FF1989: The Eye of Mongombo

The Eye of Mongombo #1-7 by Doug Gray.

Before this series, Doug Gray had a couple of appearances in Critters, I think.

The Eye of Mongombo is a pretty funny comic book about that archaeologist up there (transformed into a duck) who looks for a treasure in South America. Hijinx ensue. A lot.

I find myself without a lot to say about this book. I didn’t read it back then, so this is my first time reading it. It’s fine, I guess? It’s consistently amusing, but somehow it just didn’t quite connect with me. Perhaps the slightly basic artwork has something to do with it…

There’s a few backup stories starring the artist himself.

Hm, I’ve been meaning to mention that I kinda like these Fantagraphics house ads, and perhaps this is the right place to twaddle on about it for a bit.

I think looking at a cover of a comic book is a pretty useless way of determining whether I want to read something or not. Which is why it’s so frustrating that so many ads and shopping web sites only display the cover and none of the interiors.

I can take a half second look at a page and see whether it appeals to me; whether it’s something that will be enjoyable to spend some time with. At least on a page-by-page basis. I won’t have any idea whether the story is stupid or not.

But looking at a cover tells me nothing. Some people who do great covers do lousy storytelling and vice versa. Even people who do astounding pages (like, say, Carl Barks) can do “just good” covers (perhaps because his covers were due a lot more editorial scrutiny than his stories)?

Somebody who does this right is Spit and a Half. John Porcellino shows us a couple of pages from each book, and that makes it such a joy to shop from him. I’ll just open a gazillion tab with books from his catalogue, and *click page* *stare a millisecond* *click buy* (or not) *close tab*. It’s just perfect. And I don’t understand why other web sites don’t follow that format.

Anyway, back to Mongombo…

The Eye of Mongombo was apparently nominated for a Harvey award? It didn’t win.

This series was announced to be lasting ten issues, but no further issues were published after number seven. It didn’t mention that it was the last one.

And I think the storyline had stalled slightly. I mean, it’s a parody adventure, but having the storyline advance a bit would be nice. Instead we spend one whole issue in a hallucination, and then a lot of new characters, like this bunny narrator, are introduced.

But it seems to be a comic book that is fondly remembered: It pops up in surveys like this now and again.

Doug Gray doesn’t seem to have published any comic books after this one was cancelled, although he was writing for Duck Tales for a while. He seems to have been working mostly as an animator, which is a natural progression from Mongombo.

This post is part of the Fantagraphics Floppies series.

On a Roll

I bought these comics by CF a few months back, but they, er, rolled behind a stack of comics, so I forgot about them until tonight.

They’re printed on thermal receipt paper, so they’re monochromatic, but CF has customized them a bit with various stamps at the start and end of each roll.

Winding them back up after reading reminded me of helping my father go through receipt rolls in my childhood. (He had a store.) It didn’t happen a lot, but sometimes you had to chase down big errors, and the only way to do that would be to unwind the roll, looking for that (apparent) 3,000,000 sale…

… and then re-roll it all.

The contents of these rolls are a lot more aesthetically satisfying, though.

You gotta love CF. And the fourth volume of the amazing Powr Mastrs is finally being published in 2017. I’m looking forward to that…

FF1999: Neatish Stuff

The Bradleys #1-6, Junior #1-5 by Peter Bagge.
Martini Baton by Dave Carrino and Peter Bagge.

These are all reprints, and since I’ve read the books these were sourced from (Neat Stuff and Weirdo), I considered skipping them. But then my CDO fired (it’s like OCD, but with the letters in the proper order), and I went ahead and bought them anyway.

They were really cheap, and I was curious as to whether the stories had been reworked in any way.

Nope. I haven’t compared the pages side by side, but the stories from Neat Stuff seem to have been plonked into the new format without any alterations. The magazine size ratio is different than the comic book size ratio, so you have these headings on the top of most of the pages to fill out some space.

But there’s bonus features. Here’s an early piece drawn by David Coulson, who Bagge planned on starting a humour magazine with (which didn’t happen).

There are also new strips on the back covers. Did Bagge forget how to draw Butch?

No, there he is as he used to look.

There are also random things included in The Bradleys that have no connection to the main series. Like this strip that Bagge did for a festival. Stuff like this would later be included in the Hate annuals instead.

A very early Bradleys strip where Butch and the father looks very much like they would later…

… while the other three don’t really. Especially Babs with her perm.

And here’s an even earlier piece that’s inexplicably printed “windowboxed”, which seems rather unnecessary, since it is in vaguely the same aspect ratio as the comic book, anyway…

After six Bradleys issues, we continue on with the Junior series. It’s less focussed than The Bradleys: It’s really “the other stuff that was in Neat Stuff, except that radio talk show guy”. It makes me wonder whether the plan was to reprint everything in Neat Stuff this way, and whether a third and final series was planned, centring on Studs Kirby…

Anyway, just like with the first series, there’s also quite a bit of pre-Neat Stuff material included, and some of it’s quite funny. There’s no new back cover strips, though.

I was rather intrigued by this art style, which is something Bagge hasn’t used a lot. And the story is perhaps autobiographical, what with Bagge being a libertarian and all…

And a rare childhood reminiscence.

Oh, it’s such a struggle to be so superior.

Wow! That’s a most excellent freak-out.

I don’t know whether the extras in these two series have been reprinted anywhere else, but I’m happy I went for it and bought these books. Reading these weird early stories has been rather pleasant.

And last we have Martini Baton, written by David Carrino:

Here’s the aforementioned Stretchpants:

The bulk of the magazine-sized book is taken up by the titular Martini Baton series (which are printed sideways).

It’s deranged and it’s funny. And it has a lot more of a coherent story line than I remembered from reading it in Weirdo.

There’s a little strip running beneath the main attraction called Jesus’ Critters, where we learn a lot about religion.

I assume that Carrino is a (lapsed) Catholic. I never knew that about the pope!

And finally we have an example of Carrino’s original strips before Bagge drew them for publication.

Martini Baton seems to be Carrino’s only published comic book work. He’s now an artist. Bagge is, of course, still Bagge.

This post is part of the Fantagraphics Floppies series.

FF1988: Stickboy

Stickboy #1-3 by Dennis Worden.

Stickboy had been published by a different publisher before Fantagraphics stepped in, and it would continue to be published by various publishers after Fantagraphics bowed out.

I haven’t read any of those incarnations, though.

The first Fantagraphics issue starts off like a normal pre-slacker comic book, what with Stickboy looking for work and having… adventures…

It doesn’t take long for things to veer off into philosophical musings…

… and that’s where things remain for most of these three issues, with brief comedic respites.

Since I’m a supercilious squirrel, this sort of thing literally bores me to death. I’m actually dead now. This is a dead man typing, in fact.

The artwork doesn’t vary much, either, but there’s the extremely occasional freak-out page.

Hm, that’s a “self-transforming machine elf”. But it looks vaguely like one of those Jim Woodring angels, doesn’t it?

The letters pages has both letters to Worden saying that Stickboy is a masterpiece, and also has stuff like this. I assume that’s a real letter to some newspaper or other.

This post is part of the Fantagraphics Floppies series.

The Comics Journal Search Engine

In connection with my grand Fantagraphics re-reading project, tcj2I took out a subscription to the Comics Journal archives so that I could look up older reviews for these old comics.

That turned out to be easier said than done, because the TCJ archive consists of one scanned JPEG per Comics Journal page, and there’s no usable index or search engine there.  So after pondering a bit, I decided to just run the whole thing through OCR and create a search index myself.

You can find the source code on github.

Now, to actually read the archive pages, you have to have a subscription.  There’s nothing of interest on the search engine if you haven’t got one.  So this will probably be useful to approximately seven people worldwide, ever.

And I don’t really have the right to do any of this, so: If anybody at Fantagraphics objects to the existence of this search engine, please let me know, and I’ll remove it from public view, and just continue to use it myself.

But here’s the link to the search engine.

Technical notes: I signed up to ocr.space to do the OCR.  I paid for a one month subscription, and the service was pretty snappy and yielded good results on most issues.  But the results on the first years were pretty horrible: It doesn’t understand the font the Comics Journal used in the 70s, so you’ll get no or very few results from the earliest years.  The TCJ archive doesn’t use a quite consistent URL scheme, either, so there’s a handful of issues with wrong links.  But it mostly works.

I examined various search engines before going with Xapian Omega.  It’s fast and snappy and seems to give satisfartory results.  I used cdb to create a mapping between the search results and the Comics Journal archive URLs.


If you have a subscription to the archive, it’s now easy to find that article where R. Fiore listed Hugo as one of the years best comics, and didn’t list Love and Rockets.

Hours and hours of fun.

FF1997: La Artbabe

Artbabe volume 2 #1-4, La Perdida #1-5 by Jessica Abel.

Artbabe started out as a self-published mini-comic, and then Abel got a Xeric grant and published the final issue of Volume 1 as a standard-size US comic book (with real distribution).

I haven’t got the first four issues (although I may have the collection here somewhere), but the fifth issue, at least, is very nice indeed. It’s about people in their early twenties who are working various jobs while thinking about being artists and writers. I loved the internal monologue on this story in particular, and how she zones out a lot while The Man is talking to her.

There’s a lot to like about the artwork, too, although her faces sometimes grow odd proportions. But they seem like real people, although they all have mysteriously good hairdos.

Onto the Fantagraphics issues, which change the format a bit. Instead of short stories, every issue is one longer story. (With the occasional fun backup.) They’re still about the same subject matter, though: Slackers.


In the first issue, we have the story of a date that goes wrong (sort of), and we get to hear about it from both sides. It’s a fun and rather wistful tale.

Abel’s artwork continued to grow ever more attractive. There’s something about her figure poses and her linework that’s so on fleek.

Abel’s internal monologues are really convincing. (If you’re wondering why that looks like a ballet dancer picking up the laundry, it’s because that’s a ballet dancer.)

She mentions in the second issue that she’s moving from Chicago to Ciudad de México, and the third issue is all about leaving. But it’s a story about a poseur (possibly) writer moving to New York…

… and Abel explains what it’s all about and even gives a critique of herself.

Abel’s specialty is writing long scenes of one-sided phone conversations, which I think is something she nails.

However, her dialogues sometimes sound like something from an indie film and not real life.

After four issues, she announced that Artbabe was cancelled, but that it would return with a volume 3 in a couple of years. That didn’t happen, but instead we got La Perdida.

It’s a five issue 48 page slightly-smaller-than-standard size serialisation of one long story about a young woman who moves from Chicago to Ciudad de México. (Hm, that reminds me of something, but what?)

Abel’s artwork has changed quite a bit from the Artbabe styel. It’s looser, with broader strokes and fewer tiny lines.

Hm. Does that URL still work? No. And due to a printer’s error, the first page is repeated on page 25, so I may have missed two vital clues!

Anyway, the story is about the young woman confronting her (perceived and real) privileges as an American in Mexico. And then getting involved with some hapless but scary criminals.

There’s a lot of this sort of stuff, and my main reaction to these scenes is to want to shake her and tell her to start ignoring these flaming assholes and go party instead. Which makes for a somewhat frustrating reading experience, and may not be what Abel was after.

Love the art, though.

It was released as a hardback by Pantheon Books shortly after completion.

Abel has mostly been involved with education the last few years.

This post is part of the Fantagraphics Floppies series.

WFC Albania: Falja e Gjakut

This is a fascinating film. It’s perhaps the most exotic story I’ve seen so far in this film series, and it’s from a European country.

It’s a simple little film about a fucked up situation, but it’s pitch perfect emotionally.

The sitch is so exotically fucked up that I’m almost tempted to give a plot recap, but I hate recaps.

The Forgiveness of Blood. Joshua Marston. 2011. Albania.


  • Rum
  • Maraschino cherry liqueur
  • Lemon juice
  • Sugar

That’s my interpretation of what he may be saying in this video, but I don’t understand Albanian.

Shake with ice. Strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with maraschino cherry and lime wedge.

That didn’t come out right.

This post is part of the World of Films and Cocktails series. Explore the map.