Maakies Ahoy!

March 30, 2008

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I am always on the lookout for sources of new stimulation, literary and visual. Sometimes this means I stumble on something that has been around for a while without my knowing about it. So it is with the comics of Tony Millionaire. He is known not so much for “graphic novels” as for a syndicated comic strip, “Maakies” that I am sure that I have seen many times – I don’t know where – and for which I now have an intense enthusiasm after reading his latest book of collected strips.

Millionaire (presumably a pen name, though he has denied it) has a style that is rich and detailed. His landscapes recall to my mind those of R. Crumb, though their style is otherwise very different. They do share an intense dedication to the possibilities of black and white ink line work and to exploiting control and detail. I also think of Windsor Mckay (Little Nemo and Dreams of a Rarebit Fiend). Another illustrator, one of my favorites, W. Heath Robinson, comes to mind, but in a recent email exchange with Millionaire, he said he’d never heard of Robinson. (“Is he funny?” he asked.)

Maakies (why the name, I dunno) is very funny, absurd, wierd, extremely vulgar, sometimes scatological…I could go on. It also veers into the literary and metaphysical with bizarre wit. I frequently exploded in laughter to tears on reading some of the strips in “With the Wrinkled Knees,” the new collection. The ones I read mostly featured a perpetually drunken crow (Drinky Crow) that seems like Heckel or Jekyll on a bender, and his Uncle Gabby, a mentally deviant (Irish?) monkey. Many of the strips play out in a nautical setting that seems lifted from hallucinations induced by 19th century searfaring stories – Melville’s “Benito Cereno”, Poe’s “Arthur Gordon Pym”, and London’s “Sea Wolf” come to mind, but you need to imagine them through the fog of psychosis or radical inebriation.

Click on the strips below to see a full-size image –

Philosophical Maakies:

Philosophic Maakies

Nautical Phantasy Maakies:

Airship Maakies

Surreal Maakies:

Surrealist Maakies

Escapist Maakies:

Literary Drug Maakies

These strips bring up an arcane association in my mind, the 19th century novel, Atar Gull, by Eugene Sue. That story shared a nautical setting with Maakies, and it was about Gull, a captured African being transported to the slave market and his subsequent escape and adventures. The slave captain is a total opium addict – in fact, so deep is his addiction that he believes his opium dreams to be reality, and he is certain that the hellish life on board the slave ship is simply his bad dreams.

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Richard Sala Comics

December 4, 2007

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How nice to talk about an artist who hasn’t been dead for two centuries. Well, I see no reason to apologize for my taste, and if you read my recent post “On Paper,” you know that Richard Sala is my favorite comics artist now. This black and white piece from “The Grave Robber’s Daughter” illustrates other aspects of his work that I love: comic gore galore; black humor; great sound “effects” (does he practice stabbing people to get it right?); sexy, tough, profane female characters; and femme fatales, dead and alive.

The heroine above is Judy Drood, a dark alter-ego of Nancy Drew. She slugs and swears like a sailor. The image below is his fetching heroine, Peculia, to be found in his series Evil Eye, and elsewhere. You don’t want to mess with her either. How does he make them so sexy with such simple elements? Too bad Peculia isn’t real…she wouldn’t like me anyway…I’m reading these things too much!

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I was not always a comics fan. As a boy, I read a bit of Superman and Batman. After college, I enjoyed reading Zap and Anarchy comics briefly. I always liked Edgar Allen Poe, however, and clearly, so does Sala! It was James Gillray, of course, that reawakened my joy in the pure entertainment of graphic images. The sheer delight I get from Gillray’s wild and vicious satires is matched by the giddy pleasure of Sala’s hilarious, dark, absurd, noir-world. It’s pure entertainment of a very special kind. See for yourself —-> Richard Sala’s Page.