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The Complete Milt Gross Comic Books and Life Story Hardcover – March 23, 2010
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Toward the end of a long career spent writing cartoon-and-prose books, drawing a variety of newspaper strips, and in Hollywood, humorist Gross turned in the late 1940s to the relatively disreputable realm of comic books. He brought with him a number of his features from the funny pages, including That's My Pop, about a boastful layabout whose credulous son admires him nevertheless; Count Screwloose, about a resident of the Balmycrest Booby Hatch; and Banana Oil, in which frauds and braggarts are debunked with the titular rejoinder, which became a catchphrase. Gross augmented those with new creations, including ditsy Moronica and annoying canine Pete the Pooch. Such characters' outlandish behavior and breezy, loopy dialogue (which retains only a trace of the distinctive Yiddish-inflected patois characteristic of Gross' earlier work) were matched by the artist's wildly hyperbolic, screwball drawings. As if comics curator Yoe hadn't done enough service by unearthing these long-unseen stories, he prefaces them with a lengthy biographical essay illustrated with art from throughout Gross' career. --Gordon Flagg
How do I love thee, let me count the ways: this isn't so much a book review, but a book RAVE. Craig Yoe's massive new tome reprinting the comic book art of Milt Gross (IDW/Yoe Books, 354 color pages, $39.99 or cheaper on Amazon) is an absolute must-have by everyone reading this blog. Buy it now. Gross was the dean of funny cartoonists, influencing everyone from Bob Clampett and Harvey Kurtzman to R. Crumb. He pioneered what we call today the graphic novel, worked in animation, wrote songs, coined slang, had a long running newspaper comic strip and directed two insane MGM cartoons in the 1930s (I've embedded one of them, Jitterbug Follies (1939), below). Yoe's new book reprints Gross rarely seen comic pages for Picture News magazine and for the American Comics Group (ACG) from the 1940s. He precedes this with a 38 page detailed history of Milt Gross, loaded with rare cartoons, advertisements, still photos and frame grabs that are worth the price of the book alone. A Foreword by Herb Gross (Milt's son) and a clever Fold-INtroduction by Mad's Al Jaffee set the zany tone. The Complete Milt Gross Comic Books and Life Story; To paraphrase both Jack Kirby and Milt Gross: Dun't Esk, just buy it! --cartoonbrew.com
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Here's a book I've actually had for a while, I'd say it arrived toward the end of June and I'm still not done with it! The book is massively thick and is hard-backed. 368 pages of Gross!
The book opens with a word from Herb Gross (Milts son) and a longer essay on Milts life in comics, cartoons and entertainment in general by the books editor and compiler Craig Yoe.
Both are interesting, thoughtful insights into this sweet and funny man, all illustrated by Milts various ads, cartoon strips and surprisingly, some of his paintings! Milt was a talented man to say the least.
From there, the whole book is nothing but full-page color reprints of Milt Gross' Comics!!!
Milt is known for his unabashedly cartoony style. He has strong lines-of-action, energetic poses, funny drawings, an unending supply of designs for his characters and of course, his biggest asset is his unmatched skill for composition.
Before I brought this book, I'd only ever seen random panels of Milts work, out of context, in various animation blogs explaining his many strengths.
But until I read the first story in this book, a comic strip called 'That's my Pop' I never knew how good Milt was at telling stories!
The story was hilarious and engaging, like something out of the Honeymooners or some classic sitcom, in the truest sense of the word, it was a situational comedy. The situations he came up with were ripe for comedy.
Milt had several recurring strips such as "That's My Pop!" Starring Gaylord Ginch, the lazy master of the house who'll do anything to get out of an honest days work, his trusting family and untrusting mother-in-law
There's Count Screwloose from Tooloose, a boy and his dog Iggy who live in, what I can only assume is some kind of gated-community/play-pen called Balmy Crest.
The Count routinely finds his way out of his boring corner of the globe and into the real world where he gets odd jobs and experiences all the madness that goes with it.
There's Pete the Pooch, a strip about a screwy dog and his master who loves him dearly but can't seem to keep him from flummoxing his girlfriend and father who hate the mutt.
Milt Gross' characters are contagiously likable. Always grinning, exploring, having laughs. His characters are often destructive and daffy, yet you never dislike them because they're always well intentioned. There's no malice in their mayhem.
Gaylord Ginch for example is the laziest husband you'll ever know. He gets up noon, eats all the food, never does any house work and spends his days with his deadbeat pal. Yet when his son needs a new baseball glove, he's willing to go to insane lengths to get him the money he needs.
His characters are like that kid in class who entertained the rest of the class by arguing and infuriating the teacher. In fact, I think there are a few comics in this very book about a kid who pesters the stuffy school marm.
Oh and another thing, Milt writes funny too! His character have the most unique dialect since Popeye, Milts own brand of exaggerated yiddish-speak.
Milt Gross, master of line of action, unique poses, funny drawings, characters designs, composition, funny situations, wonderful characters, dialogue, dialect, human observation, natural talent and style.
An unparalleled cartoon genius! And might I add, big props to Craig Yoe for giving this little known cartoonist the royal treatment he deserves.
There's almost no "Nize Baby" at all in this book. So what's in the 300 plus pages? As Craig Yoe makes clear in the subtitle, he's collected the comic books here, not the newspaper strips. Craig's book starts off with a MAD magazine style fold-in by Al Jafee, and ends on the back cover with blurbs by Matt Groening, R. Crumb, etc. cleverly stuck into balloons in a Milt comic page. In between are a foreword by Milt's son, Herb; and a 30 page intro/ life story by Craig.
Then it gets crazy fast, with the entire, 48 page, color issue of Milt Gross Funnies, number one comic book from American Comics Group, 1947. We learn that in order to get second class mailing permits, comics had to include a page of text, which may explain the origin of the short story pages, like "Lulu's Diry" in "Marge's Little Lulu". It's not just non-stop slapstick and one-liners. Despite the breakneck pace and zany style, "That's My Pop" spins a yarn about a kid who always beams "That's my pop!" and a dad who, despite the winds of fate and blows of fortune, always comes right in the end.
Also from 1947 comes Milt Gross Funnies number two, featuring "That's My Pop", "Pete the Pooch", and "Patsy Pancake" (a penguin). Next is the cover art of the unpublished Funnies number three. The rest of the book is made up of Milt stories from other ACG comics, "Giggle", "The Kilroys", "Hi-Jinx", and "Moon Mullins", mostly from 1948. Bringing up the rear are ten pages of "Milt Gross Reviews the News" from "Picture News", 1946, in which he skewers the events of the day in his inimitable style. To say this is a great book is a gross understatement.
What follows next are close to 300 pages of nothing but colorful comic reproductions with no text other than in the comics themselves.
It is enough to keep you laughing for weeks! My only negative comment would be that I found the font in the biographical section to be very small and a little difficult to read.
They did a great job putting this book together. Very nicely done.
And a lot of fun!
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