Milt Gross (1895-1953) was a famed print cartoonist, comic
book artist and notorious animation director who has taken on cult status among
those of us who love funny drawings. He was drawing cartoony cartoons long
before Jay Ward and Mad Magazine – his influence on those as well as such
greats including R. Crumb, John K. and artists yet to come cannot be
underestimated. I myself have been a
huge fan for many many years.
So as an ex-New Yorker – born and raised in Flushing Queens
– I am particularly delighted that Yoe Books and IDW have just reprinted the
rarest of the rare of Gross’ collected cartoon volumes. Milt Gross’s New York is a lavish reprinting
of what was an obscure 25 cent paperback originally issued as “That’s My Pop” Goes Nuts For Fair: A Milt
Gross Tour of New York” in 1939.
The book is page after page of hilarious Gross wordage and zany
art reflecting life in the Big Apple during the 1930s – a looney love letter to
the city, observing the high life and the lowlifes that populate Manhattan, as
seen through the father-son duo of Gross’s comic strip “That’s My Pop”.
To cash in on the 1939 New York World’s Fair (held in
Flushing, NY), Gross appends the collection with gags relating to attending the
Fair. Pop literally crashes the exhibits,
art galleries and sideshows, mocking the subways, the trylon and the perisphere
along the way.
If there is one person to point to as the father of
alternative or underground comics, and subversive humor – long before such
things were in vogue – it’s Milt Gross. The book is introduced by famed
cartoonist and comics historian and innovator Jim Steranko, who gives an excellent tribute
and analysis of Gross and his work.
In his Preface, co-editor Yoe establishes this book in the context of
Gross’s other works, considering it a “proto-punk graphic novel”. That
definition might be stretching it a bit, but Gross was indeed ahead of his time
– and Milt Gross’ New York recalls a time, a place and a city that matched his
I have an old saying, “The more Gross, the better.” Here’s more Milt Gross and its better than
“better”. It’s Nize! Buy it!
P.S. Quick shout out for Yoe Books excellent comic book reprint
series Weird Love. Now in it’s sixth issue, I highly recommend you seek these out
at your local comics shop – or, better yet, buy the hard cover collection Weird
Love: You Know You Want It.
Its hard to say why I now find these stories so much fun
after years of shunning Love and Romance Comics all my life. Maybe I’ve matured
(gosh, I hope not). The stories Yoe curates contain art by Marc Swayze, George
Evans, Harry Lucey, Ogden Whitney, Sheldon
Moldoff among others, in stories with
titles like “I Fell For a Commie” and “Too Fat For Love!” Most are told in first person, pre-dating
today’s personal comics, and tackle adult subjects in unusual ways. Most of the
tales feature out-dated social situations and sexist stereotypes – which oddly enough do not offend, but somehow add to their charm. Highly Recommended!