Friday, 3 December 2010

Review - Wally Gropius HC

This is yet another item that I picked up in Isotope Comics in San Francisco on my recent holiday in California, just because I liked the look of it (note: I promise I will stop going on about my recent visit to California as soon as I have finished reading and reviewing all the stuff I bought out there, but I’m afraid there are still quite a few items left to go). I had never heard of cartoonist Tim Hensley and his creation Wally Gropius before but the stories in this book (most of them, at least) apparently first appeared in Fantagraphics’ Mome anthology series, a series I really wish I’d been buying because it always looks very good but will probably never catch up with now as it is up to at least volume 20. Wally Gropius is basically a teenage version of Richie Rich, an ‘umpteen millionaire’ who literally wipes his arse with money. I don’t think I have ever read a Richie Rich comic before – they were never that widely available here in the UK – but I appreciate where Hensley is coming from with this collection.

The main gist of the story running through this book is that Wally’s father, a petroleum magnate, has ordered him to marry ‘the saddest girl in the world’ on his 18th birthday. You see, rather a lot of people commit suicide using petrol and by marrying ‘the saddest girl in the world’ Wally can offset some of the negative press that his father is getting, but Wally is not happy about this at all. He is more interested in playing with his band, the Dropouts, listening to Huey Lewis and the News records, and money (of course). The news that Wally has to marry the saddest girl in the world leads most of the girls at Iacocca High to pretend to be suicidal and/or ill, but Wally instead falls for the seemingly disinterested Jillian Banks, who impresses him with her knowledge of national anthems.

This is an odd book. It’s frequently funny but also quite surreal and occasionally a bit too clever for its own good. Art wise, it reminds me a lot of the short humour strips that Daniel Clowes used to draw for Eightball – ‘Needledick’, ‘Pogeybait’, etc. – and the Harvey and Archie comics that Hensley is parodying. It is presented as an oversized-but-slim hardcover and looks more like a European comics album than an American comic book, but it’s an attractive package.

I liked this quite a bit and will certainly reread it at some point but, at $18.99 for just over 60 pages, it was a bit pricey. Maybe if it was half the size and half the price, I’d be more enthusiastic about recommending it. However, if you are an umpteen millionaire like Wally and don’t mind spending $18.99 on a book it only takes half an hour or so to read, get yourself a copy. You probably won’t regret it.


  1. I'm with you re Mome. Perhaps Fantagraphics should consider re-launching it from number 1.

  2. I actually had the first five or six volumes when I had my mail-order business but sold them off along with the rest of my stock. I regretted it immediately.