September 11, 2019
One in a weekly series of enthusiastic posts, contributed by HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of our favorite comic books, comic strips, and graphic novels.
Like a southwestern Elvis who tripped in a mushroom patch and got up psychedelicized, Gary Panter’s JIMBO is everywhere. We know this not by leftover plates of polk salad on the TV tray or the tell-tale breath of a fried peanut butter and banana eater but something even more primordial. JIMBO was there before you knew it and along with cockroaches, he’ll be there long after we’re gone.
In high school I had a bus driver with long hair and a beard everyone, of course, called Jesus. This savior was more than just alright, he was a hardcore Frank Zappa and Kinks freak whose cockpit was an extravagant shrine to both, festooned with ticket stubs, photos, newspaper and magazine clippings. A boombox fastened to the dashboard kept him sane and at least some dopey kids distracted. Jesus’ favored Kinks albums of the late 1970s and 1980s made no impression upon me, but the Zappa was unforgettable and this is how I first encountered — however unknowingly — Panter’s brilliance, in the compositions inside the album covers that he’d designed: Studio Tan, Sleep Dirt and Orchestral Favorites. “The Adventures of Greggery Peccary” was pretty nuts but what this guy Jimbo was doing, I would later learn, was even nuttier.
Ignorant in so many ways, the only comics-related things I was really into as a youth were Danny the Dinosaur, MAD paperbacks, and Doonesbury and Peanuts collections I got from the library. After I discovered Spy, New Journalism and Penthouse Forum, I didn’t even think about comics until the first Maus book appeared in 1986. This was a crucial event in two distinct ways: first, as a revelatory book enfolding a Holocaust story many couldn’t talk about (my own maternal grandparents met in a Linz, Austria Displaced Persons camp), and second, its well-deserved success allowed Art Spiegelman’s publisher, Pantheon, to put out JIMBO: Adventures in Paradise, two years later, which the masses, including me, could find and be astonished by.
There were many incredible things about this JIMBO. That Panter wasn’t as technically stunning as, say, Robert Williams — recently the subject of mainstream scrutiny via Guns N’ Roses though hepcats loved his Divine Horsemen Snake Handler album cover more — didn’t matter. Panter was obviously a virtuoso of the hand and mind, with a consistently startling gift for hyper-awareness and juxtaposition.
For former school bus yokels like me, there was also a shock of recognition: Jimbo as a punk Huck Finn maybe, but our newfound freckle-faced, hillbilly hero for sure resembled Ivan Drago from Rocky IV while predating the death of Apollo Creed by nearly a decade. Recalling the transitive property from math class, it wasn’t Sylvester Stallone or James Brown that led America to Cold War victory, it was goddamn Jimbo — with Prince (“Ronnie, Talk To Russia,” 1981) and the Minutemen (“If Reagan Played Disco,” 1982) — important intermediaries. Thank them all for their service.
SERIOCOMIC: Mimi Lipson on LITTLE LULU | Sara Ryan on AMPHIGOREY | Gary Panter on THE NUT BROS./THE SQUIRREL CAGE | Gordon Dahlquist on POGO | Robert Wringham on VIZ | Matthew De Abaitua on CAPTAIN BRITAIN | Jessamyn West on FUN HOME | Bradley Peterson on HELLBOY | Stephanie Burt on KITTY PRYDE RETURNS | Jenny Davidson on OOR WULLIE | Luc Sante on MARSUPILAMI | Susan Roe on BLOOM COUNTY | Marilyn Berlin Snell on CHARLES ADDAMS | Deb Chachra on ARKHAM ASYLUM | Judith Zissman on ERNIE POOK’S COMEEK | Alexandra Lange on BETTY (ARCHIE) | Catherine Newman on VERONICA (ARCHIE) | Josh Glenn on SPIRE CHRISTIAN COMICS | Adam McGovern on THE CREW | William Nericcio on ERRATA STIGMATA | Chelsey Johnson on DYKES TO WATCH OUT FOR | Sherri Wasserman on TANK GIRL | Tom Nealon on MEGATON MAN | Erin M. Routson on THE WEDDING OF SCOTT SUMMERS & JEAN GREY | Douglas Wolk on FRANK IN THE RIVER | Annie Nocenti on DICK TRACY | James Parker on 2000 AD | Adrienne Crew on NUTS | Vanessa Berry on MEAT CAKE | John Holbo on WITZEND | Michael Campochiaro on SPIDER-WOMAN | Miranda Mellis on RED SONJA & BÊLIT | Michael Grasso on THE NEW MUTANTS | Ty Burr on BINKY BROWN | Bishakh Som on AMAR CHITRA KATHA | Mark Kingwell on CLASSICS ILLUSTRATED | Brian Berger on JIMBO | Kenya (Robinson) on AGENT 355 | Seth on THE ETERNALS ANNUAL | Susannah Breslin on SLASHER | Lisa Kahlden on JACK CHICK TRACTS | Mandy Keifetz on KRAZY KAT | Tom Devlin on DUM-DUM POSSE READER | Eric Reynolds on ACTION COMICS #460 | Rick Pinchera on EIGHTBALL #16 | Juan Recondo on DAYTRIPPER | Elizabeth Foy Larsen on ROZ CHAST | J.E. Anckorn on HALO JONES | Deborah Wassertzug on GREAT POP THINGS | Peggy Nelson on MAD MOVIE SATIRES | Holly Interlandi on ANGEL SANCTUARY | Karen Green on THE SMITHSONIAN COLLECTION OF NEWSPAPER COMICS.
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