The title that took more than a day to conjure.

*I just had a dream about a school for murderers where one of the tests was standing around holding a metal gun-like thing in the blazing heat for a certain amount of time; if you drop the weapon before then, you get a beating. It was pretty terrifying.

*Finally, I think I’ll have that Shadowland review up tomorrow.

*And speaking of books I’m getting to late -

Gumby #2

This actually came out the other week, but I just managed to find a copy the other day. I guess a Gumby revival from the men who brought you Flaming Carrot Comics and A Treasury of Victorian Murder isn’t tops on everyone’s hot list? This issue even shipped with a variant cover (by writer Bob Burden, regular cover by artist Rick Geary), though I wonder about the utility of such tricks to something like this, an all-ages book that’ll probably be of equal value to little kids and a teensy subsection of adults who appreciate mild surrealism and clawing unease surrounding children’s characters. Or Flaming Carrot fans. Regardless, that isn’t a huge chunk of the Direct Market pie, from a glance at where the money seems to flow from.

But Gumby struggles to offer things to the world. Released by Wildcard Ink at the back-of-Previews industry standard price (give or take a few cents) of $3.95 for a color book, it offers 34 pages of story when many would only manage 22, and also throws in a free Pokey toy. It’s a very polished production, with candied colors (by Steve Oliff) and warm, complimentary lettering (presumably by Geary - nobody is specifically credited). And while it’s bizarre, sometimes even more so than writer Burden’s Flaming Carrot, there’s an underlying decency to the book that compliments Burden’s often anarchic plotting and jokes.

This issue, Gumby wants a pair of those awesome shoes with the wheels in them, except these are rocket-powered and fire paintballs. He dreams of using them to impress Cuddles, a girl he has a crush on, except his heroic vision of rescuing her from a speeding clown car ends with Gumby accidentally flipping the vehicle and fleeing from a horribly burnt, staggering Cuddles who demands a kiss. Gumby then tries to roll up his sleeves and win his fortune in the free market (I don’t know why Burden enjoys making fun of Target so much, but there’s more jokes this issue), but neither investments nor hard work lead him anywhere. So he goes to the circus, and enjoys many random adventures involving but not limited to: (1) getting caught in a love triangle; (2) being transformed into a green clay golem; (3) challenging the Blockheads to a balloon sell-off; (4) winning a rigged carny game; (5) participating in a homage to Tod Browning’s Freaks; and (6) venturing through a Ring of Fire with help from the astral form of Johnny Cash, which has fortuitously descended from Heaven.

Meanwhile, Pokey vomits from too many hot dogs and cotton candies, and gets thrown in a dumpster. “Oh, no! I am garbage now!” He's ok by issue's end.

I assure you, this is actually all very gentle and sweet, despite sequences of Gumby’s parents, having been hypnotized into thinking a sack of potatoes is their son, staggering around the streets when the sack rips open yelling “Our child! His guts are coming out!” This never seems so much the exploitive, hackish ‘darkening’ of a children’s character it probably has the potential to be; it's more a natural development of the Gumby feel into slightly sinister (yet never overwhelming) territory, as if the characters are exploring a place that’s always been present. I sure remember some weird and rough episodes of the old Gumby (like the Robot Rumpus short that ran on Mystery Science Theater 3000), so it’s not like Burden & Geary are working without precedent. And surely Geary’s art is attractive and appropriately pliable, while Burden nails many of the small interactions between children and adults.

So, this is a good series, good for potentially all ages, though certainly not everyone in each of those age groups? Though what will the children think of those Kevin Smith action figures on the back cover? They can probably ask their parents while they're taught how to bag and board their alternate covers.