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THE LEATHER NUN

A Review By: The Comics Journal

The following review by Rich Kreiner appeared in The Comics Journal #297 in April 2009.

Those people who leave a carny freak show marvelling at the diversity and wonders manifest in creation are the ones who will get the most out of Holy Sh*t! The World Weirdest Comic Books. Compilers Gravett and Stanbury have beaten the funnybook brush for their trophies, scouring the foreign (including topless Italian female Spider-Man), religious (The Gospel Blimp), public service (Popeye And Personal Service Carriers), promotional (a comic for Death cigarettes), underground (Amputee Love) and the mainstream (which is why this company manages to emerge as comparatively quaint, Herbie The Fat Fury. Ho Hum).

These comics are not mere novelties, curios that some how managed to speak past censors, editors or guardians of taste. These appear as comics of truly unusual sensibilities, aka authentically weird through and through. By way of proof, each of the 60 samples gets a double-page spread with a cover reproduction on the right and, on the left, an excerpted quote, single salient panel, introductory text and full publishing credits. That last betrays the authors’ serious curatorial intent in assigning time, place and responsibility for the paraded anomaly.

The reproduced covers are sensational though. The very first one has a bathing suit-clad quartet from Teen-Age Romance #9 where a pair of women off to the side complain of a third, in the foreground, who caresses a man: “THAT LITTLE CHEAT WILL DO ANYTHING TO HOLD DICK!” Wherever possible, Gravett and Stanbury explore more deeply the most immediate question for accountable comic writers, artists and publishers: “What were they thinking?”

Which, of course, is the most marvellous matter of all. Making a couple of bucks from the sale of a few comics or a few coffin nails is the least of it. Making proselytizing religion or atomic war palatable is more outré. Getting to say what’s on your mind in a comic… priceless.

Thus select comics of genuine interest and quality (Derf’s My Friend Dahmer, John Stanley’s Kookie), to say nothing of inarguable genius (Justin Green’s Binky Brown Meets The Holy Virgin Mary), are not rolled out for side-show yucks. Not exclusively. Ultimately it’s left to the audience to formulate its own answer to the question posed in the introduction: “Funny ha-ha or funny peculiar?”

...with the tacit understanding that it maybe neither: the sexy Amputee Love, written by double amputee Rene and drawn by her husband Rich, is “an empowering erotic manual,” additionally offering insight into wider avenues of soldiering on, including the Shoe Swap Club for members lacking one foot. That’s less freaky than the rubes might imagine.

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