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average writing
skilled art
historical bonus 3
total score 6
Rip Off Comix #20
Table of Contents
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Back Cover
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Only Printing / Fall 1988 / 52 pages / Rip Off Press
Rip Off Comix #20 is the "Special Religion Issue" but it turns out to be more of a hit-and-miss issue than a special issue. It does get off to a strong start with Frank Stack's "The Return of Jesus," in which Jesus gets a job as a religious adviser in the White House. Stack seems to be replicating the plot dynamic of Jesus Comics #3 from 1972 (where Jesus gets a job at a university), as Jesus spends most of the story in the background observing a bunch of pseudointellectuals and swollen-ego politicians bicker amongst themselves. Stack enjoys poking fun at the rich and powerful and, though these caricatures are by now media tropes, not many have done a better job than Stack of ridiculing the arrogant and pompous aristocracy.

But Frank Stack is about the only highlight in the first half of this issue. Mary Fleener and Douglas Michael contribute mildly amusing satires of channelers and cult leaders, but they never achieve anything beyond the superficial. After a one-page, one-note play on words about "Cheeses on the Cross," two of the next three stories feature dogs, and neither is very strong. Bruce Bolinger follows with three pages of one-pagers, the last of which ("Dante's Disneyland") is pretty funny.

We're more than halfway through the magazine before we get to Wayne Honath's "A Life in the Day of Howie (The Hat) Patterson." Honath, a Pittsburgh-based cartoonist also known by the singular Wayno, emerged in the late '80s and had a solid comics career through the mid '90s (he still works as a cartoonist and has a website). His signature character Howie, along with his brother Pete, were featured in a variety of anthologies and Wayno's own short-lived series in the early '90s, Beer Nutz.

I believe Howie was an outstanding comic character with a unique personality that would fit right in on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim if given the chance. The Howie strips are filled with oddball humor and usually very funny in an understated way, as are the three pages of comics in this issue. Howie is one of my favorite characters, so his appearance here gives me reason enough to own this comic. Of course, that's just me.

Joshua Quagmire provides "Them There Cutesy Pie Lil Ol' Elves in the Majic Forest," in which Russian communists commandeer a children's TV show to put on their own propaganda for the children of America. If you can get into the groove of reading fractured syntax with hard Russian accents, this story is actually quite funny.

The three stories that follow, however, get increasingly bad, but at least Larry Todd provides a solid finale at the end of the magazine. Todd's "Pearlygate Papers" lampoons televangelist Jimmy Swaggart and feature's Swaggart's TV show getting hijacked by a computer virus that unleashes a Max Headroom-type character (complete with stutter and Ray-Ban sunglasses) that purports to be Jesus.

Todd's story ends Rip Off Comix #20 on a positive beat, but despite some strong work in the second half of the mag, there's too much mediocre material throughout this issue and it brings down the overall review score. Fortunately, the next issue will be the 20th-anniversary celebration of Rip Off Press, so the smattering of surviving underground comix fanatics can look forward to a real treat!
It is currently unknown how many copies of this comic book were printed. It has not been reprinted. Like other magazine-format comics with numbered pages, the index of comic creators below follows the page numbers defined in the magazine instead of counting the covers as additional numbered pages.


Kathe Todd - editor, inside front cover (introduction)
Harry S. Robins - front cover
Frank Stack (aka Foolbert Sturgeon) - 1-6, back cover
Mary Fleener - 7-8
Douglas Michael - 9-12
Brian James Riedel - 13
Paul Ollswang - 14-17
Ronn Foss - 18-21
Jessica Finney - 22-23
Bruce Bolinger - 24-26
Wayne Honath (aka Wayno) - 27-29
Joshua Quagmire - 30-35 (art, script)
F. Tubbins - 30-35 (inks)
Mike Bannon - 36-39
Joseph Tiel - 40-41
Lindsay Arnold - 42-44
Larry Todd - 45-48
Gilbert Shelton - inside back cover (ad)