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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3/24/10

Gasoline Alley

This old Gasoline Alley strip from WWII reminds us what it's really like to live in a time of shortages. Judy is looking for scrap metal "for the boys overseas". "I'm working to be lieutenant in the scrap drive." She asks, "Uncle Avery, have you got some metal for me?" Avery only gives her two bent bolts. Lucky Corky has a plan.

3/2/10

February Comic Reviews

February is a short month, but the weather makes it good for reading comics. Since the rain gave me a reason to read, here's what occupied my time.

Normally I don't like massive comic "events," since the story gets lost in ridiculous marketing frenzy and obscure sideline series. But, I accidentally got hooked on the Final Crisis and 52 story lines so I ended up reading & collecting them week by week. True to form, I tried to resist by not subscribing, so I missed some weeks, and picked up others later at comic shows. Luckily DC collected Countdown to Final Crisis for people like me. This multi-volume collection manages to have some spine, although huge sections of the story (War with the Amazons, anyone?) happen off-screen.
Still, I liked the sequence with Trickster & Piper on the run, as well as implications of Mary Marvel receiving her powers from Black Adam. 3.5 out of 5.

Kim Deitch is always a master of story and art, and 'Alias the Cat' didn't disappoint. Previously published as three separate stories this trilogy works great together. Drawn in a style reminiscient of Mickey Mouse circa Steamboat Willy (except, including genitals) and occasionally hearkening of Bill Griffith's version of Levittown, Alias the Cat jumps from ebay to the south seas, from early movie serials to a mysterious "midget town," all in search of the cartoonish devil Waldo that has haunted many of Deitch's work. 4.5 out of 5.



"The Devil's Panties" is the second volume of strips published from the eponymous web comic. Concerning the adventures of a woman who works in a comic book store, draws a strip called "The Devil's Panties," and goes to comic-cons, I was moderately amused, but didn't read the whole book. The stories started to repeat some of their themes in a way that grew old. Still, give it a try, see if you like it. 2.5 out of 5.





Batman: R.I.P. feels like a story that should be in the same category as "The Killing Joke." Grant Morrison is a heavyweight storyteller, and the arc -- ending with the figurative "death" of Bruce Wayne -- is pivotal. Unfortunately, this volume omits some of the issues that surrounded whole story, leaving it feeling thin. I re-read the stories that were included a couple times and they made more sense, but there were still some odd gaps. 3.5 out of 5.




I'm excited about starting Naoki Urasawa's "20th Century Boys" series. This is the epic story of a gang of friends who made a pact when they were in grade school that they would save the world.

Now adults, the suicide of one of the members brings them together to confront an unknown menace called "Friend". The narrative shifts back and forth through time, exploring Japanese pop culture of the 70s as well as events that formed the now middle-aged men. This story is so packed with references they include footnotes at the end of the books. 4.5 out of 5.

I remember first discovering the Freedom Fighters on a campout in Peter Benvenuto's back yard. He had a copy of Justice League #108, and I was blown away by Uncle Sam, the Black Condor, the Human Bomb, and the rest of the team. Little did I know then that they were assembled from the Quality Comics line of superheroes, but I've tried to explore the originals since then. In 'Uncle Sam & the Freedom Fighters: Brave New World' the plot focuses mostly on the Red Bee and her mutations due to an encounter with an alien insect race. I know that the original Red Bee was a guy who appeared in Quality's Hit Comics and used trained bees to stop criminals, but this version of the Bee didn't have the cachet of the regular Freedom Fighters. I liked the art, but the story held too many mutations. 3 out of 5.





I read the "The Incal Noir" by Moebius & Jodorowsky, but this story is so epic that I'll save a review for another time. Short blurb: "one of the best sci-fi graphic novels."









So many of the superhero "graphic novels" are not much more than a couple of issues square bound and slapped with a title. "The Flash: Emergency Stop" is not much different, but at least the story arc is interesting. There's a fun story with a villain called "The Suit," which might either be a haunted suit, or an evil spirit. The volume also includes the origin of the "Speed Force" uniform. These stories remind me of the old Flash comics from the 60's, so I give them a 3.5 out of 5.


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