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‘Think He’s Crazy! The Comics of B.K. Taylor’ (review)

Written and Illustrated by B.K. Taylor
Foreword by Tim Allen
Backword by R.L. Stine
Published by Fantagraphics Comics

 

You’re familiar with the Mandela Effect?

Well this isn’t quite it, but it’s similar. The fact is that I read National Lampoon for roughly a decade and a half, particularly delighting in its comics parodies by the likes of Neal Adams, Frank Springer, and even Frank Frazetta. I was a big fan of the regular comics section of the mag, too, with its continuing strips by Jeff Jones, Vaughn Bode, Gahan Wilson, Ralph Reese, Sherry Flenniken, and others.

Amongst those others, it comes now to my attention, was one B.K. Taylor.

I have exactly zero memories of ever having seen or heard of B.K. Taylor or any of the National Lampoon strips found in Fantagraphics’ new collection, I Think He’s Crazy! The Comics of B.K. Taylor. To me, it’s as though they’ve been retroactively inserted into the mix via a type of continuity implant!

This disturbs me quite a bit, and not just because it messes with my head but because they’re really funny and subversive and I can’t believe I’ve missed them for literally decades!

The colorful cover grabs you right away with its literal lineup of the various characters from Taylor’s three Lampoon strips, all done up in an art style that can best be described as “Will Elder-lite.”

The Backword by prolific author R.L. Stine notes that both he and Taylor are lifelong devotees of the early, Kurtzman-era Mad. Clearly, Kurtzman and Elder had a major influence on Taylor’s art style. That said, he has just as clearly taken that influence and run with it, with even the earliest examples from the 1980s seen here being fully polished, professional, and individual.

And best of all, it’s consistently funny. Never minding the dialogue or even the concepts, the artwork alone is often enough to make you laugh.

It’s a bonus then, that the individual strips are hilariously and subversively written, too.

Leave your political correctness at the door. They’re just funny. A tad dated at times, but funny. Their positively mainstream look drives home the cutting edges of the humor much better than a lot of the more stylized, often substance-fueled underground comix to which these strips can and should be compared.

Timberland Tales is probably the most original strip present, and features the most original characters in general. It takes up the middle of this volume. The Appletons opens the book, and is probably the most relatable as everyone has at least one certifiable family member. My personal favorite, though, is Stories from Uncle Kunta, a barbed, anti-racist parody of the classic but controversial Uncle Remus character as seen in Disney’s long UN-seen Song of the South.

I Think He’s Crazy! finishes out with some amusing text-heavy Lampoon pieces illustrated by Mr. Taylor. Along with the Backword (a term that I believe also originated with the original Mad paperbacks) by Stine, there’s also an informative text piece by the author himself, a friendly Introduction by Tim Allen (Taylor, I learned was a writer for Allen’s Home Improvement, too!) and even some amusing stuff on the copyright page.

While I still contend that neither B.K. Taylor nor any of these strips existed in my original reality, the fact of the matter is they do now, and fans of beautifully-drawn, often hilarious, comics are all the better for that.

Booksteve recommends.

 

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