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honkytonk sue 4
 
excellent writing
exceptional art
historical bonus 2
total score 8
Honkytonk Sue #4
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AVERAGE SCORE 7
Only Printing / December, 1980 / 68 pages / Bob Boze Bell
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If issue #2 is the Sex Issue and #3 is the Absurdity Issue, there's no doubt that Honkytonk Sue #4 is the Marriage Issue. In the final book in the serial, Sue meets the man of her dreams and gets engaged, much to the chagrin of every eligible cowpoke in the territory. In fact, their dismay at Sue's impending hitchin' is the driving force that ultimately scuttles Sue's romance, though none of that ever would've happened if not for an evil liquor distributor.

First though, Honkytonk Sue #4 opens with "The World's Most Mediocre Lover," in which Sue sets out on a quest to determine who's the most average male sex partner around. Ultimately, she identifies none other than Bob Boze Bell, the author of the story! Bell refutes Sue's findings in an ardent war of words between cartoonist and cartoon character. Bell's indignant defense of his reputation in bed is doomed to failure, since Sue calls on one of his ex-girlfriends to testify and nails him when Bell claims to be "completely liberated, sexually." The story is funny and Sue's exchange with Bell isn't the first time she's interacted with her creator, as she delivered a couple sharp retorts at Bell in the first issue.

Next, Bell lampoons the swelling trend of new-age spiritual disciplines in "The Yoga Rednecks." In this amusing farce, a group of over-the-road truckers adopt the philosophy of yoga and create a media event by kidnapping Sue and Donna Jean. Held captive in a local motel, Sue and Donna Jean are rendered helpless as they witness the national media swarm in to cover the event. But when they try to force Sue to wash dirty dishes on national TV, she turns the tables on them with a brilliant counter-offensive. That'll teach those karma-lovin' rednecks!

Finally, in the 46-page epic "The New Guy," Honkytonk Sue falls in love with a chiseled, black-hatted cowboy and commands him to "marry me, or I'll kick your ass." The nameless New Guy agrees and they set about planning their wedding, with the help of future bridesmaid Donna Jean. But with Sue now "off the market," the rest of the menfolk across the territory stop frequenting the honkytonks and bars, enraging the liquor distribution king of the Southwest, Kemper Reemus.

Reemus launches a plan to destroy Sue's engagement, forcing everyone from the courthouse to the church to make it as difficult as possible for the marriage to take place. The plan culminates in planting a seed of suspicion in the New Guy's mind about Donna Jean being the one who's trying to foil his marriage. The New Guy presumes this is because Donna Jean is jealous of him, but when he confronts Sue with these accusations, she doesn't believe a word of it. Unfortunately, the New Guy ends up forcing Sue to choose between him and Donna Jean, and though that is one tough decision to make, we all know who Sue is gonna remain loyal to.

Honkytonk Sue #4 delivers a fitting end to the comic book serial, though some of us are saddened by the outcome of her potential wedding. As mentioned in my overview of this title, Bell revived the character in his True West magazine from 2002 to 2008, but after the run ended in May of 2008, Bell noted in his blog that "no one noticed" her demise. I can't believe that, but Bell doesn't live in the past, so he didn't lament Sue's disappearance in any other blog. Some of the later (circa 2007) strips in the magazine are in color, so I'll definitely try to to pick up at least a few of these magazines in the future.

Though I was a big fan of the TV show Bonanza in the '70s and '80s (when I used to watch reruns with my brother) and list several Westerns among my favorite movies, I've never been a devoted fan of country music, cowboys or rodeos. But Honkytonk Sue is endearing to me because of her strong personality. In fact, despite her old-school take on much of the world, she comes across in many ways as a feminist who refuses to take any shit from any man. She survives in her comic books and the pages of True West, as well as in the hearts of her adoring fans.

keyline
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HISTORICAL FOOTNOTES:
Bob Boze Bell printed approximately 5,000 copies of this comic book. It has not been reprinted.
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COMIC CREATOR:
Bob Boze Bell - 1, 2 (advertisement), 3-66, 67-68 (advertisements)