Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Little Annie Fanny volume 2: 1970-1988

Here's how this works. I read a book or two and tell you about them and try not to get too long-winded, and maybe you'd like to think about reading them as well. This time, a review of Little Annie Fanny volume 2: 1970-1988 (Dark Horse, 2001).

Back in March, excited by the release of Fantagraphics' wonderful Humbug collection and the forthcoming Trump from Dark Horse, my interest in Harvey Kurtzman's work led me to pick up the second of two volumes of Little Annie Fanny, the strip that he and Will Elder did for Playboy from 1962-88. That it took me five months to finish the book might indicate what a chore it turned out to be.

Dark Horse's presentation of the strips is certainly lavish, with several pages of annotations and supplementary material which includes examples of pages from several stages of development, but the strips themselves were never meant to be read in this context. There's no continuity to speak of, nor running subplots. You get three pages of the hopelessly naive Annie being introduced to the latest stupid fad of the 1970s and she ends up naked, and then three more pages where the same thing happens at a disco, and then three more pages where the same thing happens at a spa, or at St. Tropez. Perhaps the earlier strips in the first volume might play with the format a little bit, but if you've read fifteen pages of this book, you've read the whole thing more than once.

That's not to say that Kurtzman and Elder weren't right to mock the lowlights of popular culture with the zeal that they did, but it's all done in such a monotone, bored voice and absolutely no depth. By the time the book wraps up with strips from 1988, it really feels like opportunities are being missed left and right. At the end, the strip was cut down to only two pages, and that wasn't nearly enough to have fun with the televangelist dumbos who were filling the newspapers with scandalous behavior back then, never mind all the great opportunities for stories from that decade that were missed entirely.

Suffice it to say that while Dark Horse deserves praise for doing such a good job archiving this, all you really need from Little Annie Fanny is a single installment. The July 1970 episode, about underground newspapers, is certainly the best in the collection, and you can probably find that issue of Playboy in your dad's attic somewhere for a lot cheaper than this book. Not recommended.

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