cover image He Done Her Wrong

He Done Her Wrong

Milt Gross, . . Fantagraphics, $16.95 (256pp) ISBN 978-1-56097-694-3

With a unique blend of high-velocity drawing and unabashed love of language, Gross remains one of the great cartoonists of the 20th century. One of his masterpieces was the innovative 1930 wordless graphic novel, He Done Her Wrong . Conceived in response to the wave of wordless picture story books such as Lynd Ward's God's Man , Gross blended elements from dime novels, the high drama of Ward's work and, of course, his own background in the Yiddish humor tradition to create a lengthy work of cartoon genius. It follows a typical story arc: lumberjack hero and dainty damsel fall in love until the slightly dim hero is tricked by the rascally villain, who succeeds in separating the lovers for much of the book. Eventually, the hero and his love are reunited and the villain defeated, but Gross takes the action from woods to city to cliffs and mansions and back again, never forgetting to make the whole thing extremely funny and suspenseful. Fantagraphics has produced a perfect facsimile edition of the original book, complete with an excellent essay by Paul Karasik. He Done Her Wrong should be on every graphic novel devotee's shelf and is, in fact, as Gross's original subtitle cheekily suggests, an honest-to-goodness great American novel. (Mar.)