…

I strongly suggest that if you need a little non-theological, un-theosophical yet hilariously existential spiritual refreshment you take advantage of this fortuitous collection with the utmost alacrity…

© 2010 Trondheim. English translation © 2010 NBM. All Rights Reserved.

The Death of Groo the Wanderer (Marvel Graphic Novel #32)


By Sergio Aragonés, Mark Evanier, Stan Sakai & Tom Luth (Epic/Marvel)
ISBN: 0-87135-290-7

Groo is a living paradox: a brilliant fighting man and unbeatable warrior sell-sword and simultaneously the dumbest collection of organic molecules on the planet. Always hungry, he wanders because most places where he pauses burn down, wash away or crash into rubble soon after he gets there. He loves to fight and the entire world trembles at the mention of his name. They do the same when they smell him too…

Produced in unique fashion by Sergio Aragonés, wordsmith Mark Evanier, letterer Stan Sakai (creator of Usagi Yojimbo) and colourist Tom Luth, the idiot’s adventures form one of the longest running humour comicbook series in America and there seems to be no chance of stopping the creators as long as we keep buying these incredible, hilarious sagas…

Both in comic narrative and the infinitely more strenuous field of gag-cartooning Sergio Aragonés has produced vast volumes of excellent work. His darkly skewed sensibilities and grasp of the cosmically absurd, wedded to a totally unique, anarchically meticulous drawing style and frankly terrifying professional discipline, have made his (usually) silent doodles a vibrant proof of the maxims that laughter is universal and a picture is worth a thousand words.

After working for years for Mad Magazine and DC’s horror titles on gag features and the occasional full comic strip, in 1981 with writer and associate Mark Evanier, Aragonés produced a madcap four-page parody of the Sword-and-Sorcery genre as a contribution to the Creators Rights benefit comicbook Destroyer Duck published by Eclipse Comics.

Following a second outing in Mike Grell’s Starslayer (#5) Pacific Comics launched Groo the Wanderer in his own title. After 8 issues (December 1982-April 1984) the troubled company folded but the unsinkable barbarian (that’s a joke I’ll explain later) resurfaced in the Groo Special one-shot from Eclipse (October 1984), before finding a home at Epic Comics: Archie Goodwin’s creator-owned corner of the Marvel Universe.

Aragonés first created his witless warrior in the 1970s but no publisher would take on the property unless he sold all rights – an almost universal situation in the industry until the advent of the Direct Sales market transferred power from companies and distributors to creators and consumers. After an uproarious 120 issue run at Epic, and dozens of graphic novel compilations, the witless wonder moved on to Image and Dark Horse Comics, but they haven’t completely gone belly-up yet…

This all original volume from 1987 reintroduces readers to the smelliest, ugliest, stupidest itinerant mercenary in the world. Luckily he’s also the best swordsman in creation and too thick to be harmed because when he shuffles his unshod, dirty feet into the domain of King Krag he inadvertently encounters a thoroughly nasty man with a good many reasons to psychotically hate him…

At that time the kingdom was being ravaged by a colossal dragon, but as the only man on the planet crazy enough to fight it has a huge bounty on his head, how stupid would he have to be to come and attempt to kill it? – and if you’re having difficulty answering that, either you’ve not been paying attention or Groo has found a new apprentice…

Due to the kind of circumstance-concatenation that only happens in this series, everybody in the land of Groo-haters thinks the oaf is finally dead – even Groo – but with all the folk who have ever suffered at his hands gathered in one place they all start to realise that a world without Groo just isn’t the same…

Fear not however: order, if not sense, is eventually restored – but only after a grand display of confusions, contusions, conflagrations, conflicts, pratfalls, pitfalls, punch-lines and punch-ups. There’s even a little room left over for a soupcon of romance (Mmmm, Soup! Mmmm, leftovers…)

Published in the extravagant, luxurious over-sized 285mm x 220mm European album format which allows even more room for the artist’s tireless tornado of visual gags and graphitti this is a masterpiece of mirth and madness that comedy addicts will love and the great strength of the series is that new readers can start practically anywhere – and still be none the wiser…

Oh yeah, that sinking thing: among his other lack of abilities Groo cannot travel by ship. He’s not sea-sick or anything – it’s just that his physical presence on a nautical apparatus of any sort causes it to sink – and this book has one of the very best riffs on that running (swimming? sinking?) gag I’ve ever seen…
© 1987 Sergio Aragonés. All Rights Reserved.

Judge Dredd: The Apocalypse War


By John Wagner, Alan Grant, Carlos Ezquerra & various (Titan Books)
ISBN: 978-1-84023-634-7

Britain’s last great comic megastar might be described as a combination of the other two, combining the fantastic science and adventure of Dan Dare with the unrelentingly seditious anarchy and absurdity of Dennis the Menace. He’s also well on the way to becoming the longest-lasting adventure character in our admittedly meagre home-grown comics stable, having been continually published every week since February 1977 when he first appeared in the second issue of science-fiction anthology 2000AD.

However with at least 52 2000AD strips a year, annuals, specials, a newspaper strip (in the Daily Star and later The Metro), the Judge Dredd Megazine, numerous reprinted classic comics collections and even two rather appalling DC Comics spin-off titles, that adds up to a phenomenal amount of material, most of which is still happily in print from Rebellion.

One of the most attractive packages and certainly one of the most compelling is this sharply stylish black and white deluxe hardcover collection featuring one of the greatest storylines in the entire canon.

Judicial Briefing: Dredd and his dystopian ultra-metropolis of Mega-City One were created by a very talented committee including Pat Mills, Kelvin Gosnell, Carlos Ezquerra, Mike McMahon and others but with the major contribution coming from legendary writer John Wagner, who has written the largest portion of the canon under his own and several pseudonymous names.

Joe Dredd is a fanatically dedicated Judge in the super-city, where hundreds of millions of citizens idle away their days in a world where robots are cheaper and more efficient than humans and jobs are both beloved pastimes and treasured commodities. Boredom and madness has reached epidemic proportions and almost everybody is just one askance glance away from mental meltdown. Judges are last-ditch peacekeepers who maintain order at all costs: investigating, taking action and instantly trying all crimes and disturbances to the hard-won equilibrium of the constantly boiling melting pot. Justice is always immediate and final…

They are necessary fascists in a world permanently on the edge of catastrophe, and sadly, what far too many readers never realise is that the strip is a gigantic satirical black comedy leavened with oodles of outrageous, vicarious cathartic action.

Dredd’s world is a polluted and precarious Future Tense with all the key analogues for successful science fiction (as ever a social looking-glass for the times it’s created in) situated and sharply attuned to a Cold War Consumer Civilisation. The planet is divided into political camps with Post-nuclear holocaust America locked in a slow death-struggle with the Sov Judges of the old Eastern Communist blocs: militaristic, oppressive and totalitarian – and that’s by the US Judges’ standards, so just imagine what they’re like…

In 1981 Progs (that’s issue numbers to you) #236-244 featured a nine-part story ‘Block Mania’ which detailed an all-out war between two colossal habitation blocks in Mega-City One. With weekly instalments illustrated by Mike McMahon, Ron Smith, Steve Dillon and Brian Bolland (who also supplied some incredible covers) the all-out confrontation between Enid Blyton and Dan Tanna Blocks rapidly proliferated, engulfing surrounding Hab-units, spreading like a plague – or a chemical weapon.

Against a backdrop of utter berserker carnage Dredd discovers a plot by Sov agents to destabilise Mega-City One…

For once the Judge is too late and as his city burns the Dictatorat of East-Meg One launch a nuclear strike, following up with a ground-forces invasion. The Judges hit back with their own nukes and terrified of global Armageddon Mega-City Two and Texas City declare themselves neutral. Mega-City One will stand or fall alone…

Over forty years after the Battle of Britain ‘The Apocalypse War’ stunned and delighted readers. This epic tale of dogged resistance and bloody pyrrhic victory is a masterpiece of drama and tragedy, with Carlos Ezquerra drawing all 26 weekly chapters (even some covers!), and three decades later it still ranks as one of the greatest Dredd tales ever published.

Spectacular, violent, epic and leading to almost incomprehensible actions from someone most readers still considered a “hero” and “good guy” this is as powerful an anti-war story as Pat Mills and Joe Colquhoun’s Charley’s War and deserves as much acclaim and respect.

This volume collects the entire saga and its prequel Block War into one mesmerising and compelling work of glittering triumph and dark tragedy, and should grace the shelves of every serious fan of the medium – and the message.
® & © 2003 Rebellion. All rights reserved.

The Groo Garden


By Sergio Aragonés, Mark Evanier & Stan Sakai (Epic/Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-78510-026-3

Both in comic narrative and the infinitely trickier field of gag-cartooning Sergio Aragonés has produced uncountable volumes of excellent work. His darkly skewed sensibilities and death-grip on the cosmically absurd, wedded to a totally unique drawing style and frankly terrifying professional discipline have made his (usually) silent doodles a vibrant proof of the maxims that laughter is universal and a picture is worth a thousand words.

After working for years for Mad Magazine and DC’s horror titles on gag features and the occasional full comic strip in 1981, with writer and associate Mark Evanier, Aragonés produced a madcap four-page parody of the Sword-and-Sorcery genre as a contribution to the Creators Rights benefit comicbook Destroyer Duck published by Eclipse Comics.

Following a second outing in Mike Grell’s Starslayer (#5) Pacific Comics launched Groo the Wanderer in his own title. After 8 issues (December 1982-April 1984) the troubled company folded but the unsinkable barbarian (that’s a joke I’ll explain later) resurfaced in the Groo Special one-shot from Eclipse (October 1984), before finding a home at Epic Comics: Archie Goodwin’s creator-owned corner of the Marvel Universe.

Aragonés had first created his witless warrior in the 1970s but no publisher would take on the property unless he sold all rights – an almost universal situation in the industry until the advent of the Direct Sales market transferred power from companies and distributors to creators and consumers.

The character is arguably the most successful creator-owned property of the American comic-book market, and this seventh volume (of 27 thus far) collects issues #25-28 (March-May 1987) from the Epic incarnation, with the itinerant idiot fully established in a capacious and vast feudal landscape of wizards, warriors, wild women and weird beasts. With a burgeoning supporting cast, Aragonés and his co-conspirators have plenty of wonky, misshapen leg-room to experiment with narrative and visual merry-making…

For the slow of mind however let me recapitulate:

Groo is the smelliest, ugliest, stupidest unluckiest mercenary in the world – but he’s also the best swordsman in creation and far too stupid to be harmed. He is always hungry and wanders because most places he pause in burn down, wash away or crash into rubble soon after he arrives. He loves to fight and entire nations and navies reel at the mention of his name. Of course they do the same when they stand downwind of him too…

The volume opens with ‘Divide and Conquer’ as the unemployable oaf has something similar to an idea and quite effectively foments unrest between relatively peaceful kingdoms in the hope that somebody will hire him to quell the unrest – with the usual catastrophic results, whilst two sinister sorceresses who really should know better are forced to employ the him again in ‘Arba Dakarba’, shrinking the wandering warrior to the size of his own intellect to steal a wishing amulet.

‘Spies’ places Groo in the background as The Sage and The Minstrel are captured by an army and accused of espionage. To forestall their executions the pair entertain the Commanding General with stories of the worst soldier in existence, but unlike Scheherazade, no tale of Groo can ever have a happy – or safe – ending. Then this chronicle concludes with ‘The Gourmet Kings!’ as the ever-ravenous reaving rover’s always empty stomach leads him to gainful employment and chef-stealing. Naturally the whole affair leads to an excess of chopping, slicing and dicing all around…

Marvelously cynical, wildly witty and stunningly silly Groo is the comic that people who hate comics read: brilliantly tongue-in-cheek, sharply sarcastic and devastatingly self-deprecating. An irresistible humour tour-de-force astoundingly scribed and illustrated by jesters who don’t know when – or how – to stop. New readers can start practically anywhere – and still be none the wiser…

The unstoppable brain-donor (Groo, not Aragones or even wordsmith Evanier, letterer Stan Sakai or colourist Tom Luth) has since rambled on to shut down Image Comics and now threatens to finish off Dark Horse, but as they haven’t completely gone belly-up yet there’s still plenty of material for you to track down…
© 1987, 1994 Sergio Aragonés. All Rights Reserved.

Walt Disney’s Donald Duck Adventures: Voodoo Hoodoo


By Carl Barks (Gladstone Comic Album #16)

ISBN: 0-944599-15-X

Carl Barks was the greatest armchair (and drawing board) adventurer of his generation. A dedicated and voracious researcher who loved exploration and thrived on local colour and detail in his work, he seamlessly blended history, geography and the natural world into his rollicking rip-roaring light-thrillers. All Barks’ spectacular yarns were screened through a mesmerising lens of wonder and excitement and executed with riotous bursts of outrageous comedy that appealed to fun-starved fans of all ages. They still do.

From the 1940’s to the1960s Barks worked in seclusion, concocting a timeless treasure trove of golden myths and fables (ostensibly) for kids; forging a cohesive Duck Universe stuffed with memorable and highly bankable characters such as Uncle Scrooge McDuck, Gladstone Gander, the Beagle Boys, Gyro Gearloose, and Magica De Spell to augment the stable of cartoon actors from the Disney Studio, but his most exciting work always involved the rowdy, know-it-all nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie and their irascible, excitable, indomitable “unca” Donald Duck.

The boys’ assigned roles were as sensible, precocious and just-a-little-bit snotty counterfoils to their guardian whose intemperate nature caused him to act like an overgrown brat most of the time, but they often fell prey to a perpetual and natural temptation to raise a ruckus as well: clearly something in the genes…

West Coast publishing giant Dell/Gold Key held the license to produce comic-books based on Disney properties from the 1940s, generating a vast treasure-trove of graphic wonderment before grinding to a close in the early 1980s. Fan-based publishers Gladstone began re-releasing Barks material and a selection of other Disney comics classics at the end of the decade and this album is one of the best.

Whilst producing all that landmark material Barks considered himself just a working guy, drawing eye-catching covers, illustrating other people’s scripts to order yet still setting the bar for his compatriots with utterly perfect tales that added to the burgeoning canon of Donald Duck and other Disney properties. His output was incredible in terms of quantity and especially in its unfailingly high quality.

Printed in the large European oversized format (278mm x 223mm) this chilling departure into the realms of the unknown reprints one of his eeriest masterpieces with the lead tale from Dell Four Color Comics #238 (August 1949) and sees the author once more accessing darker themes via the sinister delights of horror movies – albeit seductively tempered with Barks’ winningly absurd humour (for more of the same see also Donald Duck Adventures: Ancient Persia).

Duckburg is all in a tizzy when a hulking undead brute begins loitering around town. Eventually Bombie the Zombie delivers a poisoned devil-doll to Donald which apparently makes him start to shrink. Zombies aren’t particularly smart and he/it had been trying for years to deliver the potent vengeance of his witch-doctor master Foola Zoola to the duck that swindled him … and unfortunately Donald looks a lot like Scrooge McDuck did seventy years ago!

Not believing in curses Uncle Scrooge is less than sympathetic but after experiencing the pester-power of Donald and the nephews he grudgingly funds an expedition to Africa to set things right. And only then do their troubles really begin…

Wacky and deeply satirical this tale was the subject of some controversy after it was first published, with Barks’ evolving drawing style skirting jarringly close to some pretty prejudicial and unwholesome racial stereotypes of the time, and considering the target audience it is a pretty scary story in a lot of places, but as ever, the wildly over-the-top madcap humour keeps everything addictively comforting and compelling.

Filling out this volume is another spooky fantasy fable starring Donald and the boys with a far more prominent role for their Bajillionaire relative as the entire family check out his latest acquisition. Scrooge has bought a castle in Scotland because a legendary treasure is hidden within it, but ‘McMerganser Macabre’ (from Donald Duck #26 November 1952) proves the old adage “buyer beware” as the old pile also seems to have an extremely agitated ghost as an unwelcome squatter…

However even when running for their lives and dodging certain death Huey, Dewey and Louie are pretty sure all is not as it seems…

Breathtaking and supremely hilarious this is a sheer graphic treat for fans of comics in their purest and most enticing form and still readily available from a number of online retailers, but even if you can’t find this specific volume most of Barks’ work is readily accessible through a number of publications and outlets.

As everything he’s ever done is well worth reading, no matter what your age or temperament, you’ve nothing to lose and all to gain by tracking down Barks’ captivating creations; so please do do – or experience the repercussions of the Voodoo Hoodoo…
© 1989, 1949 The Walt Disney Company. All Rights Reserved.

Boneyard volume 7


By Richard Moore (NBM)
ISBN: 978-1-56163-583-2

Michael Paris shares his life with a hot vampire chick, a werewolf, an over-sexed fish-woman, assorted demons and monsters. But somehow, these are the good guys and they are often beset by truly wicked monsters with properly evil intentions. For example, there’s the US government, or the creature that keeps beheading counsellors at the kid’s summer camp across the way, or what about that creepy Pumpkin head guy who magics you unconscious then desecrates your dreams?

The peculiar sub-genre of horror/comedy was in safe hands with Richard Moore, whose light, deft touch combines traditional cartooning with spot-on slapstick, surreal humour, and a touch of contemporary cynicism. He can also imbue his abhuman cast with stunning humanity when necessary. So it’s a huge pity that, for the moment at least, the delightfully outrageous cast of Boneyard are going on indefinite hiatus.

Young Paris – don’t call him Michael, he hates it – after years of crappy living and poor fortune finally had a lucky break. Not only did he inherit property from his reclusive grandfather, but the residents of picturesque little hamlet Raven Hollow were desperate to buy it from him, sight unseen. When he took possession he found once more that if anything looks too good to be true There’s generally a sound reason for it.

The property was a cemetery named The Boneyard and not everything within its walls was content to stay dead. Firstly there’s Abby, a beautiful, lovely, pretty and so very capable vampire chick, as well as a sex-starved, foul-mouthed skeleton, a demon with delusions of grandeur, a werewolf who thinks he’s a James Dean, a witch, a hulking Frankensteinian monster and even smart-ass talking gargoyles over the gate. Most worrying of all: There’s even the voluptuous, married amphibian who adds worlds of meaning to the phrase “man-eater.”

The place is a refuge for the restless dead and every sort of Halloween horror, but somehow they all seem more human and friendly than the off-kilter townsfolk and the succession of unpleasant characters, supernatural and otherwise, determined to close down the corpse-filled playground.

Overcoming all odds – including the devil himself – and surviving the cosmic embarrassment of ruining the formal ball of the supreme Over-God of the universe

Paris and Abby are seconds away from taking their painfully coy and cautious relationship to another level – maybe even “the next one” – when the imaginary playmate from his lonely childhood appears.

It appears that not only is Lita real, real cute and a princess of Faerie, but since her dad has ordered her to wed the evil Dark Prince of the Unseelie Court, she wants sanctuary and to marry the one being that really loved her.

Of course Paris was only eight then…

When the Faerie warriors turn up thing get rather nasty and Paris and Lita are captured and imprisoned in the Elvin Kingdoms, and Abby and her Boneyard helpmates have to rescue him – Lita too, if he asks nicely – but first they’re going to need a few allies of their own…

This seventh and momentarily final volume reprints the final issues of the independent comic book in stunning black and white as this charming, sly and irresistibly addictive series comes to a natural pause (one day to return in all its warm-hearted, comedy-of-terrors glory: I wish, I hope, I pray…) but until then Boneyard remains a must-have for Horrorists, Humorists and especially Romantics with an open mind.

One the best humour series to come out of the States since Charles Addams first started reporting from that spooky old house in the 1940s, this touching and wickedly funny epic should grace every fan’s bookshelf.

© 2010 Richard Moore. All Rights Reserved.

Judge Dredd Featuring Judge Death


By John Wagner & Brian Bolland (Titan Books)
ISBN: 978-1-84023-386-5

Britain’s last great comic icon could be described as a combination of the other two, combining the futuristic milieu and thrills of Dan Dare with the terrifying anarchy and irreverent absurdity of Dennis the Menace. He’s also well on the way to becoming the longest-lasting adventure character in our admittedly meagre comics stable, having been continually published every week since February 1977 when he first appeared in the second issue of science-fiction anthology 2000AD.

However with at least 52 2000AD strips a year, annuals, specials, a newspaper strip (in the Daily Star and later The Metro), the Judge Dredd Megazine, numerous reprinted classic comics collections and even two rather appalling DC Comics spin-off titles, that adds up to a phenomenal amount of material, most of which is still happily in print.

One of the nicest looking packages and certainly one of the most inviting for new readers is this sharply stylish black and white deluxe hardcover collection featuring some of the formative work of superstar artist Brian Bolland.

Bolland by his own admission was an uneconomically slow artist and much of his Dredd work appeared as weekly portions of large epics with other artists handling other episodes, but all the cases collected here are self-contained or short continued sagas, resulting in a wicked compendium of his best, funniest and most striking material all in one magnificent volume.

FYI: Dredd and his dystopian ultra-metropolis of Mega-City One were created by a committee including Pat Mills, Kelvin Gosnell, Carlos Ezquerra, Mike McMahon and others but with the major contribution coming from legendary writer John Wagner, who has written the largest portion of the canon under his own and several pseudonymous names.

Joe Dredd is a fanatically dedicated Judge in the super-city, where hundreds of millions of citizens idle away their days in a world where robots are cheaper and more efficient than humans and jobs are both beloved pastime and treasured commodity. Boredom has reached epidemic proportions and almost everybody is just one askance glance away mental meltdown. Judges are peacekeepers who maintain order at all costs: investigating, taking action and trying all crimes and disturbances to the hard-won equilibrium of the constantly boiling melting pot. Justice is always immediate…

They are necessary fascists in a world permanently on the edge of catastrophe, and sadly, what far too many readers never realise is that the strip is a gigantic satirical black comedy with oodles of outrageous, vicarious cathartic action.

In Prog (that’s issue number to you) 149-151 (January 26th – February 9th 1980), with the continuity firmly established Wagner, writing as John Howard, introduced ‘Judge Death’, undead lawman from an alternate Earth, where the Judges, when faced with the same problems as our world took their creed to its only logical conclusion: If all crime is perpetrated by the living then to eradicate crime…

With all life ended in his own dimension the ghostly ghoul extended his mission to ours, wiping out criminals and law-abiding citizens alike, with the Judges – even Dredd – unable to stop him until the flamboyant and unconventional psychic hottie Judge Anderson of PSI Division sacrificed herself to trap the evil spirit forever…

As if…

With Wagner clearly on a creative roll the fans spoke long and loud and thus both the Zombie Peacemaker and Anderson were returned within a year in the manic mayhem of ‘Judge Death Lives’ (credited to T.B. Grover but still Wagner really; Progs 224-228, August 8th – September 5th 1981), as a desperate citizen released the horror from his eternal tomb at the behest of three more expired Judges: Mortis, Fire and Fear.

Reunited with their leader the Dark Judges went about their duty executing all of Mega-City One and it took a trip to their home “Deadworld” before Dredd and Anderson could stop the slayers – albeit temporarily. Both Anderson and Death went on to win their own series…

For a while early on in his career, Dredd was seconded to the Moon to oversee the colony there – which was as bonkers as Mega-City One – in conjunction with Cold War enemies the Sov Judges.

From that period came ‘The First Lunar Olympics’ and ‘War Games’ (Progs 50-51, February 5th and 11th 1978) a vicious swipe at contemporary sport’s politicisation which was and still is bloody, brutal and bitingly funny, whilst ‘The Oxygen Board’ and ‘The Face-Change Crimes’ (Progs 57 & 52, March 25th and  February 18th 1978 respectively) are hilariously inventive bank-raid capers with the kind of mordant twists which elevated Dredd so far beyond all other cop and sci-fi strips.

Once rotated back Earthside it was business as unusual in ‘The Fog’ (Prog 127, August 25th 1979) a chillingly atmospheric pastiche of horror film classic House of Wax, whilst in ‘The Forever Crimes’ (Prog 120, July 7th 1979) Dredd showed that being dead was no valid reason for a perp to avoid his sentence and this spectacular chronicle ends with the glorious insane ‘Punks Rule!’ (Prog 110 April 28th 1979), an epilogue to the epic Judge Caligula story-arc, with the Judges slowly resuming control of Mega-City One after a civil war and revolution, with Dredd personally stamping out street gangs that had carved out their own little empires in the aftermath.

Beautifully drawn these are perfect short stories starring modern Britain’s most successful and iconic comic character: timeless classics that no real comic fan can ignore – and just for a change something that you can easily get your hungry hands on…
® & © 2001 Rebellion. All rights reserved.

The Artist Himself: A Rand Holmes Retrospective


Written and compiled by Patrick Rosenkranz (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-170-1

Randolph Holton Holmes was a unique individual: a self-taught artist who grew up troubled, found peace and sufficiency if not fame and fortune and died far too young (March 15th 2002). Now this superb retrospective compilation and biography, featuring scads of sketches, reproductions of drawings, cartoons and the paintings he created in his later life are preserved with a copious collection of his wickedly wonderful underground and alternative comic strips for fans and soon to be devotees.

As usual I’ll deliver here my warning for the easily offended: this book contains comic strips never intended for children. If you are liable to be offended by raucous adult, political and drug humour, or beautifully illustrated scenes of explicit sex and unbelievable comedy violence, don’t buy this book and stop reading this graphic novel review. You won’t enjoy any of it and might be compelled to cause a fuss.

I’ll cover something far more wholesome tomorrow so please come back then.

Rand Holmes was born in Nova Scotia on February 22nd 1942 and raised in Edmonton, Alberta (yes, in Canada). After a rather remarkable early life (no clues from me – the whole point is to get you to buy this book) which included honing his prodigious artistic talent by absorbing the work and drawing styles of Jack Davis, Will Eisner, Harvey Kurtzman (who bought Rand’s first profession sales for Help! magazine) and most especially Wally Wood, he became a jobbing cartoonist and illustrator at The Georgia Straight in 1969, one of the many youth-oriented counter-culture or “underground” newspapers that blossomed during the period.

Whilst there he created his signature character Harold Hedd which ran as a regular strip, and was assembled in 1972 into a hilarious adults-only comic-book The Collected Adventures of Harold Hedd. A second volume followed a year later. Married young and always restless, Holmes generated an astounding amount of cartoon and comic work, appearing in White Lunch Comix, All Canadian Beaver Comics, Slow Death, Fog City Comics, Gay Comics, Dope Comics and Snarf among many others.

He was by inclination a totally liberated sexual and political satirist, and his meticulously lush and shockingly explicit strips often obscured or masked powerful social commentaries by being just too damn well-drawn. He produced strips for Rolling Stone and Cheri magazine. In the 1980s he worked briefly in the mainstream comics market when the Direct Sales revolution first flourished, producing EC flavoured yarns for Twisted Tales and Alien Worlds and reuniting with long-time publishing collaborator Denis Kitchen for horror anthology Death Rattle and the fabulous mini-series Hitler’s Cocaine: the hip, trippy, spectacular return of Harold Hedd (included in its entirety in this volume).

He had married a second time in 1982 and moved his family to the idyllic, isolated artistic community of Lasqueti Island and increasing concentrated on a self-sufficient life-style, with oil-painting replacing cartooning as an outlet for his relentless artistic drives. He built, with other creative hermits, an art centre that has become his monument.

He passed away from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2002 and this book is the result of the first retrospective show compiled by his family from the treasury of superb material he left behind.

As well as a photo-stuffed and highly engaging history this volume contains all manner of artworks from early doodles to teen cartoons, illustrations and covers from his commercial art days, sketches, paintings, fascinating excerpts from the journals he kept for most of his life and a wonderful selection of his comics work.

Those last include many ‘Out to Lunch’ hotrod strips, early Harold Hedd pages from the Georgia Straight, sexy horror yarn ‘Raw Meat’, assorted ultra-nasty Basement Man tales, ‘Nip an’ Tuk Those Cute Little Fuzzy Mices’, Harold Hedd in ‘Wings Over Tijuana’ and an unfinished story, as well as the aforementioned ‘Hitler’s Cocaine’ saga, ‘And Here He Is… the Artist Himself’, ‘Killer Planet’, ‘Junkyard Dog’ (written by Mike Baron), ‘Mean Old Man’ (written by Rob Maisch) – a powerful yarn that smacks of autobiography and the artist portion concludes with a gallery of the stunning paintings that filled his later days.

Rand Holmes was a true artist in every sense of the world and mostly produced work intended to change society, not fill his pockets. This book is a wonderful tribute and one any grown-up art lover will marvel at and cherish.

© 2010 Patrick Rosenkranz, with the exception of the Rand Holmes diary entries which are © 2010 Martha Holmes. All artwork © 2010 Martha Holmes. Individual comic stories © their respective writers. All rights reserved.

The Groo Adventurer


By Sergio Aragonés, Mark Evanier & Stan Sakai (Epic/Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-87135-703-8

Both in comic narrative and the infinitely more strenuous field of gag-cartooning Sergio Aragonés has produced vast volumes of excellent work. His darkly skewed sensibilities and grasp of the cosmically absurd, wedded to a totally unique drawing style and frankly terrifying professional discipline have made his (usually) silent doodles a vibrant proof of the maxims that laughter is universal and a picture is worth a thousand words.

After working for years for Mad Magazine and DC’s horror titles on gag features and the occasional full comic strip in 1981, with writer and associate Mark Evanier, Aragonés produced a madcap four-page parody of the Sword-and-Sorcery genre as a contribution to the Creators Rights benefit comicbook Destroyer Duck published by Eclipse Comics.

Following a second outing in Mike Grell’s Starslayer (#5) Pacific Comics launched Groo the Wanderer in his own title. After 8 issues (December 1982-April 1984) the troubled company folded but the unsinkable barbarian (that’s a joke I’ll explain later) resurfaced in the Groo Special one-shot from Eclipse (October 1984), before finding a home at Epic Comics: Archie Goodwin’s creator-owned corner of the Marvel Universe.

Aragonés had first created his witless warrior in the 1970s but no publisher would take on the property unless he sold all rights – an almost universal situation in the industry until the advent of the Direct Sales market transferred power from companies and distributors to creators and consumers.

This volume collects the first four (of 120) issues from the Epic incarnation (March-April 1985) and reintroduces readers to the smelliest, ugliest, stupidest itinerant mercenary in the world. Luckily he’s also the best swordsman in creation and too thick to be harmed. The unstoppable brain-donor has since moved on to Image and Dark Horse Comics, but they haven’t completely gone belly-up yet…

Groo is always hungry and wanders because most places he stops at burn down, wash away or crash into rubble soon after he gets there. He loves to fight and the entire world trembles at the mention of his name. They do the same when they smell him too…

Produced in unique fashion by Aragonés, wordsmith Evanier, letterer Stan Sakai (creator of Usagi Yojimbo) and colourist Tom Luth, the idiot’s adventures form one of the longest running humour comicbook series in America and this volume is merely one of 27 to date.

Beginning with ‘The Song of Groo’ which introduces a wandering minstrel to the insane cast of a mediaeval wonderland of kingdoms, villages and provinces roughly mirroring Earth circa 1000AD, wherein the peripatetic poltroon botches a simple guard’s job and precipitates an international war, whilst ‘Dragon Killer’ allows him the opportunity to slay a beast, wipe out a paradise and blow up an entire country.

‘The Medallion’ is a safe-passage token that proves to be the most fray-provoking, schism-inducing peace symbol in the world and this chronicle concludes with ‘World Without Women!’ as the ever-eager hero-in-his-own-mind rescues helpless wives and maidens from zeppelin-riding pirates who keep them in utter luxury, returning the frail, fragile creatures to their rightful lives of dirt, drudgery and husbandly domination…

A magically cynical and silly comedy of errors Groo is the comic that people who hate comics read: brilliantly tongue-in-cheek, sharply sarcastic and devastatingly self-deprecating. An irresistible humour tour-de-force astoundingly scribed and illustrated by jesters who don’t know when – or how – to stop. New readers can start practically anywhere – and still be none the wiser…

Oh yeah, that sinking thing: among his other lack of abilities Groo cannot travel by ship. He’s not sea-sick or anything – it’s just that his mere presence on a maritime vessel causes it to sink…
© 1985, 1990 Sergio Aragonés. All Rights Reserved.