Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Recently I was happy to get and read the new book: Boody:The Bizarre Comics Of Boody Rogers. Published by Fantagraphics Books and edited by Craig Yoe. This book collects a sampling of Boody's work on Babe:Darling Of The Hills,Sparky Watts and Dudley.
Much of this work I had read before, but reading it again, I have to say it holds up well and it is very very funny and just odd. Its amazing to me that this work was published in the 1940's and 1950's and wonder if anyone read or edited these comics whenthey were published. The order that I listed the works by Boody are what many think his best with Dudley being the weakest. Babe is great, but I find Sparky Watts the real gem and that may have everything to do to the fact it is a longer and larger body of work.
Boody must have realized that the world is filled with odd and funny folks even if the people around him didn't. Boy, does he throw all that into his comics and then some. In Sparky Watts alone he has Slap Happy and Hattie. Slap Happy with the large, really big feet and Hattie with just hat and feet and nothing else that we can see. That is, just visually, his stories as written are funny even when the characters are being mean to each other. No one is spared in Booty's world. At any given time his characters can and will be the butt of the joke. These stories are surreal screwball comics to me. Along the lines of Basil Wolverton, Dick Briefer and John Stanley. Boody makes great use of the surreal in a great dream sequence,in a circus, a mystery mountain, boxing, and baseball. Boody's ability to use what is current at the time in terms of music, sports and movie stars (Clark Gable) makes it a fun read. On top of all this his artwork is really great!!! His characters look and act funny on the page. He can draw odd and inventive-looking folks and still be funny. Look for the little framed pictures on the wall in one story to get a fun visual story within a story, stuff one would expect to see from Carl Barks or Will Elder.
Boody really liked to keep his stories going in a to be continued format. Maybe it had to do with Sparky Watts running in Big Shot and as a newspaper strip that he stuck to it. Or his work on Zack Mosely's Smilin' Jack. Babe is filled with stories like that, even ending an issue with Babe's neck being broken !!!
I really wish there was more information included in the book.There is only 3 pages of text on Boody Rogers life and work!!!!! I seem to find this to be the case on all the books edited by Craig Yoe and when I read his books I feel like something is always missing. I read elsewhere that this was done in the hopes of a book on Boody's life and career. Regardless,there should have been more information added to the book. Even if it was a brief history on the material in the book. The history of Sparky Watts would have been great. What came first the Big Shot stories, the newspaper strip?? Was the Sparky Watts comic books new material or material from Big Shot. Was the Big Shot stories from the newspaper strip or new???
When I first read a Boody Rogers story in Raw many years ago,I thought it was a joke.Even when Boody wrote his autobiography: Homeless Bound,I thought it was a joke.Then I found some of his old comic books and that changed everything for me.Many years later,I picked up and read Homeless Bound and even though there is little on his life in comics there are many great stories of his like on the road and the wild west. You can tell from his writing he was for real and that is as good as it gets.
I hope new readers to Boody's work give this a chance. If you like the odd and funny, the different and non-mainstream, or indie/underground comix.....you will love this. Even if you have all this work its nice to see it in one package and even has one of his pages from the first newsstand comic book ever published in the USA. Fantagraphics are doing a great job on getting out Golden Age comic book stories to new readers.Proving that Marvel and DC were not the only game around or even the best.With the Fletcher Hanks book,Supermen and Boody Rogers,I hope there will be others to follow. I would love to see a nice Dick Briefer or Bill Everett collection.