Last week I picked up another fine artifact from the centuries-spanning Fantagraphics empire, this time on the sound recommendation of Milo George – Doofer: Pathway to McEarth, a magazine-sized 1992 comic book primarily written and illustrated by the late Paul Ollswang, working with Taft Chatham & James Carpenter, all authentic “Oregon Hippes,” goes the back of the book. I’d say they don’t make ‘em like this anymore, but they barely made ‘em at all back then, unless I’ve missed some rich vein of socio-political-sci-fi satire-by-way-of-’60s-underground-homage-by-way-of-early-20th-century-Sunday-funnies running circa the Image Revolution. This actually might be the all-around least fashionable comic of ’92, which naturally makes it an eminent candidate for revisitation.
And what a strange and compelling thing it is: an ostensible prelude to a four-issue miniseries titled McEarth, Fast-Food Planet (never published in any form, as far as I know), the book compacts a hodgepodge of verbally fussy, philosophically digressive pun-laden strips from as far back as 1982 with a text-heavy comics ‘documentary’ on the mundane-fantastical Doofer, OR, from the pages of Fantagraphics’ own Graphic Story Monthly, sealed up with radio commentary from high above space-time and cruised-through by town mayor Obie Jacoby, a possible Ollswand stand-in. We’re told with winning prescience that by far-off 1997 an “information revolution” had united Earth into an interconnected mind that somehow got collectively dumber, and a tipping point was reached with the introduction of “Google-Ooh’s”(!!), the advertising jingle for which became a terrorist weapon capable of holding a listener forever in its catchy thrall, not very much at all unlike the titular amusement of the late David Foster Wallace’s 1996 novel Infinite Jest.
But while Doofer is likewise dense with concern for the overload of manufactured narratives that is its parodic future, it’s more than happy to hang above the real strife, positioning itself as a fond, scatterbrained account of something that used to bedevil blinkered humans as well as less pliable funny animals, like fast-talking heron Slocni and ex-Weather Underground pup Rube, who grow misty over the revolutionary potential of the ’60s while under educational film surveillance. They seem even older, in that Ollswang (who credits Carpenter with “all of the difficult drawings”) works in a mannered, cohesive style suggestive of some lost-to-time gang of Hearst players dragged into a twilight of crosshatched silhouette. And dig the lettering!
As I mentioned above, nothing more was seen of Doofer, although Ollswang put out two issues of a separate series titled Dreams of a Dog with Rip Off Press, along with various anthology contributions and small works. I can’t say the saga had much (really any) time to take off, but what we’ve got is endearing in its off-handed ambition wedded to a distinctly regional flavor and, sure, a definite nostalgia for things, cast more as fuzzy recollections from well outside of dictated history. So, out of style.
Now for some current well-hyped selections. “It’s gonna be okay – & everything is going to be made completely out of electricity!!”