Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Review: Sergio Aragones Funnies#8

At some point last year I assumed Sergio Aragones Funnies had been quietly cancelled. It's often difficult to know what the present status of a non-"Big Two" comic book series; for a time, I assumed I'd missed an issue and kept checking at shops and online to see where issue #8 was - to no avail.

Issue#8 arrived a full 14 months after #7 and opens with an explanation of Sergio's absence: he'd undergone major back surgery. Although he states (above) he can't "put in fourteen-hour days" any more (seriously? 14 hour work days? we should all have his work ethic), he'll continue to work on his own book, Funnies, plus Groo, Mad and Simpsons. Funnies will now be a bi-monthly book. Somehow, even when he's slowing down his pace, Sergio still finds a way to make 90% of comics pros seem lazy by comparison.

As is typical for Funnies, issue#8 includes a variety of features written/drawn by Sergio; there are one-page gag strips (just like his Mad material), puzzle pages (just in case kids are reading?) and a short humourous story; in this issue, Sergio tells a western story: "the Bank Robbers." This tale concerns two robbers who experience many pitfalls in their attempts to make money through outright theft; eventually, they invest their meager fortunes in a bank of their own and quickly discover the best way to steal money is to do it honestly! I was reminded of a line from the movie the Long Riders (1980) where Frank James (Stacy Keach) muses how his preferred occupation was farming - after "banking" (by which he meant, "bank robbing"). Sergio;s "the Bank Robbers" is clearly a reaction to the recent economic meltdown - crafting its own scenario where thieves escape punishment through the veneer of "respectability."

My main reason for supporting Funnies is to get at Sergio's back-up features where he relates interesting anecdotes from his life history. This issue, it's "the Mexican Trip," a story about how Sergio was placed in charge of the Mad magazine creators' annual vacation. Not being much of a Mad fan and fairly unfamiliar with many of Mad's personalities, I wouldn't have imagined I would be too interested in seeing Sergio's "vacation slides" (as it were), but "the Mexican Trip" is successful. As Sergio prepares for his friends' arrival in Mexico, we see him make several unusual arrangements, but their meaning is unclear; as the story develops, we discover Sergio prepared a variety of practical jokes to greet his friends. Each joke is set up in the opening when Sergio makes the arrangements, but Sergio doesn't inform the readers of his intentions until the jokes unfold.

I would be pleased to keep following Sergio Aragones Funnies even if the schedule slipped to annual publication; I choose to accept bi-monthly as the gift which it is.

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