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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Sally Forth - From 2000

Working women are an enduring theme of comic strips. Ella Cinders and Tillie the Toiler were early members of the genre, but their numbers continue to grow and to provide boundless humor.

The modern working woman can be as neurotic as Cathy Guisewaite's Cathy or as unflappable as Greg Howard's Sally Forth, a strip which deserves a much wider following. Sally Forth is consistently amusing in its depiction of a two- paycheck, one child family.

The cast of characters is small: Sally, husband Ted, and daughter Hilary, as well as Sally's boss, and a few co-workers. These are all rational human beings caught in an irrational world. The humor is subtle and quiet; it accumulates from day to day. Howard's pacing is a strength, but new readers should allow several days for its subtle impact to be felt.

Recent topics have included organ donation and gender roles. Recurring motifs include Sally's "chocaholism"; every year, she and Hilary race to see who gets to eat the ears of chocolate Easter bunnies.

Hilary is a blend of cynicism and naiveté who seems to understand the contradictions of adult behavior.

A few years ago, a new artist, Craig Mackintosh, joined Howard; within days, outraged letters inundated local editors and the North America Syndicate because of changes in the size of the characters. Hilary seemed to shrink and the other characters seemed out of proportion. Within weeks, the traditional versions reappeared and calm was restored. If Hilary had grown, would the furor have been as strong?

Since the characters are not aging, there are few changes in relationships or characterization.

Topical references to fads can help date older strips, but the humor is rarely dated.

At least four anthologies have appeared since 1982. The latest is I Gave at the Office (Andrews and McMeel, 1994). Any of these would be worth having, but are hard to find.

-- Review by Dr. Jon Suter

The Apparition - From 2000

I read it once.

I read it again, not because it's a confusing mess of technical mistakes, uninspired art, boring story and shoddy printing.

I read it again because The Apparition is exceptional. It is the thought-provoking story of a dramatic conflict of perceived spiritual abandonment.

The archangel Adriel becomes embroiled in the desertion of a child by a despicable father and mother. This angel must protect Josh from a marauding demon from Adriel's own past as the boy wanders through an unforgiving wilderness. Unintentional death sends Adriel on a horrendous trip to Hell, and apparent abandonment by an uncaring God. There, the angel must overcome temptation and danger to reunite Josh with his estranged mother. And with God.

"Nay!", you say, disdainful of anything dealing with religion and angels and demons, the stuff of the opium of the people.

Ignorance costs.

Ignorance may cost nay sayers the stunning art of Michael Gaydos who paints with ink. Founded in realism, his impressive washes, airbrushed detail and powerful visual storytelling add a startling believability to wings and auras and things from Hell that go bump in the night.

Prejudice against those television preachers who seem to line their pockets while lining your face with guilt may cost you one of the most insightful probings of the ancient battle of man with himself, of spirit with animal, of man with something wholly Other.

"Yeah!" rejoice those who embrace anything dealing with religion and angels and demons, the stuff of faith and hope.

Some of you will also be surprised by the depth of art and thought. This is much more than religion trivialized.

Highly recommended.

Priced at $3.95 it comes in at 48 Pages from Caliber Comics. Written by James Pruett and drawn by Michael Gaydos.

Michael Vance

Krazy Kat/George Herriman - From 2000

Hitting someone in the head with a brick is no laughing matter, but it is and was Krazy.

Krazy Kat was a comic strip lauded by few and ignored by many newspapers and readers. It grew out of cartoonist George Herriman's Dingbat Family ship where Krazy Kat was bonked by bricks thrown by Ignatz Mouse. If that sounds odd it is only the tip of the oddberg.

You see, Krazy liked bricks almost as much as she (or he) liked the mouse. Yes, it was always uncertain which sex, if any, belonged to Krazy although it was certain no sex was enjoyed in the sado-masochistic relationship shared with the mouse. Ignatz hated Krazy.


Krazy Kat began in October of 1913. The surreal life, vocabulary and settings of Krazy, Ignatz, Offica Pup and the cast of Kokonino County continued because the owner of its syndicate, William Randolph Hearst, liked it.

An enigma himself, Herriman had been born in 1880. He was a practicing cartoonist and an office boy at the Los Angeles Herald newspaper even as a teenager. He found work as a cartoonist at the World newspaper in New York City in 1901 until Hearst hired Heniman to create several Strips that predate Krazy. It continued until Heniman's death in 1944.

The strip looked like it was drawn by Picasso and read like it was written by...well, no one really compares with Herriman's unconventional prose and plots. While undeniably original, the quality of the strip is continually debated even today.

It was published in comic books including
Ace Comics (#'s 1-37, '37- 7 David McKay), March of Comics (#'s 72 & 87, Western), Krazy Kat Comics ('51-'64, Dell [not by Heniman]), and Krazy Kat ('46, hardcover, Holt).

Krazy is recommended for those with a taste for the esoteric.

Review by Michael Vance

Angel - From 2000

The cover blurb reads: "Based on the hit WB Television Show!" If you, like hundreds of millions of other viewers, have missed this "hit", you may be in for a pleasant surprise. If Angel the television show is as good as Angel the comic book series, then you are missing solid entertainment.

Angel is a vampire who was saved from a sucky three centuries of committing murder, torture and terrorization by Whistler, a demon. Whistler introduced Angel to Buffy, the Vampire Slayer (star of another "hit" Warner Brothers TV series), but ended up in Hell (i.e. the WB television network--just kidding). Now back from damnation, Angel is an investigator of the supernatural working out of Los Angeles. The City of Angels. Get it. Angels.


Cute is often the operative word describing this cross between a real hit television show, Touched by an Angel, and The Angel of Death. Although the art is dark and threatening, the demons are as ugly as sin, and Angel snarls constantly, his tongue is often thrust firmly in his handsome cheek.

You don't believe your reviewer? In this first issue, Angel chokes a demon named Lloyd.

Heavenly day, Angel is also well-written. In particular, the writer doesn't assume everyone watches the television show and gives readers enough background information to make the setting and characters intelligible and intriguing.

Less than intriguing is the artist's less than angelic anatomy that weakens the overall impact of the art. Luckily, this fault is buttressed by lots of somber coloring and a wealth of demons that require neither accurate proportions or realistic bone structure.

Angel #1 is 22 pages and priced at $2.95 from Dark Horse Comics. Art by Christian Zanier, story by Christopher Golden.

Michael Vance