Rick Altergott, Author . Fantagraphics $16.95 (120p) ISBN 978-1-56097-494-9

Over a decade old, Doofus remains one of the country's funniest and most inventive comics. This collection of Altergott's work paints a well-rounded portrait of one of the most despicable characters in comics: Doofus, a short, rotund sex fiend, liar and all-around cad who hangs around Flowertown, U.S.A. with his sidekick, Henry Hotchkiss and a gang of loser pals. Doofus and friends engage in various questionable acts, all played out in Altergott's earnest, straightforward narrative style. When "Doofus Throws a Party," his guests are invited to "An Intimate Examination of Miss Juniper's Undergarments," which is exactly what it sounds like. Other stories find Doofus at the dog kennel watching the animals mate; Doofus falling in love with—and quickly alienating—a waitress; Doofus as a carnival roustabout; and Doofus obsessing some more about the comely Miss Juniper. Why is any of this funny? Dan Clowes, of Ghost World fame, sardonically poses the same question in his introduction. It's rather like asking why The Simpsons or the work of R. Crumb is funny. Altergott has assembled a droll group of bums, outlaws, hippies, bikers and babes, and he takes these characters and their situations to their extremes, driving them to ever-greater depths of hilarity without making the material seem ridiculous or unusual. The realist drawing style draws on 1950s commercial art and cartoonists like Mort Drucker and Wally Wood. Altergott's narrative tone resembles an educational video voice-over, while his dialogue explodes with outdated hipster lingo, beatnik terms, pseudo-psychology and small-town weirdness. Better witnessed than explained, Doofus is a fantastic compendium of American marginalia and degradation. (July)

Reviewed on: 06/02/2003
Release date: 12/01/2002
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