Bob's Comics Reviews January 1997 Arrows


Bo Grace: Ernie
The Ernie book is finally out in the stores. Borders hid it from me for awhile-- they filed it under B for BOGRACE-- but my specially trained comics-sniffing Alsatian got it out of them.

Grace has fought a never-ending battle with newspaper editors for the right to publish cartoons in extreme bad taste. The Tribune here in Chicago, which still runs Hi & Lois and Fred Basset, dropped Ernie because the editor's wife found some sequence offensive, sez Grace; and his editors censored the "grope grope" sound effects from the piranha-barracuda matchup. That's right-- they censored a sound effect suggesting an impossible amorousness between two fish. That was a great day for family values, eh?

Moving quickly past the strip's nebbishy namesake, Ernie centers on Uncle Sid, the greatest comic-strip con man since Uncle Duke, if not Mr. O'Malley, and his pals from the Piranha Club-- Enos Pork, M.D., inventor of the armpit-hair toupée; Reverend Bob, whose hand you shouldn't shake at the church door if you haven't removed your rings, and Elvis Zimmerman, used-car dealer who'd cheat his own mother, and does. Then there's Earl the piranha, Ernie's landlady Effie, whose husbands all seem to have met unfortunate ends, which they preferred to her cooking, Zerblatt the alien, Arnold who makes up in zits what he hasn't got in smarts, and the Swedish moose-milking team...

If this doesn't at all sound amusing to you-- if the tone of your frequent letters to the editor is generally described as "aggrieved"-- if the idea of a fast-food restaurant called Mr. Squid leaves you cold-- well, seek elsewhere for your humor; I believe Marmaduke is still appearing. As for me, I want a Mr. Squid doll, or a stuffed piranha.

Ernie is on the Web, in a charming website maintained by Grace himself. Don't miss Grace's hemorrhoid surgery.

Terry LaBan: Cud
Man, why didn't anybody tell me about this guy? This is just pure, distilled essence of fun, occupying a space somewhere in between Gilbert Shelton, Pete Bagge, and Archie. Eno and Plum

I'm a sucker for slice-of-life comics-- and, thankfully, this isn't one of them. It's five-alarm no-holds-barred satire; and LaBan has the rare ability to take a story over the top without ever losing control or lapsing into mere chaos. He knows how to draw funny, as Chuck Jones would say. More impressively, he can actually be funny about sex, which is harder than it sounds. (More than one would-be DFC contributor, for instance, thinks mentioning sex and being funny about sex are the same thing.)

The main feature each issue is the adventures of slackers Eno and Plum. They're amusing, but the back-up stories are even better-- e.g. "Mickey Pimple, Teen Adventurer" in #1, a parody of Terry & the Pirates (with some Tintin thrown in), which has throwaway characters any other cartoonist could build an empire on. Or the send-up of Charles Schulz in #5-- it's not deep, but it's very well done. There's even a surprisingly good story in #3 featuring a Siberian shaman, Muktuk Wolfsbreath.

Plus, LaBan writes 2-page prose pieces in every issue, à la Kurtzman's Mad-- only his are better. All of them feature himself: first, Terry LaBan, drughead/cartoonist; then Laban, cartoonist/rocket scientist; then LaBan, cartoonist/rogue elephant...

back to Metaverse