When movies were mostly silent, vaudeville was the rage, radio was just coming of age, and comic strips were golden, He Done Her Wrong.
Possibly the first graphic novel and certainly one of his best works, He Done Her Wrong (HDHW) was inspired by cartoonist Milt Gross’ earlier creative marriage with silent film comedian Charlie Chaplin. They had worked together on Chaplin’s feature The Circus (1928).
The “he” in HDHW is a powerful but ignorant frontiersman used by a dishonest businessman who steals his true love. This equally true hero follows to New York City where a wild cast of stereotypical vaudevillian players cast by Gross as citizens turn his quest into chaos.
HDHW is like watching the Marx Brothers pursuing the Keystone Cops.
Don’t expect originality in the story or characters. Every cliche in this boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back paper melodrama is at home here. Originality is not its purpose. Its purpose is K-RAZY!!
Dialog is beyond criticism; there is none. None is needed. Nor should you expect complexity. Complexity is beyond the ability of silent films or silent strips.
So why buy?
HDHW is frenetic and wildly creative in its style. Gross’ barbwire art leaps off his paper stage with only a passing nod at perspective or anatomy because it’s too busy running.
HDHW is also funny although you won’t laugh out loud. That seems somehow appropriate for a silent film on paper.
And HDHW is a nostalgic trip back into a time when the world of slapstick and broad parody were king.
Gross would produce many comic strips in his life, but none was more visually creative and entertaining than He Done Her Wrong. It is highly recommended. MV
He Done Her Wrong/256 pages & $16.95 from Fantagraphics/sold at comics and bookstores, and at www.fantagraphics.com.
Order your copy of the all-Vance horror paperback Apocris 1 at http://www.lighthousemediaone.co.uk/FutureProjects.html
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