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The Someday Funnies

A compendium of ’60s comics finally emerges more than 30 years late

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The Someday Funnies

Edited by Michel Choquette

Abrams ComicArts, hardcover

How do you put a decade down on paper? With a period like, say, the 1960s, there’s a tendency to whittle it down until you’re left with the old standbys of HIPPIES, KENNEDY ASSASSINATION, VIETNAM, and WATERGATE, forgetting that so many other important/terrible/amazing things happened in those 10 short years. With The Someday Funnies, editor Michel Choquette not only gives us an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink look back at that time, but also goes so far as to let the reader in on the long and fascinating journey the book took to get into his or her hands.

By the early ’70s, Choquette’s musical comedy act the Times Square Two had dissolved, and he found himself working as an editor for National Lampoon magazine. Impressed by comic strips he’d written for Lampoon, an editor at Rolling Stone approached Choquette and suggested he recruit famous creative types to write and/or draw comic strips about the ’60s for the magazine. Energized and told to overbook as many names as possible, Choquette ended up with so many contributors that what was initially a 20- or 24-page supplement transformed into a potential book. Sadly, Rolling Stone would end up passing on the project, and, unable to find a new publisher or self-publish, Choquette was forced to lay the project to rest. That is, until a 2007 Comics Journal piece on The Someday Funnies renewed enough interest to catch the attention of Abrams ComicArts.

In fact, it’s this long road to publication that takes up most of the first 18 pages of The Someday Funnies. The book begins with two essays: an introduction by Robert Greenfield that’s largely about the rise of counterculture and a foreword by Jeet Heer that’s more or less a review of the book. While these are interesting enough reads on their own, they feel extraneous here. It’s once you get to Choquette’s preface to the book that things really begin to take shape as he explains the rocky genesis of the project. Wisely, he keeps things brisk, with a number of amusing anecdotes, including an especially memorable meeting with Salvador Dalí involving drinks by a penis-shaped pool. Then, on page 25, we get to the comics.

Choquette assembled original strips submitted from a jaw-dropping list of 169 writers and artists, from comics legends such as Will Eisner, Russ Heath, and Harvey Kurtzman to amazing “gets” like Harlan Ellison, Federico Fellini, William S. Burroughs, Tom Wolfe, and Frank Zappa. On top of that, the book’s gigantic tabloid-sized pages, while perhaps not great for a read on the treadmill, show off an astonishing amount of detail. (You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a huge, full-color Jack Kirby page up close and personal, trust me.) It’s here that we’re introduced to the cool “twist” of the collection. There is a parallel narrative running though it: Silent vignettes of Choquette’s adventures in the ’70s working on the book (illustrated by Michael Fog) are placed in blank spots within many of the ’60s-set comics. For instance, the reader will find Choquette feeding birds outside the Statue of Liberty inside Bill Tidy’s strip on the Montreal Expo 67 World’s Fair. It’s distracting for the first few pages, but once your eye takes to it, the end result makes for a clever framing device that adds the kind of page-turning momentum anthologies often lack.

With so many contributors, picking even a handful of standouts to discuss is tough. “The Silencing of the Shazam Sayer,” a tongue-in-cheek take on what was then Detective Comics’ (now DC) successful trademark lawsuit against Fawcett Publications, is especially fun and aided by some crisp art from Captain Marvel creator C.C. Beck. Probably the most rewarding read is Art Spiegelman’s “A Day at the Psychedelic Circuits,” which depicts several crisscrossing story paths for two stoners depending which arrows the reader chooses to follow. The best strips in the collection tend to narrow their focuses to one topic (such as Archie Goodwin’s take on the rise and fall of the auteur in film, Walter Simonson’s take on the Great Northeast Blackout, or the amusing Asterix comic on the birth of “franglais”), although Chris Miller and Gray Morrow’s alternate-history strip “It Was All a Clever Ruse Comix” (which posits a world where Kennedy lived to serve two terms and Nixon ended up a department-store clerk) is a welcome exception.

While some of the strips in The Someday Funnies may not quite land or have aged as gracefully as others, the pages are genuine artifacts that, put together, create a frequently informative and entertaining look into our past.

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