Those pictures that are worth a thousand words? That’s small change for a Sergio Aragonés illo.
Sadly, Sergio Aragonés Funnies #12 marks the last issue of this humour masterclass to be published by Bongo Comics although, in his customary introduction to the issue, the great man himself assures us there are plans for a volume 2 from a new publisher in the offing. Let’s hope that becomes a reality sooner rather than later because this anthology of short stories, one-page gag strips and occasional puzzle-type pages has been a delight since the very first issue, acting as a brilliant showcase for the imagination of this greatest of great cartoonists.
In Funnies #12 we get the usual mix of slapstick, fatalistic humour and autobiographical recollection that has been the hallmark of the series since its inception. ‘A Hero’s Dream’, for example, sees Hector Schlut’s love of super-hero comics lead him to don a cape and cowl to fight crime in the real world as the costumed adventurer known as… well, sadly, Hector can’t actually ever quite settle on a name. The Blue Revenger? The Masked Samaritan? The Caped Punisher? It’s one of those shorts that has echoes of the dark humour of Sergio’s Plop! days with its obviously doomed protagonist and sense of wicked whimsy as poor Schlut’s incompetent do-gooding leads him down a path of ever escalating self-destruction.
The other long-form offering in #12, ‘Toshiro Mifune’, falls into that strand of slice-of-life storytelling in Funnies that has produced some absolute gems over these dozen issues. Particularly those episodes that have given such wonderful insights into the workings of Mad magazine. Here, Aragonés recounts another episode from his ever colourful past meeting the accomplished actor of the tale’s title when his father was executive producer on the Mexican film Animas Trujano, and a subsequent encounter with the movie star decades later. A lovely anecdote that underlines Aragonés’ subtle skill as a narrator – that ability to make the reader feel he is warmly inviting them to enter his world as the most welcome of guests – and his pronounced presence as amiable host and engaging raconteur.
The single page silent strips may occasionally have obvious punchlines at their conclusion but the fun is in the journey to that end; they’re so perfectly paced and crafted. Indeed “craft” seems the most appropriate word to use to describe the visuals throughout the book. Every single illustration is not just crammed with detail but overflowing with it, threatening to burst through the borders and spill into its neighbouring panels. Those pictures that are worth a thousand words? That’s small change for an Aragonés illo.
Goodbye for the moment then to Sergio Aragonés Funnies but fingers crossed the wait between volumes is a short one. The man is an absolute industry treasure and justly deserves a regular dedicated platform for his unique cartooning style.
Sergio Aragonés (W/A) • Bongo Comics, $2.99, 26 February 2014