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Headlines   2004 Review Index   July 15, 2004
Suspended Animation

Michael Vance

Mark Allen

Michael Vance Books

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The Prehistory of The Far Side: A 10th Anniversary Exhibit

     God bless garage sales and the sister-in-law who buys books for me, especially comic strip anthologies of The Far Side.

     I mean, c'mon, what's not to love about a single panel cartoon of insects facing a movie screen. The title of the movie is "Return of the Killer Windshield". Then there's the moose sitting with a can of beer in front of a TV. With a telephone cupped in one hoof, his wife says "It's the call of the wild".

     Who can forget Tarzan's expression as he swings with his legs crossed from his tree-house to his tree-outhouse.

     There are hundreds of these simple doodles in The Prehistory of The Far Side, many in color. There are other wonderful delights as well.

     What's to not love about an art style that makes you think that you could draw Larson's stuff. Beautiful simplicity. Looks like its drawn on a cocktail napkin by someone not completely sober. And yet it works.

     There's a delightful section about Far Side cartoons that were un-comprehensible.  I knew I wasn't the only one who didn't understand them.

     There is a revealing section on how Larson developed some of his off-the-wall ideas. I felt normal after reading it, and not many people think of me as normal. There is a wonderful collection of cartoons that got Larson in trouble, and a sampling of Larson's favorite Far Side panels. 

     In short, this anthology is not only a terrific collection of one of the best comic strips ever produced, it is a tour inside Gary Larson's mind. Scary, but good scary.  Fun scary.  No, no, no.  Great scary.

     This stuff is so good that you'll almost like your sister-in-law.

     The Prehistory of The Far Side: A 10th Anniversary Exhibit by Gary Larson/published at $12.95 in 1989, 288 pgs, trade paperback from Andrews and McMeel/available at garage sales and on-line auctions.

     This anthology is highly recommended, even if you have to buy it retail.

     Review by Michael Vance

Hate Annual #4

     I have read very little of Peter Bagge's material, the first being his work for Marvel Comics, The Megalomaniacal Spider-Man, the second being the subject of this review, Hate Annual #4.  I have to confess to a misconception of Hate. I expected it to be chock-full of profanity and sophomoric high jinx.

     There was very little of either.

     The first story highlights Buddy Bradly.  Buddy is the owner/operator of a second-hand shop.  With a wife and child, however, he feels that he needs a new job, with more security.  Enter "UPS."  Buddy gets the delivery job with the help of a friend, but soon discovers that damaging merchandise, then claiming it as "undeliverable," is regular practice among some of his colleagues.  While he initially complains about this behavior, he eventually comes into a moral dilemma of his own, regarding a Simpsons Collector's Plate.  Meanwhile, Buddy's wife, Lisa, acts as his moral conscience, and wants him to go back to working in his store.

     Also included is a story involving another character named Lovey, a red-headed, loud-mouthed young lady, who, upon throwing a party in her home, discovers she can't stand the "cool" people she thought she liked.

     The second story offers very little in entertainment value, but I enjoyed the Buddy Bradley tale. Bagge's cartoony, exaggerated art style may take getting used to for some, but is charming in it's own way, and may appeal to fans of Mad magazine and the like.

     What I didn't expect was Bagge's real-life stories about his coverage of the 2003 Reform Party Convention, and 2000 Democratic National Convention (both containing comic panels illustrating important moments of those accounts), and his write-up about the "teen pop music craze," which included an interview with Fredrik Thomander of Epicentre Productions.

     Unusual findings for a comic book, but not altogether uninteresting.

     Hate is suggested for older readers, due to some profanity.  Find it at your local comic shop, or at

     Hate Annual #4, Published by Fatagraphics Books, 36 pages, $4.95.

     Review by Mark Allen


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