Bob's Comics Reviews December 1996 Arrows


Jana Christy & John Mitchell: Very Vicky
This is strange stuff, but not in the way most alternative comics are strange-- that is, full of expressionistic violence or suicidal angst. It's more or less screwball comedy-- or perhaps, given the heavy and approving emphasis on drinking, a revival of The Thin Man.

Vicky, a sophisticated New York girl who seems born about fifty years out of her era, arrives in Sandy Shores, Georgia, and makes a few local friends (steady Cris, artist/pop stand clerk Helmut, misfit Peggy) and enemies (Donna and her gang). Also, God has decided on a second incarnation, and wanders the beach as a 40ish nebbish, trying to figure out what's going on with these modern teens.

The peace is threatened by a new set of villains-- the Shriners. ("Shall I rev up the tiny cars?") But Vicky is not without connections-- the Atomic Drinker, for instance, or Pea-Pickin' Patty.

It never really becomes coherent, but it does have a quirky comic sensibility, and the side stuff-- house ads, letters-- is a blast. You can even learn how to make the perfect Old Fashioned.

On the plus side, I have to admire a comic that seems to have nothing to do with anything else in the medium. You don't quite know where it's going to go. On the other hand, it would help if Christy could draw. In the early issues she overworks her art (a common mistake of the beginning artist trying to get past cartooning). By the ninth issue (the second #1) she's become more accomplished and stylized without ever really learning layout or anatomy. Her covers are good, tho'.

The backup pages by Gregory Grinnell-- he calls himself Gregory Damien Grinnell-- do you think it bugs him if you leave out his middle name? like the French call our great master of the macabre "Edgar Poe"? -- completely escape me. But John & Jana's Parade of Pontiffs, starting in issue #7-- an extended comic riff on the life of Pope Celestine V-- is amusing and accessible (and the drawing, with its heavy use of black, works better as well).

(There was a Pope Celestine V, by the way, and they get his original name and occupation (hermit) right, though not his age: he got the job at the age of 80.)

Sam Henderson: Humor Can Be Funny!
Oh, those kids today. So disrespectful. Henderson can't draw, but he self-publishes comics anyway. You read them despite that, because he's funny, in ways running from the sophomoric to the satirical to the surrealistic. (He reminds me of Wolinski, only without the arty misogyny.) He has a way of capturing the speech patterns, trivial insights, and everyday stupidies of the 'average guy' (as in his hilarious panel 'What if Men Had Periods?': "Dude, check it out!" "Alright! High five!"). Occasionally-- I don't know if this justifies the Comics Journal calling him 'avant-garde'-- he plays with the medium, explaining his jokes or deliberately drawing stupid captions.

How to find: Ask for Humor Can be Funny! at your friendly local comics establishment. They have to sell it to you, 'cos Marvel is going belly up. Or write to Sam (14 Bayard St., Apt. 3, Brooklyn NY 11211) for his mini-comic The Magic Whistle.

Walt Holcombe: The King of Persia

Not quite like anything else, although what's it's almost like-- Krazy Kat, Pogo, Bone-- makes for a fine set of models. It's basically a fable set in a timeless Arabian Nights fantasyland where camels talk, kings fall in love with peasant girls, and a fabulous emerald is hidden in a strange land in an idol shaped like Carmen Miranda. The people all talk like characters in Jewish vaudeville, skewed unpredictably: "Without her, the moon don't shine and my heart feels like a bag of dirty marbles!" It's good stuff.

The art is deceptively simple; this sort of expressive, expressionistic cartooning is a lot harder than it looks. And the use of blacks is amazing-- it's prettier than many a book in full color.

(It's a pity Mary Fleener, when she agreed to do an all-ages comic for Bongo Comix, decided to produce insufferable cutesiness, instead of something like this.)

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