Monday, October 29, 2018

Retro Review: Plop! #3 (1974)

Written By: Sergio Aragonés, Maxene Fabe, Michael J. Pellowski, George Kashdan
Art By: Basil Wolverton, Sergio Aragonés, Bill Draut, Alfredo Alcalca, unnamed one-panel gag writers/artists
Cover Price: 20 cents
Cover Date: February 1974

*Non-Spoilers and Score At The Bottom*

During the early 1970s, DC Comics put out a comic book titled Plop! that attempted to rip off MAD Magazine. You can read about the series tomorrow in my latest installment of Weird Comic Bookery, but I thought that before tearing into the subject I’d use the freedom of Just For the Hell Of It Mondays to review a singular issue of Plop!, for about forty or fifty unique hits. About a tenth of whom probably read it. And then half of them enjoy it. And half of that group will seek out my articles again. So I write this for you, the one person I can really count on, while all of these other jokers pretend to care and make half-hearted attempts to support my writing on this website. I know I can count on you, specifically, to read on! The rest of you should be ashamed of yourselves.

Explain It!
So Plop! was a humor and horror anthology book published by DC Comics in the early 1970s that was neither funny nor scary. It was hosted by brothers Cain and Abel, characters that readers would know from their respective horror titles House of Mystery and House of Secrets, and Eve, someone readers would know as the person from the New Testament who was first to commit sin. They host inasmuch as provide filler in between stories and other bits of filler in the form of one-panel gags. So our trio is at the beach for no particularly good reason, and after introducing the requisite two-page spread of shit Sergio Aragonés doodled while on line at the DMV, we get our first story, Belly Laugh, written by Maxene Fabe and drawn by Bill Draut. It’s about an evil dry cleaner named Rudolf Schmidt, which is to say a regular dry cleaner, one who needlessly makes people wait on long lines and wantonly ruins their clothing. His favorite thing is to pluck the buttons from people’s shirts, to the point of obsession. One customer, a physician named Dr. Fogarty, threatens to make the dry cleaner eat the next shirt that loses its buttons.

Schmidt acts tough, but actually does lay off his button-popping, until one evening he can no longer bear it and goes on a rampage removing all the buttons from the shirts in his store. Is this the only dry cleaner in town or something? I mean if every button is missing from your shirt I think you can demand a refund. In his frenzy, Rudolf pulls some buttons off with his teeth and inadvertently swallows one. He lets it course through his endocrine system for a couple of days, but eventually goes to visit Dr. Forgarty, who divines his crime with the aid of an x-ray. Long story short, which is to say the end of the story is that he removes Schmidt’s belly button in revenge, which is pretty funny.

Then we get a few pages of one-panel gags that are not funny. Oddly, Cain, Abel and Eve sort of punctuate some of the punchlines with explanations, like the reason we’re not laughing is because the jokes are somehow to esoteric or intellectual for us. This is when the comic book really feels like that unfunny uncle who has a novelty joy buzzer and has memorized every word of 1001 Dead Baby Jokes and has been banned from the local department store for fondling lingerie. I’ve included a page of this bullshit below, for your perusal.

Next is a story by Michael Pellowski and meticulously drawn by Alfredo Alcalca that is flat-out stupid as hell. Then there’s a bunch more one-panel gags grouped under the title “Prison Plops” but all feature jokes involving people that have been chained to a wall and are subject to torture. Maybe things have changed since 1974 but I’m pretty sure that anywhere you get chained to the wall is considered a dungeon, not a prison. That situation may change if Donald Trump is elected president but as of now it’s still sort of a no-no.

Our next story is Once Upon A Swine, written by Maxene Fabe (from an idea by Victor Schwartzman) and drawn by Sergio Aragonés, and it’s probably the best of the bunch. It’s about a ruthless, wealthy man named Willie Bascomb who annoys everyone with whom he comes in contact that becomes obsessed with eternal life. Willie hires a team of scientists to figure it out, but they can only get as far as providing medical reincarnation, though still based around the Hindu belief that your form in the next life is dictated by your behavior in this one. He breaks their balls a lot, but Bascomb takes the reincarnation vaccine and tells the scientist to keep working on the serum for eternal life. Eventually, the old bastard dies and reincarnates into a pig that still retains Willie’s intellect and memories, because he figures he can just die again and reincarnate into something better like a lemur. Just then, he finds himself in his scientists’ lab, where they inform him that they did develop the drug that will allow him to live forever, and administered it so that he will remain a pig for all eternity! And then they rushed it through the FDA and immediately began selling it to the medical profession as Livenzor, the drug with a zillion side effects that can mitigate the effects of Advancing Organ Shutdown (AOS). Ask your doctor if Livenzor is right for you.

Then we get some more stupid gags, and then two pages of really loosely-set reader mail aptly titled “Plop Drop.” It’s nice to see reader mail in a comic book but the sparse number of letters makes me feel like this is more filler than fan service. The last story, written by George Kashdan and again beautifully drawn by Alfredo Alcalca, is titled This Little Witch Went to Market. It’s about an eccentric old lady named Miss Emily Tibbs who goes around the neighborhood once per week and buys a live rooster, some black candles, and some other creepy shit and takes it back to her apartment. Everyone seems to love Miss Tibbs despite her eccentricities and the fact that she literally dresses like a cartoon spinster. Her landlord Mr. Bretch wants her out of the house and yells at her one night for making too much noise. That’s when she decides to put a voodoo spell on Mr. Bretch and makes him bleed out during the night, which is perfectly legal so long as you put that blood in escrow and can prove in court that you can restore the landlord to at least subservient zombie state upon the satisfactory curing of substandard living conditions. Then we close out with Cain, Abel and Eve who get killed by a tidal wave which goes “plop!”

I like stupid comic books but this one really takes the cake. The thing is edited by comics legend Joe Orlando but it feels like it was put together by the yearbook staff at an automotive repair school. Alfredo Alcalca’s art in particular is spectacular this issue, I get the impression he was taking some plotting and design liberties that probably wouldn’t have been allowed in many other titles. The tales themselves are only okay, the interstitial jokes are lame, and in the final analysis twenty cents every other month is too high a price to pay for this dreck. If you’re interested to know more about this stupid comic book for morons, check in tomorrow for the latest installment of Weird Comic Bookery, right here at this website!

Bits and Pieces:

Though its list of creators reads like a Who’s Who of comic book greats, this is largely a bunch of flat stories that reads like stuff from the inventory pile, which it probably is. Alfredo Alcalca is the stand-out artist of this issue but everyone does capable, if fairly unmemorable work. A lot of stuff in this issue of Plop! seems like stuff that is being done better elsewhere, like the one-panel gags that appear between each non-scary horror story. Ziggy had already dropped the mic on pithy, unfunny one-panel strips by this point, don’t try to upset the natural order of mediocrity.


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