Wednesday, November 12, 2014

BOOK REVIEW! TUMBLEWEEDS #5 by Tom K. Ryan (Fawcett, 1972)
I still dunno what got into me that day I bought this paperback at the now long-gone Strouss' downtown Youngstown Ohio store! I mean, at the time of this 'un's release I certainly was NOT 
whatcha'd call a fan of the looser post-PEANUTS-era comic strips like BC, THE WIZARD OF ID and ANIMAL CRACKERS. Not by a long shot---my tastes ran towards the firmer, more traditional comics like ARCHIE, NANCY and PRISCILLA'S POP not to mention a good portion of those strips that were seeing their final days around the time the new crop of comic crap was beginning to replace 'em on the funny page. Comics like TUMBLEWEEDS just seemed too modern and snide for my twennysome years behind the times and proud of it sense of comic strip elegance, and frankly the last thing this fifties barbershop kid stuck inna hippydippy world wanted to read was a strip like this 'un!

But bought it I did instead of the usual Marvel, DC and Archie Comics tossout that I was wont to get while probing the Mezzanine at that once-viable store, and let's just say that after enduring the snarky sagas and dryer'n an Arab's anus humor to be found in this book I quickly shoved it to the back of the paperback rack in my own personal newsstand of a bedroom book shelf. While all of the other paperbacks there had become dog-eared and creased due to constant reading TUMBLEWEEDS #5 remained almost as glossy and brand-spanking new as the day it was bought, and despite a few age spots and a slightly dinged corner it holds up a whole lot sweller'n some of the paperbacks you'll find cluttering up the flea market tables of many a retiree out to make a few bux on some gunky ol' weekend.

But as we all know times change, and so do old fanablas like myself whose tastes mutate and glop all over the place to the point where maybe I can enjoy some of the dry gags 'n subtle guffaws that TUMBLEWEEDS was best known for (at least amongst the small batch of fanz who kept this strip going for nigh on twenny-two years).

Not being that much of a fan of western strips other'n the recurring panels in OUT OUR WAY as well as some old CASEY RUGGLES book I chanced upon, I gotta admit that TUMBLEWEEDS creator Tom K. Ryan did a fair job of taking the ol' western theme and updating it for the new era of BC/WIZARD OF ID styled strips. Nothing earth-shattering, but good enough especially when stacked up against the positively staid and unfunny strips one sees these days. The dialogue tends to get quite wordy and sometimes the gags are more groans than guffaws, but I can still appreciate some of the catch-you-off guard humor that pops up on scant occasion. 'n although the artwork ain't as eye-popping suburban slob friendly as the Bob Montana-era ARCHIE or Bushmiller delineated NANCY comics most certainly were, they sure beat the feminized cutesy-pie plop permeating the funny pages of today which I still say is a leading cause as to why newspapers are dying off.

Good enough that even the lameass gags revolving around Tumbleweeds' horse Epic ain't as hopeless as I originally thought they were, while the Poohawk Indians portrayed are high-larious to the point where I get the idea that even the most Marxist of First Nations types might get a laugh outta the way they interact and throw some good zingers (verbally as well as visually) at the whiteys. Some of the takes on various western cliches might wear thin, but then again ya gotta admit that when the comics in this collection were drawn (1969) those western satires were still a bit (at the least) fresher'n they were when TUMBLEWEEDS finally packed it up in 1987.

True it ain't a classic in the way I like my comic strips, but at least TUMBLEWEEDS had its own charm, some nice artwork and a strange subtle nature that sorta petered out when the mid-sixties minimalist comics gave way to the comparative snoozers seen today.  'n hey, I would say that I was slightly inspired by these comics even to the point where I just might pick up this nineties collection of selected strips that the local Thrift Shops just can't give away, and hey can you tell me of a better way for me to squander my fifty cents???

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