Jaimie Smart’s Bunny Vs Monkey: Rise of the Maniacal Badger


By Jaimie Smart, with Sammy Borras (David Fickling Books)
ISBN: 978-1-78845-280-9 (TPB) 978-1-78845-118-5 (Waterstones Exclusive Edition)

Bunny vs. Monkey has been a staple of comics phenomenon The Phoenix since the very first issue in 2012: recounting a madcap vendetta gripping animal arch-enemies set amidst an idyllic arcadia masquerading as more-or-less mundane but critically endangered English woodlands.

Concocted with gleefully gentle mania by cartoonist, comics artist and novelist Jamie Smart (Fish Head Steve!; Looshkin; Flember), the trendsetting, mindbending yarns have been wisely retooled as graphic albums available in remastered, double-length digest editions such as this one.

All the tail-biting tension and animal argy-bargy began yonks ago after an obnoxious little beast popped up in the wake of a disastrous British space shot. After crashlanding in Crinkle Woods – scant miles from his launch site – lab animal Monkey believed himself the rightful owner of a strange new world, despite all efforts from reasonable, sensible, genteel, contemplative forest resident Bunny to dissuade him. For all his patience, propriety and good breeding, the laid-back lepine just could not contain the incorrigible idiot ape, who was – and is – a rude, noise-loving, chaos-creating loutish troublemaker…

Problems are exacerbated by the other unconventional Crinkle creatures, particularly a skunk called Skunky who has a mad scientist’s attitude to life and a propensity to build extremely dangerous robots and super-weapons…

Here – with artistic assistance from Sammy Borras – the war of nerves and mega-ordnances resumes and intensifies. The unruly assortment of odd critters loitering around and cluttering up the bucolic paradise have finally picked sides: shifting and twisting into bipartisan factionalism. They all seem to have forgotten that rapidly encroaching Hyoomanz as they respond to another personal crisis and the rise to power of an unsuspected third force in woodland politics…

As ever divided into seasonal outbursts, the saga starts slowly with a chilly teaser tale as Winter ends in the ‘Thaw of the Snow-Bots’…

The assorted animals have been in stasis in a giant freezer, and once fire-breathing snowmen attack, they decide it’s best to have a little more kip… or do they?

The story actually resumes in Spring and the far future where time-traveller Ai – a superfast Ai-Ai not naturally indigenous to our sylvan glades and endangered shores – learns of a disaster that’s history here but her tomorrow. A good person, she undertakes ‘The Journey Home’ but arrives too late as ‘A Rather Maniacal Badger’ details how the woods have been conquered at last…

Previously, a catastrophic rivalry erupted when rival evil genius Maniacal Badger vied with Skunky for the title of “The Most Brilliant Animal in the Woods”. Now, while everyone was hibernating, the black-&-white bounder has occupied the region and established a base in a 50-foot (15-24 meters) high statue of himself as the first step in building his dream of Badgertopia.

The shock of defeat particularly affects Skunky, who descends into a spiral of depression and lowering esteem…

Universal innocents Weenie squirrel and Pig have their own way of de-stressing and not even roving robot drones can upset ‘A Quiet, Uneventful Day’ on the lake. Old animosities are paused and enemies become temporary allies planning to resist through ‘Distraction’ and strategic deployment of brain-battered, bewildered suicide bomber/former stuntman Action Beaver, but when that scheme flops we instead focus on ‘A Sad Skunk’ as the original mad scientist undergoes an existential crisis and needs Bunny to share it with…

The relative inactivity soon triggers his robot back-up to mischief mode, but even ‘Mecha Skunky!’ is not immune to the doldrums and there’s nothing ‘Action Beaver!’ can do to rectify the situation, especially after the badger activates a gross flying terror who swallows everybody in ‘The Whale!’

Having retreated to the tunnels built by long-gone but not forgotten local legend Fantastic Le Fox, the uneasy animal animals hide from the tyrant’s tantrums in ‘Too Noisy!’: unexpectedly discovering a hidden, weapon-stocked lair that will be the base for their fight back… once they have safely reassembled ‘All the Toys in the Toyshop!’

Although initial giant robot ‘Battle Bat!’ spectacularly fails, resistance efforts continue, but Monkey is easily distracted and soon moves to make his own empire in ‘Monkeyopia Rises!’ and as Summer begins ‘Divisions!’ proliferate. Before long the war with Bunny flares up again and instantly moves into the province of war crimes as the simian unleashes his flatulence-powered ‘Rofl-Copter!’

Weenie and Pig go on a ‘Treasure Hunt!’ in the mouldering pile of toxic rubbish kindly left by the Hyoomanz, but find no shield from the badger’s latest infamy: mind controlling everyone and turning the Woods into his digital plaything in ‘Game Over!’

A brief diversion follows in an exclusive Bunny vs Monkey Detective Story, but ‘The Curious Case of the Pig in the Night-Time’ is less baffling than Bunny’s failure to join mystic brotherhood ‘The Order of the Moose’…

When young Hyoomanz find themselves ‘(Not) Alone in the Woods’ during a class trip one little girl renews her old acquaintance with Metal Steve after he saves them from Maniac Badger attacks, whilst elsewhere ‘Monst-Ughs!’ run wild after improper use of Skunky’s old monster ray, leading to a glimpse at the tyrant’s origins and family issues in ‘The Making of a Maniacal Badger!’

Incorrigible Monkey then loses control of marauding robot ‘Doom Fists!’ after he is attacked by his wicked doppelganger Evil Monkey and partner in crimes Evil Monkey Wife, whilst elsewhere Skunky recovers some of life’s zest after helping Weenie and Pig repair one of the badger’s ‘Evil Drones!’

Three part saga ‘The Saving of Skunky!’ sees order restored after the badger’s plan to kidnap Skunky and steal what’s left of his evil genius goes awry. Trapped together in the Dark Woods, the skunk experiences a ghastly visitation and by the time the Maniacal one gets back to his conquered kingdom, there’s a restored archenemy waiting to deliver ‘A Sharp Shock’ with electrified clouds and a Zeus costume…

Badger’s retaliation is ancient thought monster ‘Ragnaggtrix!’ but there’s an inherent flaw in something dependent on belief that the evil genius didn’t consider. Thankfully, Skunky is preoccupied ‘Distracting the Monkey!’ from cadging more superweapons to misuse…

Bunny becomes guinea pig when Skunky and Monkey test emotion-warping Mind Mines in ‘Highly Strung!’ and as ‘Autumn begins The Rise of an Empire!’ finds expansionist Monkeytopia devasted by its ruler’s idiocy, even as the badger traps the woodland creatures inside his new phone app in ‘Game On!’ It’s a huge, costly mistake…

‘Balloonacy!’ breaks out when Weenie and Pig try to attend Ai’s birthday party, before a new character debuts. ‘Lucky!’ is a red panda who escaped a lab doing weird experiments. It might not have been in time though, since the three-way war for supremacy in the woods triggers an odd reaction…

The action and drama ramp up for a big finish as Badger is made to clean his room and employs the ‘Doomsday Device!’ that opens portals to Hell. Shame about his mum and dad…

Skunky makes a silly mistake and gives the wrong animal some atomic powered ‘Explosive Sweets!’ which makes Halloween’s ‘Fright Night!’ Scare-Off pretty anticlimactic war, before another peek at the future reveals the legend of ‘Jetpack Beaver!’

A distant relative tries to make one woodland weirdo ‘Pigging Rich!’ with little success, after which a bad tooth and unwise consultation with Skunky results in Monkey taking a big bite out of everything in ‘Chomp!’

The cataclysmic end begins when the Maniacal one pressgangs ‘The Badger Army’ to do his bidding but forgets the species’ tendency to unionise even as Skunky creates a ‘Terraforming Orb!!’ to purpose-build a new world. It’s a shame Monkey dropped it on his own head while it was switched on…

Winter begins with 3-chapter epic ‘A Very Badger Christmas’ that delivers shocking big reveals, pulls all the plot threads of the past year together, ends the world and still leaves rueful survivors wondering what comes next in ‘Aftermath’. Whatever you think happened you’re wrong, so you just have to buy this book to see how…

The animal anarchy might end for now there’s one more secret to share with detailed instructions on ‘How to Draw Maniacal Badger’ so, as well as beguiling your young ’uns with stories, you can use this book to teach them a trade…

The zany zenith of absurdist adventure, Bunny vs Monkey is weird wit, brilliant invention, potent sentiment and superb cartooning crammed into one eccentrically excellent package: never failing to deliver jubilant joy for grown-ups of every vintage, even those who claim they only get it for their kids. This is the kind of comic parents beg kids to read to them. Is that you yet?

Text and illustrations © Jamie Smart 2022. All rights reserved.
Bunny vs Monkey: Rise of the Maniacal Badger is published on July 7th 2022 and is available for pre-order now.

[Low Moon]


By Jason, translated by Kim Thompson (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-155-8 (HB/Digital edition)

In 1965, John Arne Saeterrøy, who creates under the pen-name Jason, was born in Molde, Norway. At age 30, he burst onto the international cartoonists scene with his first graphic novel Lomma full ay regn (Pocket Full of Rain) which won that year’s Sproing Award (Norway’s biggest comics prize).

Jason followed up with the series Mjau Mjau and won another Sproing in 2001. The following year he turned almost exclusively to produce graphic novels. He is now internationally renowned and (probably quite self-consciously) basks in the glow of critical acclaim for his 24 books to date and for winning so many major awards as far afield as France, Slovakia, the USA and all areas in-between.

His stories utilise a small cast of anthropomorphic animal characters (and occasional movie and pop culture monsters): a repertory company of cartoon colleagues, acting out on a stage of stiffly formal page layouts recounting dark, wry and sardonically bleak tales – often pastiches, if not outright parodies – in a visually welcoming yet coldly austere and Spartan narrative manner. This seemingly oppressive format somehow allows a vast range of emotionally telling tales – on a wide spectrum of themes and genres – to hit home like rockets whether the author’s intention was to make the reader smile or cry like a baby.

Drawing in a minimalist evolution of Hergé’s Claire Ligne style, Jason’s work bores right into the reader’s core, and this movie-themed collection of short tales is arguably his best work.

Redolent of quintessential Film Noir and especially the hard-boiled writing of Jim Thompson, poignant tale of vengeance ‘Emily Says Hello’ precedes what is billed as the World’s “first and only Chess Western”.

The eponymous ‘Low Moon’ was originally serialized in The New York Times Sunday Magazine in 2008: a splendidly surreal spoof of Fred Zinnemann’s 1952 classic High Noon wherein an old menace returns to terrorise the town… until at last the Sheriff capitulates to the incessant demands for one final return match…

‘&’ is a tragic anecdote of love, loss and marital persistence related in terms and stylings of Hal Roach’s silent comedies. ‘Proto Film Noir’ owes an inspirational tip of the thermally insulated hat to Tay Garnett’s The Postman Always Rings Twice (the 1946 version with John Garfield and Lana Turner) – by way of The Flintstones and Groundhog Day, whilst a concluding tale of love, family and abandonment assumes science-fictional trappings to relate the soap-opera, generational tale of a mother kidnapped by aliens and the effects it inflicts on the husband and son she left behind. ‘You Are Here’ is bemusing, evocative and moving, yet manages to never fall off the narrative tightrope into mawkishness or buffoonery.

Jason’s comic tales are strictly for adults but allow us all to look at the world through wide-open childish eyes. He is a taste instantly acquired and a creator any true fan of the medium should move to the top of the “Must-Have” list. This superb compendium could be your entry into a brave, old world, so get it while you can because stuff this good never lasts long…
© 2009 Jason. All right reserved.

Walt Disney’s Donald Duck by Carl Barks: volume 6 – The Old Castle’s Secret


By Carl Barks & various (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-653-9 (HB/Digital edition)

Donald Duck ranks among a number of fictional characters who have transcended the bounds of reality to become – like Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan, Popeye and James Bond -meta-real. As such, his origins are complex and convoluted. His official birthday is June 9th 1934: a dancing, nautically-themed bit-player in the Silly Symphony cartoon short The Wise Little Hen.

However, that date is based on the feature’s release, as announced by distributors United Artists and latterly acknowledged by the Walt Disney Company. Recent research reveals the piece was initially screened at Carthay Circle Theatre in Los Angeles on May 3rd, part of a Benefit show. The Wise Little Hen officially premiered on June 7th at the Radio City Music Hall in New York City, before the general release date was settled.

The animated cartoon was adapted by Ted Osborne & Al Taliaferro for the Silly Symphonies Sunday comic strip and thus classified by historians as Donald’s official debut in Disney comics. Controversially though, he was also reported to have originated in The Adventures of Mickey Mouse strip which began 1931. Thus the Duck has more “birthdays” than the Queen of England (plus the generally disUnited Kingdom and gradually diminishing Commonwealth) which probably explains why he’s such a bad-tempered old cuss.

Visually, Donald Fauntleroy Duck was largely the result of animator Dick Lundy’s efforts, and, with partner-in-fun Mickey Mouse, is one of TV Guide’s 50 Greatest Cartoon Characters of All Time. The Duck has his own star on the Hollywood walk of fame and has appeared in more films than any other Disney player.

During the 1930s his screen career grew from background and supporting roles to a team act with Mickey and Goofy to a series of solo cartoons that began with 1937’s Don Donald, which also introduced love interest Daisy Duck and the nephews Huey, Louie and Dewey. By 1938 Donald was officially more popular than company icon Mickey Mouse, especially after his service as a propaganda warrior in a series of animated morale boosters and information features during WWII. The merely magnificent Der Fuehrer’s Face garnered the 1942 Academy Award (that’s an Oscar to you and me) for Animated Short Film…

Crucially for our purposes, Donald is also planet Earth’s most-published non-superhero comics character and has been blessed with some of the greatest writers and illustrators ever to punch a keyboard or pick up a pen or brush.

A publishing phenomenon and mega star across Europe – particularly Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Greece, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland – Donald & Co have spawned countless original stories and characters. Sales are stratospheric there and in the more than 45 other countries they export to. Japanese manga publishers have their own iterations too…

The aforementioned Silly Symphonies adaptation and Mickey Mouse newspaper strip guest shots were trumped in 1937 when Italian publisher Mondadori launched an 18-page story by Federico Pedrocchi in comic book format. It was quickly followed by a regular serial in Britain’s Mickey Mouse Weekly. The comic was produced under license by Willbank Publications/Odhams Press and ran from 8th February 1936 to 28th December 1957.

In #67 (May 15th 1937) it launched Donald and Donna (a prototype Daisy Duck girlfriend), drawn by William A. Ward. Running for 15 weeks it was followed by Donald and Mac before ultimately settling on Donald Duck, and a fixture until the magazine folded. The comic inspired similar Disney-themed publication across Europe with Donald regularly appearing beside company mascot Mickey…

In the USA, a daily Donald Duck newspaper strip launched on February 2nd 1938, with a colour Sunday strip added in 1939. Writer Ted Karp joined Taliaferro in expanding the duck cast, adding a signature automobile, dog Bolivar, cousin Gus Goose, grandmother Elvira Coot and expanded the roles of both Donna and Daisy…

In 1942, his licensed comic books canon began with the October cover-dated Dell Four Color Comics Series II #9 as Donald Duck Finds Pirate Gold: conceived by Homer Brightman & Harry Reeves, scripted by Karp and illustrated by Disney Studios employees Carl Barks & Jack Hannah. It was the moment everything changed…

Carl Barks was born in Merrill, Oregon in 1901, and raised in rural areas of the West during some of the leanest times in American history. He tried his hand at many jobs before settling into the profession that chose him. His early life is well-documented elsewhere if you need detail, but briefly, Barks was an animator before quitting in 1942 to work in the new-fangled field of comic books.

With studio partner Jack Hannah (another future strip illustrator) Barks adapted Karp’s rejected script for an animated cartoon short into Donald Duck Finds Pirate Gold, and although not his first published comics work, it was the story that shaped the rest of his career.

From then until his official retirement in the mid-1960s, Barks operated in self-imposed seclusion: writing, drawing and devising a vast array of adventure comedies, gags, yarns and covers that gelled into a Duck Universe of memorable and highly bankable characters. These included Gladstone Gander (1948), Gyro Gearloose (1952), Magica De Spell (1961) and the nefarious Beagle Boys (1951) to supplement Disney’s stable of cartoon actors. His greatest creation was undoubtedly the crusty, energetic, paternalistic, money-mad giga-gazillionaire Scrooge McDuck: the World’s wealthiest winged nonagenarian.

Whilst producing all that landmark material Barks was also just a working guy, generating cover art, illustrating other people’s scripts when asked, and contributing stories to the burgeoning canon of Duck Lore. After Gladstone Publishing began re-packaging Barks material amongst other Disney strips in the 1980s, he discovered the well-earned appreciation he never imagined existed…

So potent were his creations that they inevitably fed back into Disney’s animation output itself, even though his brilliant comic work was done for Dell/Gold Key and not directly for the studio. The greatest tribute was undoubtedly the animated series Duck Tales: heavily based on his classic Uncle Scrooge tales.

Barks was a fan of wholesome action, unsolved mysteries and epics of exploration, and this led to him perfecting the art and technique of the blockbuster tale: blending wit, history, plucky bravado and sheer wide-eyed wonder into rollicking rollercoaster romps that utterly captivated readers of every age and vintage. Without the Barks expeditions there would never have been an Indiana Jones…

During his working life Barks was blissfully unaware that his work (uncredited by official policy, as was all Disney’s comics output) had been recognised by a rabid and discerning public as “the Good Duck Artist.” When some of his most dedicated fans finally tracked him down, a belated celebrity began.

In 2013, Fantagraphics Books began chronologically collecting Barks’ Duck stuff in wonderful, carefully curated archival volumes, tracing his output year-by-year in hardback tomes and digital editions that finally do justice to the quiet creator. These will eventually comprise the Complete Carl Barks Disney Library. The physical copies are sturdy and luxurious albums – 193 x 261 mm – that would grace any bookshelf, with volume 6 re-presenting works from 1948 – albeit not in strict release order. I should also note that all the Four Color issues come from Series II of that mighty anthological vehicle and all cover are by Barks.

It begins eponymously with ‘The Old Castle’s Secret’ (FC #189, June 1948) as a crisis in the McDuck financial empire triggers a mission for Donald and the nephews: accompanying Scrooge to the ancestral pile in Scotland to search for millions in hidden treasure. Apparently the craggy citadel is haunted, but what they actually encounter is both more rationalistically dangerous and fantastically unbelievable…

Two single-page gags from the same issue follow, with ‘Bird Watching’ exposing the hidden perils of the hobby whilst superstition is painfully debunked in ‘Horseshoe Luck’ before ‘Wintertime Wager’ (Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories #88, January) introduces annoying cousin Gladstone Gander. Amidst chilling winter snows, the miraculously lucky, smugly irksome oik invites himself over for Christmas and soon he and Donald are involved in an escalating set of ordeals that might cost the Duck his house. Thankfully, Daisy and the boys are there to solve the problem…

Gainful employment was a regular dilemma for Donald and February’s ‘Watching the Watchman’ (WDC&S #89) finds him taking a midnight-to-daybreak job at the docks, but pitifully unable to alter his sleep patterns. Once again, Huey, Louie and Dewey offer outrageous assistance but this time it’s the Duck’s inability to stay awake that foils a million dollar heist….

They’re actually Donald’s rivals in ‘Wired’ (WDC&S #90, March) when all seek big bucks as telegram messengers. Sadly, millionaires are not generally friendly, welcoming or prone to giving giant gratuities…

A dedicated social climber, Donald plans a garden party in WDC&S #91 (April), but his notion of fancy dress and family solidarity utterly anger the boys, who retaliate with manic mesmerism in ‘Going Ape’, after which March of Comics #20 finds butterfly-hunter Donald at war with avaricious lepidopterist Professor Argus McFiendy across two continents.

Donald’s sharp and ruthless tactics inspire onlooker Sir Gnatbugg-Mothley to fund a safari to ‘Darkest Africa’ in search of the rarest butterfly on Earth. The daunting quest for the Almostus Extinctus is frenetically fraught, astoundingly action-packed and fabulously fun-filled but please be aware that despite Barks’ careful research and diligent, sensitive storytelling some modern folk could be upset by his depictions of indigenous peoples in terms of the accepted style of those decades-distant times.

Nevertheless, the bombastic war ends with a delicious sting in the tail.

In case you were wondering: March of Comics releases were prestigious promotional giveaways tied to retail products and commercial clients like Sears, combining licensed characters from across Whitman/KK/Dell’s joint catalogue. The often enjoyed print runs topping 5 million copies per issue. Being a headliner for them was a low key editorial acknowledgement of a creator’s capabilities and franchise’s pulling power…

Back in the regular world, Donald’s eternal war of nerves with the kids boiled over in FC #189 (June) as ‘Bean Taken’ saw his obsessive side dominant in a guessing game, a single-pager, preceding another exploring the downside of sandlot baseball in ‘Sorry to Be Safe’ (FC #199, October) and standard 10-page romp ‘Spoil the Rod’ (WDC&S #92, May). Here passing do-gooder Professor Pulpheart Clabberhead seeks to stop Donald’s apparent abuse of Huey, Louie and Dewey – but only until he gets to know them…

Although the science fiction boom and flying saucer mania was barely beginning in 1948, Barks was an early advocate and ‘Rocket Race to the Moon’ (WDC&S #93, June) sees newspaper seller Donald suckered into piloting an experimental lunar exploration ship. Tragically, Professors Cosmic and Gamma seem more concerned with a large cash-prize contest than advancing science and rival rocketman Baron De Sleezy is a ruthless schemer, but no one – not even the stowaway nephews – were prepared for what lived on the moon…

Patriotism inspires our bellicose birdbrain to enlist as ‘Donald of the Coast Patrol’ (WDC&S #94, July) but it’s his innate gullibility and bad temper that helps him bag a bunch of spies before true wickedness rears its downy head as ‘Gladstone Returns’ (WDC&S #95, August).

The ghastly Gander was designed as a foil for Donald, intended to be even more obnoxious than the irascible, excitable film fowl.

This originally untitled tale reintroduces him as a big noxious noise every inch as blustery a blowhard as Donald but still lacking his seemingly supernatural super-luck talent. Here, both furiously boast and feud, trying to one-up each other in a series of scams that does neither any good… especially once the nephews and Daisy join the battle…

Arguably Barks’ first masterpiece, ‘Sheriff of Bullet Valley’ was the lead tale from Dell Four Color Comics #199, drawing much of its unflagging energy and trenchant whimsy from Barks’ own love of cowboy fiction – albeit seductively tempered with his self-deprecatory sense of absurdist humour. For example, a wanted poster on the jailhouse wall portrays the artist himself, offering the princely sum of $1000 and 50¢ for his inevitable capture.

Donald is – of course – a self-declared expert on the Wild West (he’s seen all the movies) so when he and the boys drive through scenic Bullet Valley, a wanted poster catches his eye and his imagination. Soon he’s signed up and sworn in as a doughty deputy, determined to catch rustlers plaguing the locals. Unfortunately for him, the good old days never really existed and today’s bandits use radios, trucks, tommy guns and ray machines to achieve their nefarious ends. Can Donald’s impetuous boldness and the nephews’ collective brains and ingenuity defeat the ruthless high-tech raiders?

Of course they can…

That same issue first saw a brace of short gags, beginning with ‘Best Laid Plans’ as Donald’s feigned illness earns him extra hard labour rather than a malingering day in bed and closing with ‘The Genuine Article’ wherein suspicions of an antiques provenance leads to disaster…

The lads plans to go fishing are scuppered – but not for too long – when Donald demands their caddying services in ‘Links Hijinks’ (WDC&S #96, September). It all really goes south once Gladstone horns in and Donald’s competitive spirit overwhelms everybody…

That tendency to overreact informs ‘Pearls of Wisdom’ (WDC&S #97, October) when the nephews find a small pearl in a locally-sourced oyster and big-dreaming Donald goes overboard in exploiting the” hidden millions” probably peppering the ocean floor, before we close with another mission for Uncle Scrooge.

To close a deal with British toff Lord Tweeksdale, McDuck must prove his family pedigree by excelling in the most “asinine, stupid, crazy, useless sport in the world”: fox hunting. Designating Donald his champion, the Downy Dodecadillionaire of Duckburg is thankfully unaware Huey, Louie and Dewey also consider themselves ‘Foxy Relations’ (WDC&S #98, November), injecting themselves covertly into proceedings with catastrophic repercussions…

The visual verve over, we move on to validation as ‘Story Notes’ offers commentary for each Duck tale and Donald Ault relates ‘Carl Barks: Life Among the Ducks’, before ‘Biographies’ explain why he and commentators Alberto Beccatini, R, Fiore, Craig Fischer, Jared Gardner, Leonardo Gori, Rich Kreiner, Ken Parille, Stefano Priarone, Francesco (“Frank”) Stajano and Mattias Wivel are saying all those nice and informative things.

We close with an examination of provenance as ‘Where Did These Duck Stories First Appear?’ explains the somewhat byzantine publishing schedules of Dell Comics.

Carl Barks was one of the greatest exponents of comic art the world has ever seen, and almost all his work featured Disney’s Duck characters: reaching and affecting untold millions of readers across the world and he all too belatedly won far-reaching recognition. You might be late to the party but it’s never too soon to climb aboard the Barks Express.
Walt Disney’s Donald Duck “The Old Castle’s Secret” © 2013 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All contents © 2013 Disney Enterprises, Inc. unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved.

If You Steal


By Jason (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-854-0 (HB/Digital edition)

Jason is secretly John Arne Saeterrøy: born in Molde, Norway in 1965 and an international cartoon superstar since 1995 when his first graphic novel Lomma full ay regn (Pocket Full of Rain) won that year’s Sproing Award (Norway’s biggest comics prize). He won another Sproing in 2001 for series Mjau Mjau and in 2002 turned almost exclusively to producing graphic novels.

A global star among cartoon cognoscenti, he has received major awards from all over the planet. Jason’s work always jumps directly into a reader’s brain and heart, utilising the beastly and unnatural to gently pose eternal questions about basic human needs in a softly relentless quest for answers. That you don’t ever notice the deep stuff because of the clever gags and safe, familiar “funny-animal” characters should indicate just how good a cartoonist he is…

The stylised artwork is delivered in formalised page layouts rendered in a minimalist evolution of Hergé’s Claire Ligne style: solid blacks, thick outlines and settings of seductive simplicity; augmented by a deft and subtle use of flat colour which enhances his hard, moody, suspenseful and utterly engrossing Cinema-inspired world.

The superbly understated art acts in concert with his dead-on, deadpan pastiche repertoire of scenarios which dredge deep from our shared experience of old film noir classics, horror and sci fi B-movies and other visual motifs which transcend time and culture, and the result is narrative dynamite.

This compilation collects eleven short yarns and opens with the eponymous and eerie ‘If You Steal’, wherein cheap thug Paul perpetually risks everything – including the one person who keeps him feeling alive – in search of quick cash: only to lose it all in the end, after which ‘Karma Chameleon’ sees a small desert community dealing with the discovery of a giant, carnivorous and extremely predatory lizard which nobody seems able to see. Good thing masturbation-obsessed boffin Dr. Howard Jones and his long-suffering daughter Julia are in town…

The deliciously wry and whimsically absurdist Samuel Beckett spoof ‘Waiting for Bardot’ then segues neatly into a dashing mystery of masked derring-do as ‘Lorena Velazquez’ eventually tires of waiting for her ideal man to finish off a necessarily interminable and horrific army of villains prior to doling out a maiden’s traditional rewards, before a fugitive murderer narrates his own paranoia-fuelled downfall after his ‘New Face’ briefly tempts him with love and the never-to-be-achieved promise of peace and safety…

A series of six faux horror comics covers combines to relate the trials of chilling romances in ‘Moondance’. The classic fear theme extends into a rip-roaring battle against the undead in ‘Night of the Vampire Hunter’ and ‘Polly Wants a Cracker’ follows the other unique career path of artistic legend/assassin-for-hire Frida Kahlo.

A junkie musician pushes his luck against some very bad guys because ‘The Thrill is Gone’ after which ‘Ask Not’ takes a trawl through history from Stonehenge in 2583 BC to Salon de Provence in 1554 AD (courtesy of Nostradamus) to 1960s Cuba, revealing the truth behind the assassination of JFK and Abraham Lincoln and what parts Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby actually played in that millennial plot: a parallel worlds yarn like no other…

The book ends with a stunning, deeply moving graphic examination of dementia which is both chilling and oddly-heart-warming as aging Emma deals with the scary creatures who keep taking away the names of things in ‘Nothing’: proving once more that behind innocuous-seeming cartoons and contemporary fairy tale trappings Jason’s work is loaded with potent questions…

If You Steal resonates with Jason’s favourite themes and shines with his visual dexterity and skewed sensibilities. disclosing a decidedly different slant on secrets and obsessions. Primal art supplemented by sparse and spartan “hardboiled Private Eye” dialogue, enhanced to a macabre degree by solid drawing and skilled use of silence and moment, all utilised with devastating economy, affords the same quality of cold, bleak yet perfectly harnessed stillness which makes Scandinavian TV dramas such compelling, addictive fare.

These comic tales are strictly for adults, yet allow us all to look at the world through wide-open young eyes. They never, however, sugar-coat what’s there to see…
If You Steal is © 2015 Jason. All rights reserved.

Marsupilami volume 5 Baby Prinz


By Franquin, Batem & Yann; coloured by Cerise and translated by Jerome Saincantin (Cinebook)
ISBN: 978-1-84918-542-4 (Album PB/Digital edition)

One of Europe’s most popular comic stars is an eccentrically irascible, loyally unpredictable, super-strong, rubber-limbed ball of explosive energy with a seemingly infinite elastic tail. The frantic, frenetic Marsupilami is a wonder of nature and icon of European entertainment invention who originally spun-off from another immortal comedy adventure strip…

In 1946 Joseph “Jijé” Gillain was crafting eponymous keystone strip Spirou for flagship publication Le Journal de Spirou when he abruptly handed off the entire kit and caboodle to his assistant Franquin. The apprentice took the reins, slowly abandoned a previous format of short complete gags to pioneer longer adventure serials, and began introducing a wide and engaging cast of new characters.

For 1952’s Spirou et les héritiers, he devised a beguiling and boisterous South American critter and tossed him like an elastic-arsed grenade into the mix. Thereafter – until his resignation in 1969 – Franquin frequently included the bombastic little beast in Spirou’s increasingly fantastic escapades …

The Marsupilami returned over and over again: a phenomenally popular magical animal who inevitably grew into a solo star of screen, toy store, console games and albums all his own.

André Franquin was born on January 3rd 1924 in Etterbeek, Belgium. Somewhat a prodigy, he began formal art training at École Saint-Luc in 1943, but when the war forced the school’s closure a year later, he found animation work at Compagnie Belge d’Animation in Brussels. Here he met Maurice de Bevere (Lucky Luke’s creator Morris), Pierre Culliford (Peyo, creator of The Smurfs) and Eddy Paape (Valhardi, Luc Orient).

In 1945, all but Culliford signed on with publishing house Dupuis, and Franquin began a career as a jobbing cartoonist and illustrator, drawing covers for Le Moustique and scouting magazine Plein Jeu. During those formative days, Franquin and Morris were being trained by Jijé – at that time the main illustrator at Le Journal de Spirou. He quickly turned the youngsters – and fellow neophyte Willy Maltaite (AKA Will: writer/artist of Tif et Tondu, Isabelle, The Garden of Desire and much more) – into a potent creative bullpen dubbed La bande des quatre; or “Gang of Four”. They subsequently revolutionised Belgian comics with their prolific and engaging “Marcinelle school” style of graphic storytelling.

Jijé handed Franquin all responsibilities for the flagship strip part-way through a storyline (Spirou et la maison préfabriquée, in Le Journal de Spirou #427, June 20th 1946). The eager novice ran with it and carried on with Spirou for two decades, enlarging the scope and horizons until the feature became purely his own.

Every week, fans would meet startling and zany new characters like comrade eventual co-star Fantasio or crackpot inventor Count of Champignac, and ultimately Spirou et Fantasio became globe-trotting journalists, “reporting back” their exploits in unbroken four-colour glory for and in Le Journal de Spirou…

In a splendid example of good practise, Franquin mentored his own band of apprentice cartoonists during the 1950s. These included Jean Roba (La Ribambelle, Boule et Bill/Billy and Buddy); Jidéhem (Sophie, Starter, Gaston Lagaffe/Gomer Goof) and Greg (Bruno Brazil, Bernard Prince, Achille Talon, Zig et Puce), who all worked with him during his tenure on Spirou et Fantasio.

In 1955 a contractual spat with Dupuis resulted in Franquin signing up with publishing rivals Casterman on Le Journal de Tintin, collaborating with René Goscinny and old pal Peyo whilst creating the raucous gag strip Modeste et Pompon.

Franquin and Dupuis patched things up within days, and he went back to Le Journal de Spirou. In 1957, he co-created Gaston Lagaffe, but was still legally obliged to carry on his Tintin strip work too. From 1959, writer Greg and background artist Jidéhem assisted Franquin, but a decade later the artist had reached his Spirou limit and in 1969 resigned for good, taking his mystic yellow monkey with him…

Plagued by bouts of depression, Franquin passed away on January 5th 1997, but his legacy remains: a vast body of work that reshaped the landscape of European comics. Moreover, having learned his lessons about publishers, Franquin retained all rights to Marsupilami and in the late 1980’s began publishing his own adventures of the rambunctious miracle-worker.

He tapped old comrade Greg as scripter and invited commercial artist/illustrator Luc Collin (pen-name Batem) to collaborate on – and later monopolise – the art duties for a new series of raucous comedy adventures. In recent years, the commercial world has triumphed again and since 2016 the universes of Marsupilami and Spirou have again collided allowing the old firm to act out in shared stories again…

Blessed with a talent for mischief, the Marsupilami is a deviously adaptive anthropoid inhabiting the rain forests of Palombia and regarded as one of the rarest animals on Earth. It speaks a language uniquely its own and also has a reputation for causing trouble and instigating chaos. The species is rare and is fanatically dedicated to its young. Sometimes that takes the form of “tough love”…

Baby Prinz was released in 1989, fifth of 32 albums (not including all-Franquin short-story collection volume #0, AKA Capturez un Marsupilami): a canny fable on the dangers of power which opens in Palombian capital city Chiquito, where zookeepers examine an all but forgotten exhibit. This Marsupilami has been caged for decades – nobody knows quite how many – and seems to by dying. The event has deeply agitated all the other animals, and during the fuss a macaw escapes, heading straight for the dark heart of the dense rainforest…

Soon, it finds jungle-dwelling white kids Bip and Sarah, who have been raising themselves in the green hell – with a little oversight from the Marsupilami patriarch. The bird carries a desperate request: the zoo “Marsu” is willing himself to die but the macaw believes a quick intervention from a fresh, wild cousin might give his oldest friend a reason to go on…

The bird has it all figured out. There’s a festival looming and all Chiquito is gearing up for fancy dress larks as the nation celebrates the anniversary of the coup that first brought Papa Prinz to tyrannical power. He’s been dead for years now and his son Baby Prinz is in charge but has to publicly appear to give a speech. It’s a tradition.

Everyone is very excited. Baby Prinz is seldom seen after surviving 12 annual coup attempts and assassinations. His Papa managed 27 before finally being killed by revolutionaries, and the people know that when Baby ceremonially appears again, they can have another go at the little dictator. It’s also tradition…

As festivities escalate, secret police are everywhere: spying on gatherings of one or more people and anticipating trouble on every side. The oppressed and very drunk citizens carry on regardless, gleefully aware of the covert Seguridad cops’ big blunder. Each spy/thug wears exactly the same Marsupilami costume…so they can recognize each other in the crowds…

There is one snag, however. Spoiled, despotic fop Baby Prinz has reached his emotional limit. His nerve has gone. He cannot face making a balcony speech to the foul, unwashed rabble who are literally beneath him.. and probably all concealing a weapon to kill him with. He just wants to curl up in his sensory deprivation tank with his collection of plush animal toys, but his overbearing and bullying major domo/butler/father’s best friend won’t let him…

Just one appearance is enough. The crowds confirm that their tyrant is not a “real man” and their shouts convince the army (the usual suspects and beneficiaries of every Palombian revolution) pick sides and start the process all over again…

As his guardian leads Baby Prinz to safety through long-disused escape tunnels, the rioting people are briefly halted by the rumour of deadly mechanised secret weapons. These mobile landmines are also disguised as Marsupilamis, and the entire revolution is being screened live by television cameramen even more ferocious than the rioters…

All this time the jungle kids, macaw and true Marsupilami have been heading towards the largely abandoned zoo, where the keeper and his wife are drinking and viewing all the excitement from the comfort of his office. The former government employees’ position of safely distanced neutral observance vanishes as the Baby and his major domo exit the escape tunnel under the lion enclosure (formerly the far-safer sloth cage), leaving the big cats their own way out via the tunnel back to the palace.

Safely stashing the fed-up, brain-shocked dictator in another cage, his bad but loyal butler goes looking for hidden passports, unaware that his useless boss has piqued the waning attention of an astoundingly ancient inmate… particularly the froufrou designer handbag with all the designer recreational pharmaceuticals in it…

As latest opportunist Aquileo Zavatas declares himself the new boss, the jungle-based rescue party’s progress is briefly halted when rioters attempt to remove Marsupilami’s “disguise” and discover to their eternal regret that there are worse things in life than a cop in a monkey suit… especially after the furious furry (called by Polombians “El diablo”, and “La catástrofe amarilla”) is trapped inside a tank carrying live rounds and more than lives up to his hype…

Joined by his friends, they continues causing chaos in the streets, even as the old Marsu revives and proceeds to enact his new last wish: travelling to the fabled Marsupilami’s grave yard to end his days among his own kind. Typically, the leechlike Baby Prinz has attached himself to the old beast and the macaw and goes with them…

Ending with astute political comics commentary and a fantastic twist of fate, this tale is a superbly savvy comparison of duty, family values and the power of corruption, but don’t worry about all that because it’s also another masterfully madcap rollercoaster of hairsbreadth escapes, close shaves and sardonic character assassinations, packed to the whiskers with wit and hilarity.

These eccentric exploits of the garrulous golden monkeys are moodily macabre, furiously funny and pithily pertinent, offering engagingly riotous romps and devastating debacles for wide-eyed kids of every age all over the world. Fancy channelling your inner El diablo and joining in the fun? It all stars with Hoobee, Hoobah Hoobah…
© Dupuis, Dargaud-Lombard s.a. 1990 by Franquin, Yann & Batem. English translation © 2020 Cinebook Ltd.

Mickey All-Stars (The Disney Masters Collection)


By Giorgio Cavazzano & Joris Chamberlain and many & various: translated by David Gerstein & Jonathan H. Gray (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-68396-369-1 (HB) eISBN 978-1-68396-422-3

Created by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks, Mickey Mouse was first seen – if not heard – in the silent cartoon Plane Crazy. The animated short fared poorly in a May 1928 test screening and was promptly shelved.

It’s why most people who care cite Steamboat Willie – the fourth completed Mickey feature – as the official debut of the mascot mouse and his co-star and occasional paramour Minnie Mouse since it was the first to be nationally distributed, as well as the first animated feature with synchronised sound. The film’s astounding success led to the subsequent rapid release of its fully completed predecessors Plane Crazy, The Gallopin’ Gaucho and The Barn Dance, once they too had been given new-fangled soundtracks.

From those rather timid and tenuous beginnings grew an immense fantasy empire, but film was not the only way Disney conquered hearts and minds. With Mickey a certified, solid gold screen sensation, the mighty mouse was considered a hot property ripe for full media exploitation and he quickly invaded America’s most powerful and pervasive entertainment medium: comic strips…

In close to a century of existence, Walt Disney’s anthropomorphic everyman Mickey Mouse has tackled his fair share of weirdos and super freaks in tales crafted by gifted creators from every corner of the world. A true global phenomenon, the little wonder staunchly overcame all odds and pushed every boundary, and he’s always done so as the prototypical nice guy beloved by all.

He might have been born in the USA, but the Mouse belongs to all humanity now. Mickey has always been and is still a really big deal in Europe and thus, when his 90th anniversary loomed, a comics movement grew to celebrate the event in a uniquely comic strip way.

Invitations went out to creators with a connection to Disney endeavours from countries like Denmark, Germany, Holland, Italy, Belgium, France and more. The rules were simple: each auteur or team would have a single page to do as they liked to, for and with Mickey and all his Disney pals, with the only proviso that each exploit must begin and end with the Mouse passing through a door. The whole affair would be framed by an opening and closing page from illustrator Giorgio Cavazzano and scenarist Joris Chamberlain…

The result is a stunning joyous and often wholesomely spooky rollercoaster ride through the minds of top flight artists all channelling their own memories, feelings and childhood responses to the potent narrative legacy of Mickey & Friends: a tumbling, capacious, infinitely varied journey of rediscovery and graphic virtuosity that is thrilling, beautiful and supremely satisfying.

This translation comes with an explanatory Foreword laying out the rules far better than I just did and ends with ‘The All-Star Lineup’ offering full and informative mini biographies of all concerned responsible for each page.

They are – in order of appearance – Flix, Dav, Keramidas, Fabrice Parme, Alfred, Brüno, Batem & Nicholas Pothier, Federico Bertolucci & Frédéric Brrémaud, Silvio Camboni & Denis-Pierre Filippi, Thierry Martin, Guillaume Bouzard, José Luis Munuera, Alexis Nesme, Fabrizio Petrossi, Jean-Philippe Peyraud, Pirus, Massimo Fecchi, Boris Mirroir, Godi, Florence Cestac, Éric Hérenguel, Marc Lechuga, Cèsar Ferioli, Tebo, Clarke, Dab’s, Pieter De Pootere, Antonio Lapone, Ulf K, Pascal Regmauld, Johan Pilet & Pothier, Mathilde Domecq, Nicolas Juncker, Jean-Christophe & Pothier, Mike Peraza, Arnaud Poitevin & Chamberlain, Olivier Supiot, Éric Cartier, Zanzim, Marco Rota, Paco Rodriguez, Sascha Wüsterfeld, and the aforementioned Giorgio Cavazzano & Joris Chamberlain.

Frantic, frenzied fun for one and all. Everything you could dream of and so much more…

© 2021 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.

Cedric volume 7: Isn’t It Past Your Bedtime?


By Laudec & Cauvin; colours by Leonardo, translated by Jerome Saincantin (Cinebook)
ISBN: 978-1-80044-025-8 (PB Album/Digital edition)

Raoul Cauvin is one of Europe’s most successful comics scripters. Born in Antoing, Belgium in 1938, by 1960 he was working in the animation department of publishing giant Dupuis after studying Lithography. Happily, he quickly discovered his true calling was writing funny stories and began a glittering, prolific career at Le Journal de Spirou.

With Salvérius, he conceived the astounding successful Bluecoats, and dozens more award-winning series like Sammy, Cupidon, Les Femmes en Blanc, Pauvre, Lampil Boulouloum et Guiliguili, and Agent 212: cumulatively comprising well over 240 separate albums.

His collaborator on superbly witty kid-friendly family strip Cédric is Italian born, Belgium-raised Tony de Luca, who studied electro-mechanics and toiled as an industrial draughtsman before making his own break into bandes dessinée. Following some fanzine efforts in the late 1970s as “Laudec”, he landed soap-style strip Les Contes de Curé-la-Fl’ûte at Le Journal de Spirou in 1979. He traded that for a brace of war-time serials (L’an 40 in 1983 and Marché Noir et Bottes à Clous in 1985) whilst working his way around the comic’s other strips. In 1987, he joined Cauvin on the first Cédric shorts. From then on all was child’s play…

We have Dennis the Menace (the Americans have their own too, but he’s not the same) whilst the French-speaking world has Cédric: an adorable, lovesick rapscallion with a heart of gold and an irresistible penchant for mischief. He’s also afflicted with raging amour…

Collected albums – 34 so far – of variable-length strips ranging from a ½ page to half a dozen began appearing in 1989, and remain amongst the most popular and best-selling in Europe, as is the animated TV show spun off from the strip.

…A little Word to the Wise: this is not a strip afraid to suspend silly yoks in deference to a little suspense or even near-heartbreak. The bonny boy is crushingly smitten with Chen: a Chinese girl newly arrived in class and so very far out of his league, leading to frequent and painful confrontations and miscommunications. That gradually starts changing here…

Whilst the advice given by his lonely, widowed grandpa is seldom of any practical use, it often picks open scabs from the elder’s long, happy but now concluded marriage. These moments can reduce normal humans to tears…

This seventh Cinebook translation debuted in Europe in 1995 as Cédric – Parasite sur canapé and opens with a typically chaotic school event as ‘Look at the Birdie’ details why photographers hate kids and school photo day, after which Grandpa is shamed into a new coat by a brief park encounter in ‘Worn Out’…

When the old duffer comes down with a virus the well-meaning kid borrows a neighbour’s baby thermometer and makes the mistake of telling his ailing ancestor how it was most recently used in ‘Sick from Top to Bottom’, after which Cedric confronts the true emotional cost of donating old toys to charity in ‘The Christmas Present’.

‘Shocking’ takes a dive into drama as Cedric witnesses a car accident up close, but his parents can’t conceive of why the school psychologist can’t see him…

Body issues surprisingly arise when the kid the accidentally glimpses Grandpa in the bath and inadvertently shakes the elder’s formerly robust self-image in ‘A Critical Eye’ and ‘Blurp!’ reveals a close – and illicit – encounter with Asian cuisine resulting in an unforeseen gastric event before a romantic turning point arrives when Cedric and Chen eavesdrop on the adults recapturing their own youthful days in ‘Shall We Dance?’

Following a classmate’s funeral, the boy’s ‘Low Spirits…’ prompt an uplifting pep talk from dad that has the reverse effect upon the old guy (theoretically) nearest the grave, and a common nightmare comes true, sparking a near riot at school when Cedric becomes ‘Prisoner of the Toilet’…

A bone of domestic contention devolves into four-way chaos over what to watch on TV, with Grandpa eventually triumphing through guile and long-experience in ‘Whatever it Takes…’ after which birthday girl Chen proves a little less than perfect when her ‘Pastry Failure…’ incapacitates her devout admirer…

‘Grandpa Gets Some Air’, in which the old fossil responds to the gift of a free flight in a two-man plane with his typical cunning, and cowardice is followed by ‘Payment in Kind’ wherein the hapless lad dutifully tries fundraising by selling school raffle tickets but is instead introduced the concept of “barter”…

Cedric’s mediocre sporting achievements are again exposed in cross-country lark ‘Where Are the Others?’ and ‘Reluctant Volunteer’ shows why so many kids hate clowns – as well as a uniquely Cedric response to circus acts – before this show closes with the last bow of a veteran cast member. ‘Recline? Decline!’ sees Grandpa finally part with his beloved Him-shaped armchair. Typically, the high design replacement is not what anybody wants or is comfortable with…

Sharp, rapid-paced, warmly witty yet unafraid to explore life’s harshest moments, the exploits of this painfully keen, beguilingly besotted rapscallion are a charming example of how all little boys are just the same and infinitely unique. Cedric is a picture-perfect family portrait ideal for youngsters of every vintage…
© Dupuis 1995 by Cauvin & Laudec. All rights reserved. English translation © 2021 Cinebook Ltd.

Green Eggs and Maakies


By Tony Millionaire (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-618-8 (HB/Digital edition)

As a career and lifestyle, cartooning has far more than its share of individuals with a unique perspective on life. Ronald Searle, Charles Addams, George Herriman, Gerald Scarfe, Rick Geary, Steve Bell, Berke Breathed, Ralph Steadman, Bill Watterson, Matt Groening, Gary Larson – the list is potentially endless.

Perhaps it’s the power to create entire carefully curated and scrupulously sculptured worlds coupled with the constant catharsis of vented spleen that so colours their work – whether they paint or draw – or maybe it’s simply the crucible of constant deadlines that makes their efforts so addictive and effective.

Tony Millionaire loves to draw and does it very, very well: referencing classical art, vintage children’s book illustration and an eclectic mix of pioneering comic strip draughtsmen like George McManus, Rudolph Dirks, Cliff Sterrett, Frank Willard, Harold Gray, Elzie Segar and that George Herriman guy. These influences, styles and sensibilities he seamlessly blends with the vision of European engravings masters from the “legitimate” side of the pictorial storytelling racket. The result is eye-popping…

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 formative influences.

He has a variety of graphical strings to his bow – such as his own coterie of books for children like the superbly stirring Billy Hazelnuts and Sock Monkey series; animation triumphs and the brilliant if disturbing weekly strip Maakies – which recounts the riotously vulgar and absurdly surreal adventures of Irish monkey Uncle Gabby and fellow dissolute über-alcoholic/nautical adventurer Drinky Crow.

They are abetted but never aided by a peculiarly twisted, off-kilter cast of reprobates, antagonists and confrontational well-wishers such as Drunken Cop, old Wachtel, The Captain’s Daughter and avian Aunt Phoebe whilst constantly opposed by nefarious Gallic crocodile The Frenchman. Or not. Sometimes. It depends…

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 like Linus and Rocky. There was even an animated series on Adult Swim.

Since continuity usually plays second fiddle to the avalanche of inventive ideas and outré action 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 still finds a welcome with Slackers, Laggards, the un-Christian and all those scurrilous lost Generations since X… and everyone addicted to bad taste tomfoolery. This lovely lush landscape collection from 2013 compiles two years of impossibly wonderful weirdness and plumbs new depths of daft depravity proving clearly time cannot wither his infinitely grotesque variety one little bit…

In the grand tradition of the earliest US newspaper cartoon features, each episode comes with a linked mini-strip running across the foot of the strip – although often that link is quite hard to ascertain. Nominally and notionally based in a naval setting of rousing rip-roaring 19th century sea-faring situations, 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.

Be warned: Millionaire’s gags are utterly unfettered by bounds of taste or simplistic acquiescence to wholesome fun-squelching decency.

He often promotes his other creative endeavours on Maakies pages and digresses into autobiography and personal rants, brings in guest creators to mess with his toys and even invites the readership to contribute: ideas, pictures, objects of communal interest – especially any tattoos his dedicated readership can be enticed/bothered to submit. This penetratingly incisive, witty and often poignant cartoon arena is his playground and if you don’t like it, leave… but quietly please, ‘cause there’s a hangover going on here most days…

Green Eggs and Maakies offers, in starkly indisputable monochrome, more of the wonderful same with such spit-take, eye-watering, drinks-coming-out-of-your-nose moments as how mermaids and ugly fish are created, fun with snakes, the thoughts of ‘Real Ladies of the Dog Park’; arguably the best Superman fart joke ever, and so much more, scraped like barnacles from the edges of all time and space and history.

Moreover, in a positive frenzy of public-spirited beneficence, this book features ‘Maakies Womb Portraits’; returning visits of ‘Dr. Dubel, Helicopter Faith Healer’; easily absorbed lessons on ‘How to Drink’; scatological marriage proposals, a running commentary on ‘Married Days’ and general sex advice; revelations of ‘The Accidental Sobrietist’; secrets of such self-surgical procedures as removing impacted belly hair or how to conduct an auto-splenectomy; an ode to ‘The Robust Human Liver’ and more bright ideas from ‘The Universal Moon Genius’.

All the timeless favourite themes Millionaire specialises in are on show, and the usual variations of sordid sexual encounters, ghastly interspecies progeny, assorted single entendres, bodily function faux pas and gory death-scenes share space with some of literature’s greatest poets and sots – who never knew what hit them…

There are even a few continued tales starring ‘Noah’s Ark’, barbarian dwarf ‘Klaus Santa, son of Kleas, son of Wachtel’ and two sets of cut-out, colour-and-keep Christmas tree ornaments to make any seasonal pine a domestic no-go zone…

If you’re not easily upset this is a spectacularly funny and rewarding strip, one of the most constantly creative and entertaining in existence today, and if you can thrive on gorge-rousing gags and mind-bending rumination this is an experience you simply cannot deny yourself.

If you’re still not a fan, Green Eggs and Maakies is the perfect opportunity to become one, and if you’re already converted it’s an ideal gift for them that isn’t…
© 2013 Tony Millionaire. All rights reserved.

Lucky Luke volume 19: On the Daltons’ Trail


By Morris & Goscinny, translated by Luke Spear (Cinebook)
ISBN: 978-1-84918-007-8 (PB Album/Digital edition)

Doughty, Dashing and Dependable cowboy champion Lucky Luke is a rangy, implacably even-tempered do-gooder able to “draw faster than his own shadow”. He amiably ambles across the fabulously mythic Old West, enjoying light-hearted adventures on his rather sarcastic wonder-horse Jolly Jumper. The taciturn nomad regularly interacts with a host of historical and legendary figures as well as even odder folk in tales drawn from key themes of classic cowboy films – as well as some uniquely European ideas…

Over seven decades his unceasing exploits have made him one of the top-ranking comic characters in the world, generating upwards of 85 individual albums with sales totalling in excess of 300 million in 30 languages… thus far. That renown has led to a mountain of spin-off albums and toys, computer games, animated cartoons, a plethora of TV shows and live-action movies and even commemorative exhibitions. No theme park yet, but who knows when…?

The brainchild of Belgian animator, illustrator and cartoonist Maurice de Bévère (“Morris”) and first seen in Le Journal de Spirou’s seasonal Annual L’Almanach Spirou 1947, Luke sprang to laconic life in 1946, before inevitably ambling into his first weekly adventure ‘Arizona 1880’ on December 7th 1946.

Working solo until 1955, Morris produced nine albums of affectionate sagebrush spoofery before teaming with old pal and fellow trans-American tourist Rene Goscinny. When Rene became regular wordsmith, Luke attained dizzying, legendary, heights starting with Des rails sur la Prairie (Rails on the Prairie) which began serialisation August 25th 1955. In 1967, the six-gun straight-shooter switched sides, joining Goscinny’s own magazine Pilote with La Diligence (The Stagecoach).

Goscinny co-created 45 albums with Morris before his untimely death, from whence Morris soldiered on both singly and with other collaborators. The artist died in 2001, having drawn fully 70 adventures, plus numerous sidebar sagebrush sagas crafted with Achdé, Laurent Gerra, Benacquista & Pennac, Xavier Fauche, Jean Léturgie, Jacques Pessis and others, all taking their own shot at the venerable vigilante…

Lucky Luke has history in Britain too, having first pseudonymously amused and enthralled young readers during the late 1950s, syndicated to weekly anthology Film Fun. He later rode back into comics-town in 1967 for comedy paper Giggle, using the nom de plume Buck Bingo.

In each of these venues – as well as many attempts to follow the English-language album successes of Tintin and Asterix – Luke laconically puffed on a trademark roll-up cigarette which hung insouciantly and almost permanently from his lip. However, in 1983 Morris – amidst pained howls and muted mutterings of “political correctness gone mad” – substituted a piece of straw for the much-travelled dog-end, thereby garnering for himself an official tip of the hat from the World Health Organisation.

Strictly for the sake of historical veracity, that tatty dog-end has been assiduously restored for this particular tale and indeed all of Cinebook’s fare – at least on interior pages. They are the most successful in bringing Lucky Luke to our shores and shelves, and it’s clearly no big deal for today’s readership as we’re at 81 translated tomes and still going strong. That’s not even considering the hefty compilations of early pre-Goscinny adventures and the inclusion of spin-offs such as Kid Lucky…

Sur la piste des Dalton was Morris & Goscinny’s 8th collaboration, originally serialised in 1962 before becoming the 17th album release in the same year: a wittily hilarious outing incorporating a little in-story continuity as the dutiful volunteer lawman is called upon to deal with some troublesome old acquaintances. It’s also the story that gave the world a key supporting character: one who ultimately shambled into his own spin-off series…

There’s a penitentiary in Texas that is the regular second home to the appalling Dalton Brothers: the worst and most-feared outlaws in numerous states and territories. Sadly, it is staffed by shiftless idiots, and when once again owlhoot miscreants Averell, Jack, William and devious, slyly psychotic, tyrannical diminutive brother Joe shuck their shackles, the hapless guards trust the facility’s dog to track them down.

Prison guard dog Rin Tin Can is a pathetic pooch with delusions of grandeur: a mutt who is vain, lazy, overly-friendly, exceedingly dim and utterly loyal to absolutely everybody, but the one thing he ain’t is: good at his job…

As Rantanplan – “dumbest dog in the West” and a wicked parody of pioneering cinema canine Rin-Tin-Tin – the pestilential pooch became an irregular co-star before eventually landing his own spin-off series.

Here, after encountering the escapees mid-tunnel and running away, the canine sentinel is dragged into a search party that constantly stops searching seconds before catching their quarry quartet. Moreover, more than a little bit fed up with continually having to recapture the bandit brothers, Lucky has told the guards he’s not helping this time…

That determination only lasts until the brothers rob his rancher pal Old Tex and before long the rangy range-rider is back on their trail, hampered by that well-intentioned but inept hound, while aided by Joe’s frustrated determination to maraud across the region and eternally-hungry Averell’s ceaseless pursuit of another meal…

The tide turns at Horse Gulch where the fugitives get guns, ammo, and transportation (of a sort) and finally resume their favourite pastime, indulging in a rampage of robbery and riot. At the height of the campaign of chaos, Lucky captures and jails Joe. While Luke is deterring a lynch-mob, the dog accidentally finds the remaining brothers and successfully distracts our hero, allowing the Daltons to capture him.

He is humiliatingly traded for Joe’s release and the robbery rollercoaster ramps up until the hero starts thinking smart. Engineering a showdown at Sinful Gulch, Lucky lays his trap and once again triumphs…

Trigger-fast pacing and sublimely stuffed with classic set-piece slapstick, crafty cinematic caricature and potent puns, On the Daltons’ Trail is a brilliant blend of daft wit and rapid action heavy on absurdity, with plenty of canny twists to keep readers guessing and giggling. Here is another wildly entertaining all-ages confection by unparalleled comics masters, affording an enticing glimpse into a unique genre for today’s readers who might well have missed the romantic allure of an all-pervasive Wild West that never was…
© Dargaud Editeur Paris 1971 by Goscinny & Morris. © Lucky Comics. English translation © 2009 Cinebook Ltd.

Marsupilami volume 4: The Pollen of Monte Urticando


By Franquin, Batem & Yann; coloured by Leonardo and translated by Jerome Saincantin (Cinebook)
ISBN: 978-1-84918-458-8 (Album PB/Digital edition)

One of Europe’s most popular comic stars is an eccentric, unpredictable, rubber-limbed ball of explosive energy with a seemingly infinite elastic tail. The frantic, frenetic Marsupilami is a wonder of nature and stalwart of European entertainment who originally spun-off from another immortal comedy adventure strip…

In 1946 Joseph “Jijé” Gillain was crafting eponymous keystone strip Spirou for flagship publication Le Journal de Spirou when he abruptly handed off the entire kit and caboodle to his assistant Franquin. The apprentice took the reins, slowly abandoned a previous format of short complete gags to pioneer longer adventure serials, and began introducing a wide and engaging cast of new characters.

For 1952’s Spirou et les héritiers, he devised a beguiling and boisterous South American critter to the mix. The hairy hero returned over and over again: a phenomenally popular magic animal who inevitably grew into a solo star of screen, toy store, console games and albums all his own. Franquin also frequently included the bombastic little beast in Spirou’s increasingly fantastic escapades until his resignation in 1969…

André Franquin was born in Etterbeek, Belgium on January 3rd 1924. A bit of a prodigy, he began formal art training at École Saint-Luc in 1943, but when the war forced the school’s closure a year later, the lad found animation work at Compagnie Belge d’Animation in Brussels. Here he met Maurice de Bevere (Lucky Luke‘s creator Morris), Pierre Culliford (Peyo, creator of The Smurfs) and Eddy Paape (Valhardi, Luc Orient).

In 1945, all but Culliford signed on with publishing house Dupuis, and Franquin began his career as a jobbing cartoonist and illustrator, producing covers for Le Moustique and scouting magazine Plein Jeu.

During those formative early days, Franquin and Morris were being trained by Jijé – at that time the main illustrator at Le Journal de Spirou. He quickly turned the youngsters and fellow neophyte Willy Maltaite – AKA Will – (Tif et Tondu, Isabelle, The Garden of Desire) into a potent creative bullpen dubbed La bande des quatre – or “Gang of Four” – who subsequently revolutionised Belgian comics with their prolific and engaging “Marcinelle school” style of graphic storytelling.

Jijé handed Franquin all responsibilities for the flagship strip part-way through Spirou et la maison préfabriquée, (Le Journal de Spirou #427, June 20th 1946). The eager novice ran with it for two decades, enlarging the scope and horizons until it became purely his own.

Almost every week, fans would meet startling and zany new characters such as comrade and eventual co-star Fantasio or crackpot inventor the Count of Champignac. In the ever-evolving process Spirou et Fantasio became globe-trotting journalists, continuing their weekly exploits in unbroken four-colour glory and “reporting back” their exploits in Le Journal de Spirou…

In a splendid example of good practise, Franquin mentored his own band of apprentice cartoonists during the 1950s. These included Jean Roba (La Ribambelle, Boule et Bill/Billy and Buddy), Jidéhem (Sophie, Starter, Gaston Lagaffe/Gomer Goof) and Greg (Bruno Brazil, Bernard Prince, Achille Talon, Zig et Puce), who all worked with him during his tenure on Spirou et Fantasio.

In 1955 a contractual spat with Dupuis resulted in Franquin signing up with publishing rivals Casterman on Le Journal de Tintin, collaborating with René Goscinny and old pal Peyo whilst creating the raucous gag strip Modeste et Pompon.

Franquin and Dupuis patched things up extremely quickly, and he returned to Le Journal de Spirou; subsequently – in 1957 – co-creating Gaston Lagaffe, and now legally obliged to carry on his Tintin work too. From 1959, writer Greg and background artist Jidéhem assisted Franquin, but by 1969 the artist had reached his Spirou limit and resigned for good, happily taking his mystic yellow monkey with him…

Plagued in later life by bouts of depression, Franquin passed away on January 5th 1997, but his legacy remains: a vast body of work that reshaped the landscape of European comics. Moreover, having learned his lessons about publishers, Franquin retained all rights to Marsupilami and in the late 1980’s began publishing his own new adventures of the fuzzy and rambunctious miracle-worker.

He tapped old comrade Greg as scripter and invited commercial artist/illustrator Luc Collin (pen name Batem) to collaborate on – and later monopolise – the art duties for a new series of raucous comedy adventures. In recent years the commercial world has triumphed again and since 2016 the universes of Marsupilami and Spirou have again collided allowing the old firm to act out in shared stories again…

Now numbering 32 albums (not including all-Franquin short-story collection volume #0, AKA Capturez un Marsupilami), the fourth of these was Le pollen du Monte Urticando, released in November 1989 and translated with staggering accuracy here as Marsupilami: The Pollen of Monte Urticando.

Blessed with a talent for mischief, the Marsupilami is a deviously adaptive anthropoid inhabiting the rain forests of Palombia and regarded as one of the rarest animals on Earth. It speaks a language uniquely its own and also has a reputation for causing trouble and instigating chaos. The species is rare and is fanatically dedicated to its young. Sometimes that takes the form of “tough love”…

Although touching down in the dense Palombian rainforest, this saga introduces fresh exotic vistas and some more interesting facts about the astounding simians in another compelling, wildly wild wildlife presentation from a veteran team of unnatural historians…

It transpires that some distance from the natural habitat of the beasts, a desolate old caldera is a micro-environment housing the last specimens of the Comitl cactus. Every 15 years the spiky plants eject huge clouds of pollen that flood the arid enclosure before spreading far and wide. For inexplicable reasons, this potent powder has a marked effect on young Marsupilamis, and when the latest batch starts changing the proud parents’ new brood, it’s a sign of a rite of passage coming…

Reluctantly bringing his little trio to the primordial enclave to trigger the next stage in their development, daddy dearest tearfully ditches his toddling brood, trusting the wonder stuff to wreak its magic and that the lava, sinister vegetation and primordial monsters won’t bring tragedy…

A wry compendium of bizarre fantasy, inspired non-stop Tom & Jerry style gag riffs and devilish whimsical bemusement, this tale premiers the most sympathetic “villain” in comics history in the form of tatty, toothless, starving and undeterrable aged jaguar Gatogordo, to cap a delicious manual in Marsupilami rearing. This is a hilarious rollercoaster of thrills and chills that naturally restores order at the last, reuniting panicking  parents with pups one step closer to being full grown pains in the… Palombia.

Another masterfully madcap rollercoaster of hairsbreadth escapes, close shaves and sardonic character assassinations, this eccentric exploit of the unflappable golden monkeys is moodily macabre, furiously funny and instantly engaging: providing riotous romps and devastating debacles for wide-eyed kids of every age all over the world. How about channeling your inner child and joining in the fun?

Hoobee, Hoobah Hoobah!
© Dupuis, Dargaud-Lombard s.a. 1989 by Franquin, Yann & Batem. English translation © 2019 Cinebook Ltd.