DREW & JOSH ALAN FRIEDMAN/Any Similarity to Persons Living or Dead is Purely Coincidental: Ah, the return of the classic. A 15 year old kid discovering Friedman in the mid 80s had to be like a 15 year old kid discovering Wally Wood in the mid 50s. There's just no way said kid could enter such a topsy turvy world without coming out of it not only affected but sure that his cockeyed view of the world wasn't as askew as everyone else told him it was. There was a kindred spirit out there. Some of the stuff might have been impenetrable outside Friedman's head, but the rest of it... oh, boy. Adoration of Shemp. A night pimping with Fred Mertz. Andy Taylor lynching a black man lost in Mayberry and asking for directions. Ed Wood trading cards several years before they were actually on the market. A celebration of everything off kilter that you drew on to chase boredom away was on parade in all it's cotton candy carnival glory! With almost 30 years under it's belt since original publication, it's just as fresh now as it ever way. Journey once more with the young Friedman brothers through the fun house mirror we call life and enjoy the ride. This is pomo before there was pomo and it's still a gasser of off beat humor with great art to boot.
DREW FRIEDMAN/Even More Old Jewish Comedians: The third entry in what is probably Friedman's trilogy tribute to old Jewish comedians, this is a pure art book, and if you are one of those that loves Friedman for his art alone, this is the bathroom book you can have in the nearby rack so you can check out every age line, wart and liver spot. It's a little funny to think of Richard Belzer as an old Jewish comic if you are of a certain age, but he is on Social Security these day so.... There's no words other than the comic's stage name and real name and it's nice to see Friedman giving some overdue love to Pearl Williams in the deal. Here's a must have for the left leaning modern art lover.
R. CRUMB/The Complete Crumb Comics-Vol. 1-The Early Years of Bitter Struggle: While he was still a kid, long before he stumbled into the greeting card world, Crumb and his brother were turning out limited edition comics (some times only one copy was made) that showed his skewed look at the real world was well on it's way to being fully formed. Filled with obsessions that would propel his works throughout his life, there are those that would be loathe to call him a young genius at work, but since this stuff was the seeds of the flowers that did serve as game changers, you have to give him his due as a young genius. We know a bunch of people that would have killed to get this stuff in earlier incarnations when scarcity was more prevalent than it is now in the Internet age, but if you are any kind of comic fan, you owe it to yourself to check this out if it's your first time around.
JOHN BENSON/Sincerest Form of Parody: While we take pause to celebrate Mad Magazine's 60th anniversary, rather than resurrect a bunch of classic articles one more time, here we get a look at several other magazines that tried to catch Mad's lightening in a bottle but tried and failed in the 18 months after Mad's initial burst of success. Filled with the look and feel of Mad, these efforts were marred by not being able to catch that revolutionary certain something that made Mad what it was. Many of the names are forgotten, even if a Norman Maurer pops up here and there. The work isn't substandard by a long shot, it's just a well meaning example of what happens when you try to be a fast second but are only in it for the money. 60 years ago, there was no "Angry Birds", there were comics. Congress hated them and broke their balls as hard as they could to keep them from corrupting the youth of America. What in hell was the establishment protecting anyway? This is a lovely, off beat ride backward through the time tunnel.
CHARLES SCHULZ/Complete Peanuts Vol. 14 1977-78: While "Peanuts" might have been going through an uphip phase during the late 70s, Schulz didn't care and he was running at full speed putting Linus in a love triangle, making eyebrows raise even more about Peppermint Patty and Marcie, sending Charlie Brown on the lam and more inspired craziness that could have spun off as an underground comic. Be real, this stuff came out so long ago that even if you were a die hard fan, you can't possibly remember all the stuff going on across this two year presentation of daily and Sunday strips. Crybaby Boobie? Marcie getting her parents deprogrammed? We should all get our hands on whatever Sparky was smoking those days. A wonderful rejuvenation of classic Americana and must reading if you weren‘t there the first time around.
CHARLES SCHULZ/Complete Peanuts Vol. 15 1979-80: Is it any wonder why Fantagraphics wins awards for their devotion to this series? Peppermint Patty gets Bo Derek corn rows. Charlie Brown is in the hospital for weeks and wondering if he's dead and no one has told him. Linus and Lucy start an airline. Snoopy gets a little schizo. Clearly Schultz wasn't going to take entering his fourth decade with this bunch laying down and letting them get the best of him. Stale? Hah! All the publisher might have done is publish a lavish edition of these two years worth of strips, but they also serve who stand and wait, and making this fine work available in such fine fashion is award worthy. A laugh riot throughout.
CHARLES SCHULZ/Complete Peanuts Vol. 16 1981-82: The early 80s was another sort of fallow period for the strip so there's actually a lot here that might be new because it's new to you. The quality doesn't dip. If you can read it here divorced from the general malaise of the times before Reagononics kicked in and everyone was rich on paper for a while, you can appreciate the humor in these panels that tried to cut through the pall. Sally gets fat and Linus does not want to be her Sweet Babboo. A lot of the usual characters get some time off here, to be expected since you need a lot of breathing room for Peppermint Patty to get shipped off to a school for gifted kids. Not as wild and wooly as other years but always refreshingly on point, the gang sticks to the basics, baseball, Snoopy fighting WWI and stuff like that, but good grief, this is another winner in a winning series.
CHARLES SCHULZ/Complete Peanuts Vol 17 1983-84: It's the mid 80s. Studio 54 is over, and as such, Linus gives up his blanket and starts a support group for other kids trying to do the same. Charlie Brown joins Peppermint Patty's baseball team only to find that she wants him as the mascot, not the pitcher. Love triangles abound. Some classic characters and situations rebound. At this point, you have to classify Schultz in the same category as the guy who carved out Mt. Rushmore by hand--at it for years and shining more as time goes by. A lot of early fans had moved on to other things around now and didn't hit the comic pages of the daily paper as often as they used to. Boy, did they miss out. There's a reason why the Peanuts gang endures and you're sure to find it in these pages. Check it out.
Volume 35/Number 160
March 29, 2011
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2012 Midwest Record
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