Wednesday, February 22, 2012

"Hitchers," by Will McIntosh

Guest review by BALOO

Hi, Ex-Army folk.  Ex came across this book, and got me to read it and do the review because, well, I'm a cartoonist. It's a fun read, and more or less fits into the horror genre, having a little Alfred Hitchcockiness about it.  Also, it's set in Atlanta, which helps give it a Southern Gothic creepiness, much as is the case with The Walking Dead. McIntosh is a Brit, but he's a prof in the South so he's acquainted with the area.

But to the plot. One of the biggest gripes cartoonists have is the fact that comic strips are continued after their creators die.  Me, now, I don't have a problem with that, because I understand free-market economics, and I know that keeping a good strip going is often a wise decision.  I do add the caveat that I want them to keep it good, otherwise I'm disappointed, and I'd prefer that they end it and replace it with something better.  But that's just me.  Such strips as Blondie, Dick Tracy, Frank and Ernest, Thimble Theatre, Ziggy, and Gasoline Alley have kept on going after the deaths of their creators — sometimes after the deaths of the successors — and still have a large fan base.  More often, a strip dies with the creator, either by the wishes of the creator himself, as was the case with Peanuts, or sometimes because no one can be found to continue it well enough.

Hitchers is the story of one such comic strip, Toy Shop.  Finn Darby is a young cartoonist who lost his wife in a bizarre accident, and he's spent his personal and professional life in the shadow of his grandfather, Tom Darby, who created the long-lived comic strip, Toy Shop, and who ordered that the strip be discontinued after his death. After a bit of agonizing, for a number of reasons (he really hated the old guy), Finn convinces the syndicate to continue the strip with him drawing it.  The strip was never a blockbuster, just a steady source of a decent income, and Finn decides that it needs to be improved.  He adds a character or two, and modernizes the humor, and is delighted when the strip suddenly becomes a sensation after being moribund for decades and even gets mentioned on talk shows. But this is a horror story, you know, and old Tom Darby is outraged (in Hell or wherever he is) that Finn has had the effrontery to not only continue the strip but even to change it, and decides to come back....

Don't want any spoilers here.  Suffice it to say that many things happen.  In the middle of the Revenge of Grandpa, Finn experiences a terrorist attack, roving bands of religious fanatics, and even odder psycho/supernatural phenomena.  There's even room for a love story.  Good read.  I recommend it.

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