Of all the books that I received for Christmas last year, The Someday Funnies was the one I was most looking forward to reading. It’s a mammoth book and filled with all sorts of great artwork by cartoonists that I knew and many that I didn’t. I marveled at seeing some great like Goscinny and Uderzo and Jack Kirby and Kurtzmann all in the same volume. It’s a beautiful book to just flip through. The premise got me as well – a large number of cartoonists and writers gathered together to reminisce about the sixties. Each was allowed a page with what seems like unlimited freedom to draw what they wanted. How could it not be the greatest comic book ever?
When Michael Choquette compiled all these strips and presented the books to publishers, they just didn’t get it: what would be a no-brainer today seemed quite strange. Thus it was shelved, likely to never see publication, until an article about it in The Comics Journal renewed interest in the project. Now it seemed like a no-brainer, and The Someday Funnies, thirty years later, finally saw the light of day.
Does it live up to the hype? Of course not. Is it still enjoyable? Yes, but perhaps not as much as it would have been at the intended date of publication. The Someday Funnies is sadly more of an artifact of its time, a document of what the sixties was like rather than a collection of enjoyable strips. Many are bewildering until you consult the helpful footnotes at the end which provide the context. And some, sadly, appear phoned in by people who may have been too busy to contribute their best work to the cause.
Although the goal of the book was to present a multifaceted appraisal of the sixties, it appears that for many the sixties was all about the same topics: the Kennedy assassination, free love, free drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. The drug strips for me wore thin the quickest. However, nothing else about the sixties quite takes advantage of the mind-bending power of comics, so I suppose it make sense that so many would document their exploits with illicit substances.
Here are a few artists that impressed me and a few that disappointed me:
Jack Kirby: A Kirby page of this size will always be a wonder to behold no matter what the content. This one has to be one of the biggest ever.
Tom Wolfe: Who knew he could draw so well? Really cool fibrous ink drawings.
Carlos Jimenez: Not familiar with this guy, but his artwork is an appealing cross between the great Belgians like Uderzo and Wally Wood.
Don Martin: A fun little cartoon.
Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith: An allegory about the Kennedy assassination, one that I was able to discern pretty quickly unlike some of the other ones that were a little more obtuse.
Wally Wood: I’m a big fan of his MAD stuff; not such a big fan of his more perverted work.
Mary Anderson and Tuli Kupferberg: I know that not being able to draw is not a prerequisite to creating good comics, but these pushed the limit for me.
Morris: I’m more of an Uderzo fan, but Morris contributed some fantastic caricatures of Western movie stars. A unique and intelligent take on the sixties.
Gahan Wilson: I like Wilson, didn’t get the strip.
Jean-Claude Forest: I did not know that Barbarella was a comic strip first. The wonderful brush work here made me want to seek out some of them (but only if they are available in translation).
Harvey Kurtzmann: A huge disappointment. An unfunny joke that looked like it was dashed out in a few minutes.
Art Spiegelman: A great concept for a comic that you can read like a choose your own adventure strip capturing the aimlessness of the sixties in a clever format.
Sergio Aragones: A big influence on me as a kid. This one takes the MAD MArginals idea to its extreme. This would be hard enough to follow even in English. This is the one strip I didn’t even attempt to read.
R O Blechman: How can you not like Blechman’s work?
Stan Goldberg and Dick Giordano: Seeing Archie style characters engaging in suspect activities didn’t do it for me (yes, I know they worked on Lampoon, but I like to associate that artwork style with more wholesome behavior.)
And a few that I wish had been included:
R Crumb: Probably the most noticeable absence. Apparently he was originally involved, but declined to contribute to the final product.
Al Jaffee: Would have been at the prime of his career.
Carl Barks: What would he have done with the sixites? What would Duckburg have looked like in this volume?
Wayne Boring: CC Beck is in here. Boring would have been a good addition as well.
Al Capp: I’m pretty sure he was done with Li’l Abner at the time (and I’m not sure he was even alive) but given the conservative crackpot he became, it would have interesting to see what he would have done.
No matter the odds, this is a book that finally overcame insurmountable odds to arrive in publication. And finally the contributors (except for a few that are MIA) finally received their pay.