Thursday, November 02, 2017

A Beauty to Behold

The Dirty Duck Book #1 (Cocoanut Comix, 1971, 50 cents)
Bobby London did the whole thing, and this black-and-white beauty is a doozy. London, whose Dirty Duck comic strips later appeared in National Lampoon and Playboy magazines, has a very fine ink line, and his early comics—though underground and countercultural in nature—are highly influenced by George Herriman's Krazy Kat, and perhaps E.C. Segar's Popeye. (Interestingly, London actually did the Popeye comic strip in the '80s.) The original art must be a beauty to behold.

Incorporating impressionistic backgrounds and settings a la Herriman, Dirty Duck makes his way through London's world—going to see the Grateful Dead, accidentally injuring a police officer, recognizing famine, hiding from the law (a glorious page perhaps inspired by the Keystone Cops), wrecking a car, seeking privacy, wooing a dowager, and playing croquet.

The comic is somewhat text heavy—though not text dense—and you can read it at multiple levels. I'll have to return to reread the comic to further explore the text as text, As wonderfully and artistically drawn as the comic is—downright elegant for the undergrounds—there's more going on than can be seen on the surface.

Given that this was drawn in the early '70s, I'm wondering what comic strip reprints were available at the time. London was clearly well versed in the the visual language of the early art form, as well as on contemporary undergrounds.

Availability: An IDW/Top Shelf Dirty Duck collection is scheduled for July 2018. London's Popeye work has been collected in Popeye: The Classic Newspaper Comics by Bobby London Volume 1 (1986-1989) and Popeye: The Classic Newspaper Comics by Bobby London Volume 2 (1989-1992).

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