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PRIMO RODRIGUES

RAY AND JOE: THE STORY OF A MAN AND HIS DEAD FRIEND : And Other Classic Comics
by Charles Rodrigues
186 8x10-inch pages
b/w with occasional color
hardcover
$29.99
Fantagraphics

In case you missed it, I’ve posted, a few lines down, the funniest cartoon ever done. According to the editors of the National Lampoon — and they should know: they’re probably all male, and it doubtless takes a male human (sic) sapien to properly appreciate the high operatic comedy of this picture. The cartoon is by Charles Rodrigues.

Rodriques0001
Despite its undeniable hilarity, it doesn’t appear in the book at hand. This book reprints many of Rodrigues’s more ambitious oeuvre, page-long comic strips, beginning with the title piece. In it, Ray pleads with Joe’s wife to let him take the recently departed Joe away with him instead of burying him so that the two lifelong friends can go on having “great times together.” She, astonishingly (in every neighborhood but Rodrigues’s), agrees, and for the next 20 pages or so, we watch Ray having great times with Joe. In their first great time, as you can see from the attendant specimen, Ray gets Joe embalmed so he won’t stink up the house.

RodriguesDeadFriend

That gives you a pretty good idea of what sort of comedy you will find in this perfectly wonderful tome.

Among the other Rodrigues efforts included is Deirdre Callalhan, a biography of an “incredibly ugly” child who is, shall we say, adopted by Blind Bob, who finds her in the garbage dump where her mother has deposited her. Then we have The Aesop Brothers, Siamese Twins, who, on one occasion, rip themselves apart; but when they’re sewn back together, one is upside down and the other isn’t. Their adventures (they get re-joined the right way) go on for about 60 pages, the longest of Rodrigues’s works in this volume.

Ray and Joe coverThen there’s Sam DeGroot, The Free World’s Only Private Detective in an Iron Lung Machine, 35 pages, followed by some one-page biographies of famous people (Marilyn Monroe, Abbie Hoffman, and Chester Bouvier — what’s that? You never heard of Chester Bouvier?) and some miscellany like three pages of 22 Houston Street.

In other words, the book is crammed with an array of the most tasteless cartooning in the known firmament. All of it hysterically funny, as you can tell from the mere samples posted here.

“Tasteless” is not a strong enough descriptor. “Depraved” is better — “hilariously repellent” even better.

But Rodrigues is beyond mere repulsive. His graphic art is a high art. His line is crazed, the end result, certainly, of hours of painstaking labor. He worked at night, all night, drawing and re-drawing his strips until he felt they were right. His strips appear to be made of piled up, squeegeed-in panels and speech balloons, configured however necessary to fit into a rectangular shape — abstract willy-nilly patterning that Jackson Pollock would admire and, even, envy.

And there are other delights in the book — endpapers of Rodrigues’s sketches and notes, an Introduction by Bob Fingerman (description of Rodrigues’s working method), a brief one-page appreciation by Lampoon editor Michael Gross (“I never met the man”), and an autobiographical musing (“I am of Portuguese ancestry as was John Dos Passos and Magellan”). Fingerman also supplies a short biography of Rodrigues.

I love Charlie Rodrigues cartoons. Maybe because we both deployed raggedy lines to make pictures. Maybe because I’m secretly depraved (a common condition among cartoonists who suffer too many rejection slips). Rumor has it that Fantagraphics will be publishing other compilations of Rodrigues, but there’s still time for you to be the first kid on your block to own the first in the series — this book.

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

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Comments

Rich Powell

i have fond memories of Rodrigues from the Funny Pages, etc. in Lampoon. It's difficult to find much on-line, I look forward to this and (hopefully) more to come.

Stukahna Sandbahr

My main motive for buying Nat'l Lamp. was Rodrigues' cartoons. Great for when your mind was- uh, altered.

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