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excellent writing
exceptional art
historical bonus 2
total score 8
honky tonk sue 1 _ honky tonk sue 2 _ honky tonk sue 3 _ honky tonk sue 4
Honky Tonk Sue #1
Honky Tonk Sue #2 Honky Tonk Sue #3 Honky Tonk Sue #4
REVIEW SCORE: 8
REVIEW SCORE: 8 REVIEW SCORE: 8 REVIEW SCORE: 8
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keyline
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Honkytonk Sue
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1979-1980 / Bob Boze Bell

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Bob Boze Bell is the Executive Editor of True West, a national magazine with over 100,000 subscribers, and has produced several groundbreaking illustrated books on the Old West (American frontier history in the latter half of the 19th century). His fine art paintings have been featured in educational programs on the History Channel, the Discovery Channel and the Learning Channel. Bell also appears as an expert historian on a cable TV show, has hosted his own radio shows, and won the Arizona Press Club's Cartoonist of the Year award in 1983.

Despite all these other successes, Bell is best known to comic book fans and collectors as the creator and publisher of the treasured four-issue series, Honkytonk Sue, The Queen of Country Swing, starring "the wildest and prettiest cowgirl in the whole world," Sue. Honkytonk Sue first appeared in National Lampoon in 1977 and then as a comic strip in the Phoenix New Times Weekly from 1978 to 1980. Bell culled the strips from the New Times and self-published 5,000 copies each of the Honkytonk Sue comic books towards the end of the newspaper run.
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honkytonksue
Bell did a remarkable job of writing and illustrating the sometimes far-fetched adventures of Sue, who is just as tough as she is curvaceous. She sports a deadpan sense of humor (and a mean right hook) that can crush the testosterone of any male suitor, unless she feels like "wrinkling the sheets" with him. No matter where she finds herself, Sue is always on the look out for "Mr. Raht," even though "Mr. Ah-Don't-Think-So" usually seems to find her. And no matter how absurd her adventures become, Bell has a cunning ability to make them feel real, even when Sue is reuniting the Beatles and converting their playlist to Country Western music.

With all her media exposure, Honkytonk Sue got noticed. In 1983, the character was optioned by Columbia Pictures for a nifty sum of $30,000 (1/3 of that went to Bell's lawyers). Several screenplays were developed over a two-year period for a Goldie Hawn movie that was never made (she reportedly failed to see the humor).
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Honkytonk Sue from a Bell posting on a True West blog
 
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In 2002, Bell revived the sorely missed Honkytonk Sue comic strip for True West magazine, which was a failing Oklahoma publication back in 1999 before Bell bought it and moved it to Arizona. The Honkytonk Sue strip ran in True West until 2008. I'd love to pick up a few of those mags just for the comic, but the ones I see on eBay don't make any mention of Sue on their cover. I wonder if the strip was monthly feature or did it just appear periodically? I'd have to be sure she was actually present in the pages of those magazines before putting money down on any of them.

Honkytonk Sue is unlike any other characters from the underground comic book era, mostly cuz she's a whip-smart, assertive country woman who wears a cowboy hat. A smart country woman with a cowboy hat? That persona just did not compute in the rest of the underground. But then, the Honkytonk Sue comic books didn't meet many of the parameters for qualifying as an underground, either. Sure, they were self-published, so that met one of our major optional criteria for inclusion, but Honkytonk Sue was produced by a country western artist who illustrated non-fiction books about Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. Jeez-us, that's like having frickin' Norman Rockwell do an underground comic!

But that's the thing about underground comic books. If Norman Rockwell actually did produce an underground comic, we would acknowledge it. When Steve Ditko or D.J. Arneson or Harvey Kurtzman do a comic book that seems like an underground, we adopt it into the underground body of work. So even if Honkytonk Sue is revered by thousands of fans who have never even heard of underground comix, by God, it still belongs to us! It's funny, irreverent, sexy and unusual. Now those are attributes of an underground comic book! Long live Honkytonk Sue!