The Complete Milt Gross
When you first see the work of Milt Gross, there’s something familiar about it. Even if you’ve never encountered the work itself, it’s easy to see the influence in everything that came after it, from Mad magazine to Ren and Stimpy and everything even tangentially related to these things.
Gross uses a very loose style of drawing, creating hyperkinetic characters who are constantly channeling Picasso by changing shape between panels or sending off spirals and setting off explosions. Intricate, slapstick stream-of-consciousness plotlines exist in a place beyond reproach. There’s no reason to criticize a pioneer of the artform.
The subject matter remains surprisingly relevant, even after 60 years: strange inventions, talking dogs, and generally comedic situations that any age group could grasp. As with most comics of the era, the speech patterns and some of the slang might take a bit of effort get used to, but the imagery largely speaks for itself. It probably won’t appeal to the desensitized youth of today, but as an archive of what came before, it works perfectly.
The entire book is reprinted in “really old comic” style, with accidentally shifted printing plates and yellowed pages. If anything about the book bothers me, it’s that the pages have been artificially, digitally “weathered.” It’s clear that Craig Yoe fetishizes old comics and cartoons based on his body of work, but when every page has the exact same imperfections, folds and spots around the border, you begin to question the authenticity of the printing. I would have preferred a more honest approach—either clean the pages up completely or present them exactly as you found them. What’s the purest presentation of the material? It’s a question that’s open for debate, but I don’t think that this is one of the options.
Aside from that, it’s a beautifully printed book. Large pages, solid binding, and thick paper all contribute to a really excellent collection. The entire package is introduced by a brief word from Milt Gross’s son and a nice biography written by Yoe and interspersed with ephemera from the career of Gross. This biography presents a character who seems to warrant an entire book dedicated to his strange, charming Hollywood-by-way-of-New -York life. For now, the world of Gross is excellently expressed through his work here.
The fine print of this volume indicates that there’s even more material being compiled for an additional book, so the title Complete is a bit of a misnomer, because there’s a lot more to see. But for now, it’ll take a while to properly absorb these 350 pages of comic book pages.
Reviewed by Collin David on February 3, 2010
The Complete Milt Gross
- Publication Date: February 3, 2010
- Genres: Graphic Novel
- Hardcover: 368 pages
- Publisher: Idea & Design Works LLC
- ISBN-10: 1600105467
- ISBN-13: 9781600105463