Thursday, June 07, 2012


Y'know, if I never bought that POPEYE comic book a few weeks back I wouldn't've even known that a collection of comic book material by the noted screwball cartoonist Milt Gross had even hit the racks! Can you imagine that there's been a book out for a coupla years already containing nothing but Gross' various contributions to the under-the-radar American Comics Group back inna forties/fifties and I, a person who could really use the finely honed wit 'n wisdom of this oft-ignored artist dished out with regularity, wasn't even aware of its mere existence! Well better late'n never I say, but on the other hand the entrance of this book into my life two years afterwards is kinda like taking two years outta my life and throwing it down the toidy. Y'know, like these people who've been in comas for years or on certain medicines that messed up their comprehension of time and it's still like twenny years ago for 'em...kinda makes me wanna live an additional two earthspins than I'll be allotted if only to make up for this drastic loss of time, if not life!

We all know just how important Milt Gross was to the growth and development of the wackier side o' comic strip creativity, but few (inc. myself for quite some time) didn't know that Gross had more or less gone over to the comic book side of the biz after flooding the twenties and thirties with some of the boffo-est creations to hit the funnies. Along with many other talents it was Gross who exemplified the Golden Age of Newspaper Comics, and although he never received the publicity or notoriety that such compats as Ernie Bushmiller (a good pal) did his influence continues to linger on if only in dribbles and drops. Maybe it ain't as strong as it could've been given just how toned down comic strips became afterwards, but scratch an underground cartoonist of the sixties or some fanzine nutzoid and you just might get a whiff of Gross here and there.

Gotta admit up front that most of these comic book sagas just don't measure up to what Gross was doin' on the funny page. Maybe the guy was workin' in an idiom that wasn't conduit to his talents, or maybe his later work just didn't have the zing of his classic NIZE BABY 'n DAVE'S DELICATESSEN Sunday pages which continue to make me roll on the floor in ecstatic frenzy a good eighty years after the fact. Still Gross at his worst outdoes that guy from THE BOONDOCKS' best, with such old favorites like Count Screwloose 'n "That's My Pop" revisited amongst such newies as "Pete the Pooch," "Moronica" and personal fave "The Kitty-Katty Korner" featuring a classroom that was probably about as blitzoid as the one I was thrust into.

'n even some of the old standbys do themselves well, such as the Count Screwloose 'un 'bout the guy who could eat anything but kumquats and  the "That's My Pop" where "Doc" Pearson devises an "everything on the house" gimmick for a medical clinic's opening day! And hey, considerin' that this 'un'll probably cost you less than a year's sub to MAD at least you'll be guaranteed a whole lot more guffaws'n that once-venerable mag has delivered on since the early-seventies at least! (And speaking of MAD, longtime contributor Al Jaffee contributes a "fold-introduction" that really says all there is to say, to which I can respond in the loudest and clearest tones "BANANA OIL!")

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