Goody Good Comics #1, June 2000, Fantagraphics Books
by Gilbert Hernandez, Rick Altergott, Johnny Ryan, Jaime Hernandez
Blogger's note: Entry for Monday, January 21, 2008.
Some kinds of storytelling can only be accomplished in comic books. While many iconic characters or compelling stories have been and will be adapted for film, some ideas simply only make sense in a visual sequential format. Goody Good Comics #1 is such an example.
On the surface, Goody Good Comics #1 is an exercise in surrealism, featuring four unique characters bound only by their apparent pointlessness. Still, as I was reading the tale of Roy, a caveman with an alien for a best friend, and as I was marveling at Gilbert Hernandez’s cartoonish, yet beautifully expressive brushstroke, I couldn’t help but wonder if I was missing the point. In his eighteen-page adventure, Roy befriends a boy king, whose injured knee produces a murderous evil clone that usurps his throne. Since Roy knows the truth about him, the knee-clone pits our dim-witted hero against the blood-sucking Froat, a creature as silly-looking as it is dangerous. When undercover heroines from the Leapin’ Elite Corps seek to resurrect Roy by slicing open his knee, I find myself agreeing with their logic in spite of myself. Fortunately, the real Roy regenerates and rises, joining his tight-lipped alien friend as his dark knee-clone kills the evil boy king, and the enraptured Leapin’ Elitists jump into the sunset.
I told you it was surreal. Still, since the story maintains a semblance of linear thought, I wonder if I’m missing some allegorical significance. I also wonder if that’s what Hernandez wanted me to think, using his tale of fun absurdity as a catalyst for fruitless meditation. He has a blast at the drawing board, the rest of us wonder if he meant something more. Or maybe I’m just thinking too much and should relax and enjoy the ride.
Still, the incorporation of an alien and a young despot makes me think something more is afoot. These archetypes bring all the right kind of baggage to make excellent tongue-in-cheek comics commentary. Somebody please comment and tell me I’m nuts.
At least the other three stories are more straightforward in their silliness. Doofus, who stars in two short strips, first foils his own plans for a perfect afternoon in his backyard by accidentally buying gag “beer piss,” then, a few pages later, tries to sneak his friend Henry Hotchkiss into his house under his mom’s disapproving nose. These little goofs, by Rick Altergott, are illustrated with an ironic layer of detail considering their rather throwaway punchlines, but his and Henry’s outfits boast a certain vaudevillian bravado that makes it all okay in the end. Greaseball by Johnny Ryan is just as visually engrossing, with an emphasis on the “gross,” as three kids try to capture a greasily dripping genie, then ask him for three grease-related wishes -- a million French fries, oily hair, “wheelie banana shoes.” Ryan’s style is very kid-friendly in contrast to Altergott’s brewing adult themes, and I can see Greaseball more at home in Nickelodeon Magazine.
Jaime Hernandez’s back cover Mike Hayes is more transparent in its biting social commentary, depicting a five-panel spread about a ne’er-do-wrong football hero. Mike Hayes: every man wants to be him and every woman wants to be with him. ‘Nuff said.
Again, some kinds of storytelling can only be accomplished in comic books. Yes, my emphasis has been on the absurdity of Goody Good Comics #1, but another underlying trait these stories tell is their succinctness. From five panels to five pages, elaboration isn’t the necessary tool of an accomplished artist . . . especially if he really doesn’t have anything to say!