3/28/10

"Boody: The Bizarre Comics of Boody Rogers" edited by Craig Yoe

For Christmas I bought my dad a copy of Boody: The Bizarre Comics of Boody Rogers, edited by Craig Yoe, but I only recently had time to borrow it back and read through it. I guess it was only fair, since I used to spend hours reading his old comics, including Babe and Sparky Watts. So, it was nice to have some new material in a condition that is more robust than the old newsprint.

I like the quality of the images and the thickness of the paper in this edition, and also enjoyed the three page introduction by Yoe, the editor, although I would have preferred more narrative from him. It's nice to see Fantagraphics publishing some hard to find older public domain comics, but I'm chafing for more historical context or insight into the artists or writers.
For example, Yoe tantalizes us with mentions of hand-drawn comics by Boody from his childhood, but they aren't included in this volume. And I was confused by the reprint of a strip named Rattlesnake Pete "done for what has been called the very first newsstand comic book" but the introduction fails to mention it. Instead it talks about a strip called Rock Age Roy, Boody's first sale to Dell Publishing. They also don't specify the original issues for the comics: "appeared in various issues...1948 to 1950."

The stories are a good sampling, but I was frustrated by the editing. In both Babe and Big Shot Comics multiple story lines are strung together over the course of many comics. In this volume only the "Hattie Gets Married" storyline is pulled together to read completely. But, at least the selections show you the range of Boody's humor as well as his art. Some pages he would stop the action just to tell jokes. For example, the Justice of the Peace won't marry Hattie and Pinfeathers until they prove they are human.
Justice: "Prove you're a human! Take off your hat!"
Hattie: "I'll take off my hat to no man -- but I can prove I'm human -- here's my army discharge. Read it!"
Justice: "Hmmm - PFC Hattie -- and it says that you suffered from battle fatigue -- what caused that, too many shells exploding near you?"
Hattie: "No-- I was exhausted! I was th' guy who sharpened pencils for Kilroy!"
Justice: "It also states that you won the distinguished flying cross -- were you a pilot?"
Hattie: "Heck no! I was a tail-gunner on a flying saucer!!"
Justice: "Very well--I suppose you're really a human!"
The comics also share other themes. Both Sparky Watts and Babe are unnaturally super strong. Babe and Jasper Fudd are both naive hill-billies thrown in among city folk. Jasper and Dudley both reflect the birth of the teenager, spouting slang and hip slogans while listening to be-bop and wearing zoot suits. And Boody takes any chance he gets to draw odd caricatures, visiting the insect world, the freak show, and even unknown worlds.

The strangest story of all, however, is "The Mysterious Case of Mystery Mountain." Beautiful girls are going missing, and Babe tracks them down to centaurs who are enslaving the women on top of mystery mountain. I was always disturbed by this story, especially when Babe escapes without saving any of the other women. Yoe mentions that Boody's assistant was "Eric Stanton, who went on to create some of the kinkiest, underground S&M porn you're likely to ever find." I'm assuming he mentioned that in association with this story.

If you're looking for great art, bizarre stories, and an influential set of comics, then you'll want to check out Boody. Just don't look for too many explanations.

If you want to see more Boody stories, here are the complete stories from Babe #3, "Babe and the Dying King", "Wedding Bells", and "Slide, Babe, Slide!"


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