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happy endings
spotty writing
competent art
historical bonus 2
total score 4
Happy Endings Comics
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Only Printing / August, 1969 / 36 pages / Rip Off Press
Okay, I am going to try one more time to get into Happy Endings Comics. This is, after all, an early Rip Off Press underground by the legendary Jack Jackson, so based on all indications, it should be really good. But with every other attempt I've made to get into this book, I only encountered inscrutable scribblings, dense pages of text and archaic medieval allegories that left me cold as a dead mouse under the kitchen sink. But perhaps I was just being impatient in the past.

First, a little back story: After Jackson wrote and drew God Nose in 1964, he printed a thousand copies, sold them around his college campus, and pretty much put away his art supplies for the next four years. Even though he moved to San Francisco in 1966, he came as a bookkeeper (his degree was in accounting). It wasn't until Robert Crumb unleashed Zap Comix #1 in 1968 that Jackson entertained the thought of cultivating his passion for cartooning again. He began by attempting to recapture the irreverent spirit of God Nose in his second comic book, Happy Endings.

It begins with a two-page God Nose story where God meets a geese herder, leading to a wry comment about leadership. Not bad, but it's followed by three pages of nonsensical sketches that dare you to make sense of them (you can't). A one-page poem is followed by the seven-page "The Moving Trauma of Yorlik and Kilroy," which includes six pages of heavy text about the evolution of modern man. The story has an interesting beginning but devolves until you only feel obligated to finish reading it because you're already halfway through it.

"Those Lovable Nitwits Kilroy and Yorlik in 'The Race Question'" is five pages of what seems to be the birth of creation. There's a semi-clever payoff about the violent nature of man, but the story's a bit slight and feels padded. Jackson later reprised the Kilroy and Yorlik characters in a two-page story for Slow Death #1 that is more fully realized.

The longest story is the eight-page "The Myth of the Dead Planet," which is four pages of stylized text interspersed with four separate pages of illustrations. The story conveys the myth of a distant planet inhabited by small insect-like creatures, but considered dead because its supreme race of beings (also insect-like but much more biologically advanced) could not solve a riddle given to them by God; consequentially, the supreme race is banished to purgatory. Like other stories in the book, this one isn't as bad as it appears at first glance, but not as good as we know Jackson is capable of producing.

Happy Endings Comics closes with four more pages of sketches, the final one including a poem inspired by LSD. Essentially vacuous filler.

So I did it. I tried one more time to get into Happy Endings. And this time I really did get into it. And after really pouring over it, I raised my previous total score from 3 to 4. As Jackson himself said about the book, it's "pretty much a wash-out." It neither recaptures the satiric substance of God Nose nor delivers a glimpse of the outstanding body of work Jackson would produce in the next two decades. As a historical marker, Happy Endings stands indelibly as one part of the "pre-mature phase" of Jackson's compelling oeuvre, so at the least, it's worth reading to more fully understand his personal evolution. Beyond that, there's not much more to appreciate.
It is currently unknown how many copies of this comic book were printed. It has not been reprinted.

Jack Jackson - 1-36