(by Peyo. Papercutz, 2010)
This comic was released to promote the upcoming graphic novel series reprinting Peyo’s classic Smurfs comics in anticipation of the upcoming live action Smurfs movie that appears to be set in New York. But whatever the intentions, this is a pretty good comic in itself.
This issue doesn’t indicate when the story — the first appearance of Gargamel — was first drawn, but I’m assuming it was late 50s or early 60s. Either way it struck me as very accomplished for the time. Peyo has a clean, economical but attractive line and a cinematic (action-to-action) style that calls to mind Albert Uderzo’s work on Asterix in its texture and zippy kinetics. I’m also a sucker for comics with lots of panels per page, and 12 to 13 is normal for Peyo. Having only been familiar with the cartoon before, I also found that the use of the word “Smurf” as a substitute for almost any part of speech was done even more indiscriminately in the comic and to much greater comedic effect.
There’s a light bit of biography on Peyo in the back which is okay, and I found interesting the fact that the Smurfs figurines spawned the show and not the other way around — something I never knew before. So this comic is both fun and educational and for only $1 you really can’t go wrong.
THE WIZARD KING
(by Wallace Wood. Self published, 1978.)
This book reminded me a lot of Jeff Smith’s Bone in that it starts out as a very quirky and charming fantasy before settling into a Tolkienesque holding pattern.
There is a wonderful kind of absurd Fantasy logic to it at the start. The story follows Odkin, a young member of a race called the Immi, on his quest to find a magic sword that can resurrect an ancient king to save the land, yada yada. Before he embarks, Odkin sleeps with all the women of the village as we are told Immi women “were extremely willing.” Other women tend to be extremely nude much of the time, this being late period Wally Wood. A wizard gives Odkin a magic pouch which produces a bottomless supply of loaves of bread, and “Resisting the temptation to head for the nearest town and start a bakery, Odkin started out.”
The writing is heavy with narrative captions, but somehow they never feel intrusive (because it’s Fantasy?), and they are well balanced by lots of dialog as well. They also allow events to transpire very quickly so that a lot of plot is developed in this relatively short book.
The art is, of course, spectacular. Nature scenes are particularly tactile, and I loved the cute character design of Odkin with his widdle sword and black eye sockets — oddly not disturbing.
The book ends to-be-continued, and I don’t know that it ever was given Wood’s untimely death. But I wonder if maybe a premature end is a good thing given that it was starting to look pretty generic already in the second half of the first book.
THE FABULOUS FURRY FREAK BROTHERS LIBRARY VOLUME 3
This book is kind of “post” underground, I guess you’d call it. The stories in this collection were done in the mid-70s, well after the underground collapse, but Shelton is still at the top of his game here.
I think the Freak Brothers (and Shelton along with them) tend to get dismissed as pot-smoking hippy comics but that’s far from the truth. (Although… I did buy it off a scraggly guy at the last Camberwell Fair walking around with an armload of beat up comics for sale he could barely manage and looking pretty hard up for cash…) There is sharp, intelligent, funny satire here. In the 35-page “Grass Roots” storyline, the Brothers manage to acquire a farm out in the country and find some girls to move with them but it all starts to go horribly wrong. The microcosmic democracy they establish allows for commentary on politics, feminism, and — when gold is discovered — greed and commercialism. That’s a whole lot for such a short piece, and is every bit as good as “The Idiots Abroad” which many people would consider the best Freak Brothers storyline.
Well — short but long in this collection. The shorter stories often run only couple of pages (or are 1-page gags) and can be completely nonsensical but are just as fun as the longer pieces. In either case, Shelton’s stories show more narrative and thematic coherence than you’d get from his Underground peers. I’m not sure if that’s a result of the era or his experience here.
As for the art, depending on who is inking him (the credits are never very clear), for my money Gilbert Shelton is every bit the draftsman that Crumb is. At times the art reminded me of Roy Crane on Wash Tubbs. And Shelton dazzles you with his backgrounds, which is something you don’t usually get from Crumb.
Also, note: I believe there is some kind of new Freak Brothers omnibus that just came out, so that shows you how behind the times I am with these things.