Drinky Crow’s Maakies Treasury by Tony Millionaire

Posted by on February 22nd, 2010 at 9:00 AM

Fantagraphics; 271 pp., $29.99; B&W; Hardcover; ISBN: 9781460979753

This generous volume reprints Maakies strips beginning early in this decade. Along the way it encapsulates several prior — and out of print — compilations pretty much in their entirety (right down to their inter-duplicated strips). As such, this Treasury really does represent an overflowing bounty of absolutely primo Millionaire and stands as an invaluable, one–stop companion to Pre-Millennial Maakies for devotees.

Newcomers, however, should understand that their sense of humor will be expanded, pulled … actually, think of a medieval rack where subjects were strapped in and stretched to shocking, heretofore inconceivable lengths. Among his other talents, Millionaire is master of irresponsible, rude, aggressive, even belligerent hilarity, where mutilation is pratfall, drunkenness shtick, suicide comedic resolution, and mean-spiritedness pervasive if possibly unintended. There are pictured transgressions that leave spoken language tongue-tied. (See page 9’s conjoined twins … or just let your sick little mind wander. Further. Further.) Such gratuitous, joyful wallowing makes the occasional moment of profundity and mortal insight all the more affecting. (On page 247 see Drinky Crow, in the gutter, looking up.)

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As a whole this book is deeply satisfying in a fundamentally philosophical way. It readily concedes — and advances! — our basal, venal (and OK, perverse) traits. Moreover it explicitly acknowledges the whole of nature’s most unsettling attributes, be they human, biologic or celestial, and repositions them within the grander spectrum of comedic fodder. As for classical tragedy, it’s been excised, leaving a void filled by something more implacable and ferocious still. You just gotta laugh …

Such transformation and redemption is accomplished in large part by Millionaire’s drawing. He’s a terrific cartoonist. Characters and whole tableaus are expressive, animated, beguiling, evocative and captivating. In him, a 7-year old’s wide-eyed fascination, particularly in bodily discharges, malfunctions and abnormalities, has been wedded to an engaging naturalist’s affectionate appreciation of the opportunistic ingenuity of organic life at its most woefully creditable. His interludes reward looking, whether faithful illustration or faithless fantasy. His love of nautical themes, architecture, and natural structure are justly celebrated.

Despite its eminently readable sequencing, Maakies has always seemed a strip that chaffed at the comic-strip format as currently constituted. Its dual-tier format and superlative rendering harken back to yesteryear while its facility with dis-sequiturs mimics the undermined consciousness and cloud causality aborning with tweeting, texting and the like. The strip’s gleeful bluntness defies the form’s tremendous compression, as its verbal concision resembles the slammin’est poetry more than it does prose or dialogue. No joke.

Images ©2009 Tony Millionaire

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