Ho! (Fantagraphics)

ho-header.jpgA greatest hits collection of "the morally objectionable cartoons of Ivan Brunetti."


112 pgs. B&W; $19.99 hardcover

(W / A: Ivan Brunetti)



We’ve all had the experience of liking a rock band so much that when their greatest hits compilation comes out, we pooh-pooh it. We think, oh, I already own all the albums these came from, or how could they leave off that one great song?, or similar kvetches.

With the formidable Ivan Brunetti’s Ho!, we are offered a lackluster greatest hits package that can readily be skipped in favor of buying the original material.

Ho!, a best-of Haw! and Hee!, promises the most degenerate and juvenile one-panel gag comics ever penned by a working college professor (Columbia College of Chicago). Brunetti’s high-profile projects include editing the two-part Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, and True Stories and drawing various covers for the New Yorker, but his down-and-dirty specialty is the nasty bon mot.

The cover to Ho! Click for a larger image.The better gags in Ho! include a man chuckling over a corpse, holding the suicide note left behind, and gloating "HA! HA! He misspelled ‘despondent.’" A parrot living in a house of incest learns to squawk "RRAWK… Please don’t touch me there, Daddy… RRRAWWK It hurts, Daddy, it hurts… RRAWK it’s too big." A ventriloquist sucks his own dummy’s dick, while saying "That’s right, bitch! Suck it good, you worthless fucking whore!" You’re either loving it or deeply concerned for the author.

I adore Brunetti’s cleverness, and it seems I’m in good company—edgy comedian Patton Oswalt penned the introduction.

Overall, though, the selection of material is not Brunetti’s most clever, but his most depraved. Many of these gags come off as more sick/bitter than funny. A couple sits down to dinner and the woman looks at her plate and says "Is sperm vegan?" A creaky old man standing before a wall of specimen jars explains to a young woman that he’s been "savin’ my dingleberries since August of 1931," a la Howard Hughes and his urine.

Maybe this is your thing, but to me, the most clever and funny bits in Haw! and Hee!—and they are terribly clever—were left behind in Haw! and Hee!

Newcomers will enjoy Brunetti’s cute drawing style, with its big round heads and tiny black dots for eyes, as the cuteness is co-opted for the sickest ends to which pen and paper can be used.

And there are eight new one-panel strips here. About half were great, in my humble opinion. The other half: eh.

The idea of the dick joke taken to a very sick place, and thrown back at our sick world, has great appeal for some. But the LOL gags that you want to photocopy and hang above your desk are, for me, more often to be found in Brunetti’s previous collections. Seek those out and read them in a place where you are certain no bosses, new lovers, parents, or clergymen can look over your shoulder and see what a horrible person you must be to be reading such things. | Byron Kerman

Click here to read a 10-page excerpt, courtesy of Fantagraphics!

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