Chris Mautner reviews Harvey Comics Classics Vols. 4: Baby Huey, 5: The Harvey Girls

Posted by on January 4th, 2010 at 9:00 AM

Harvey Comics Classics Vol. 4: Baby Huey, The Baby Giant; Edited by Leslie Cabarga; Dark Horse Comics; 480 pp. $19.95; B&W & Color, Softcover; ISBN 9781593079772)

Harvey Comics Classics Vol. 5: The Harvey Girls: Little Audrey, Little Dot & Little Lotta; Edited by Leslie Cabarga; Dark Horse Comics; 480 pp.,$19.95; B&W & Color, Softcover;  ISBN 9781595821713

Comics aren’t for kids any more, the pundits like to say. Even though that’s not true (there are plenty of good contemporary comics for kids if you know where to look) parents needn’t worry since the classic comics of yesteryear are being reprinted all the time.

Case in point is Dark Horse’s Harvey Comics Classics series, which offers up big, heaping slabs of elementary-school-age tales involving Casper, Richie Rich and other characters in the Harvey stable.

Their fourth volume features Baby Huey who you may or may not remember as being a giant – and somewhat grotesque — baby duck who wears a diaper and a bib, is ridiculously strong and a bit of a dim bulb, even for a three year old (I think that’s his age).

Huey’s adventures, at least for the first half of the book, consist of him either A) unintentionally beating up a ravenous fox who keeps trying to trick Huey into his stew pot or B) heaping untold hours of suffering, both physical and mental, upon his poor papa while attempting to complete some simple chore like going to the store for milk.

These tales are so formulaic that they quickly become wearisome. Halfway through, however, Huey’s universe starts opening up a little bit, and the writing becomes a little sharper. He starts encountering movie studios, restaurant owners, bank robbers, gorillas, fairy-tale creatures and more, for the most part to good comic effect. The late addition of an equally stupid cousin, appropriately named Dimwit, doesn’t do much though. The best stories are when Huey is on his own or with his beleaguered dad, wreaking as much havoc as possible to as many innocent folks as possible.

Except on rare occasions, most of the stories in The Harvey Girls never reach that level of inspired lunacy. Most of them are just dull, innocuous tales of bland little girls. Little Lulu-copycat Little Audrey has nothing to really to offer the reader — her young African-American friend Tiny is more entertaining.

Little Dot, meanwhile, is basically a carbon copy of Audrey, except that she likes dots and has a never-ending supply of oddball uncles who seem to like taking highly dangerous jobs. As with many of the Harvey characters, the only appeal stems from the clean, surreal pop-art in which her dot-fetish encounters are rendered.

More though can be written about her friend Little Lotta, an extremely overweight girl with lots of cardiovascular surgery in her future. Oh, the authors make a bit of an effort to show that she’s super strong as well as being fat, but most of the jokes in her stories center around what an incredible pig she is and how she can’t go a minute without stuffing her face.  She’s often portrayed as holding a different piece of food in each panel, just in case you missed the point that she likes to eat.

It’s not the political incorrectness of this material that bothers me as much as it’s one-note nature. I found myself wishing for more variety and inspiration in these stories; they rely too much on their basic premise rather than using it as a springboard for other material. Don’t get me wrong; they’re certainly mild and competent enough to entertain your second-grader during a long trip or a wait at the doctor’s office.  Certainly you could do worse. But if you’re picking these books up hoping for a comedic revelation akin to the works of John Stanley or Carl Barks, you’re going to be terribly disappointed.

Image [©2008 Harvey Entertainment, Inc.]

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