Two Powerful Revelations

*Yes, the observations come roaring at me when there's little time to post.

1. Mutt and Jeff was really a completely awesome comic, or at least it was for its first three years. I posted a Bud Fisher quote yesterday, since I managed to get my hands on a bent-up, dirtyish 1987 reprint of the 1910 strip collection The Mutt and Jeff Cartoons, and holy smokes are these some nice comics. I don't know if you're familiar with Mutt and Jeff, at least in this early incarnation, but Mutt is a hopeless gambling addict who will stop at nothing to obtain money to put on the ponies, and Jeff is a fellow he sprung from a mental institution to sometimes aid in his schemes. Laffs!

There's often no joke to the strips at all beyond the general presence of Mutt's total manic desperation to scrape together some coin to gamble with. His wife often leaves him, he's reduced to ripping out Jeff's gold fillings to trade for cash - my personal favorite strip is one where he's wandering around wearing a flower sack because he's already sold all his clothes for gambling money, and he starts ripping other people's clothes right off the line to sell for a little more, only to get attacked by a small dog, which he then also sells, its teeth still clenched to his leg. Now that's entertainment! Plus, since these strips were composed extremely close to press time, all the horses Mutt bets on were actually running - can you say reader interactivity of best kind?

2. Heavy Metal in its 'golden' age of the late '70s has to be the least new reader friendly comics publication I can think of. And yet, there's always something that transfixes me about those early issues, a manic creative energy that somehow overcomes the total confusion that suffuses every page. Right now I'm looking at the November 1978 issue, brimming as it is with Mœbius, Enki Bilal, Philippe Druillet, Richard Corben, Howard Chaykin and more, and believe me when I tell you that every single feature of more than two pages is either a chapter from the middle of a serial or an excerpt from a larger work. Hell, I think the only thing in there that isn't in media res is Steve Bissette's pin-up, and I never can be sure.

There are no synopses, no editorial guidance, no information about the artists - hell, most of the time we don't even get the first names of the artists. I wonder how much this air of confusion added to the mythic feel of early Heavy Metal? If you weren't really on top of things, there was no way you weren't going to get utterly surrounded and bamboozled by surreal, feverish art (not that having the stories in complete form would be a guarantee of clarity), and maybe it was that very stance that helped cultivate an audience who enjoyed being made to really swim toward understanding. If nothing else, it was great company to be confused by...

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