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funny aminals
solid writing
exceptional art
historical bonus 4
total score 9
Funny Aminals
Only Printing / 1972 / 36 pages / Apex Novelties

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E. Z. Wolf
When Funny Aminals was published in 1972, nobody would have guessed that it would lead to one of its creators winning a Pulitzer Prize. But indeed, this is what happened for Art Spiegelman, whose harrowing family memoir "Maus" debuts as a four-page story in this comic book. The debut was worthy of its accolades, though it was several years before Spiegelman really tackled the full story and serialized it in Raw magazine (it was subsequently published in two separate book volumes and then in one compilation). The brief chapter included in Funny Animals was not used in later versions of the story, as it no longer fit in with the plotting nor the illustration style that Spiegelman eventually employed for the longer form biography.

Funny Aminals opens with part one of Robert Crumb's two-part cat-and-bird animal tale, "What a World!" The story's three primary characters are portrayed on the front cover of the book, where the foundation of the plot is aptly summarized without a word; two hep cats lust after the savory meat of a giant bird and scheme to capture her for a feast. As with most of Crumb's work, violence and death are presented as a natural aspect of everyday life, and the second part of "What a World!" concludes with the not-so-clever kitties getting their just desserts.

"Maus" follows part one of the Crumb story, and it really is the highlight of the book. Maus is about a 1950s Jewish father who tells his young son a true-life bedtime story about the months of oppression and danger he and his wife suffered during the Nazi occupation of Poland. The comic story is cloaked under a facade of anthropomorphic animals (namely cats as the Nazis and mice as the Jews), but somehow the use of critters for people does not detract a bit from the humanity of the story.

Alas, Funny Aminals can't sustain this peak for the rest of the book. Maus is followed by a Shary Flenniken "Trots and Bonnie" story that is almost entirely about Bonnie's dog Trots fucking a poodle whore. I love Flenniken and there is no such thing as a bad Trots and Bonnie tale (hell, there's no such thing as a mediocre Trots and Bonnie tale), but this one does not rank with her best.

After a surprisingly unfulfilling two-page jam comic with Jay Lynch and Robert Crumb (based on their spur-of-the-moment meeting with "Dick Tracy" cartoonist Chester Gould) comes an incomprehensible two-page Captain Flashlight story from Mike McMillan. Then Bill Griffith follows with a pretty weak Toad story, Justin Green stumbles through a poorly scripted jungle animal tale, and Jay Lynch returns with an uninspired two-pager that lives or dies on one joke about armpit odor (it dies). Finally, Robert Crumb returns with the second part of his "What a World!" story, which is not quite as strong as the first part but it comes off like a masterpiece in comparison to the previous several pages.

So Funny Aminals is an uneven book, but its review score (especially the writing score) is boosted by "Maus," which also gets credit for the book's historical bonus. And if Crumb hadn't contributed his crafty penmanship and bawdy humor, even "Maus" wouldn't have been enough to earn Funny Aminals the total score of "9" I begrudgingly bestowed upon it.
Apex Novelties printed 20,000 to 30,000 copies of this comic book. It has not been reprinted.



Robert Crumb - 1, 3-8, 16-17 (collaboration), 31-34, 35 (ad)
Justin Green - 2, 25-28
Art Spiegelman - 9-11
Shary Flenniken - 12-15
Jay Lynch - 16-17 (collaboration), 29-30, 36
Michael McMillan - 18-19
Bill Griffith - 20-24, 35 (ad)
Jim Osborne - 35 (ad)