Poor Helpless Comics!: The Cartoons (and More) of Ed Subitzky

New York Review Comics. Oct. 2023. 176p. ISBN 9781681377872. pap. $29.95. HUMOR
This long overdue collection of work created for National Lampoon magazine throughout the 1970s and 1980s reveals creator Subitzky as not only one of the funniest cartoonists of his generation but also an innovator whose experimental approach to the comic-strip form still seems ahead of its time today. In Torture the Characters Comics!, color-coded speech balloons provide readers an opportunity to decide whether characters experience hopefulness or despair. 8 Comics in One! tells a variety of stories in different genres, depending on where a reader starts and stops reading. Subitzky creates comics as palindromes, in the form of crossword puzzles, which experience puberty as they progress or capture the experience of attempting to enjoy a theatergoing experience despite the ceaseless conversation of a pretentious couple seated nearby. While some of the humor here skews toward a luridness typical of the magazine in which it appeared, Subitzky tends to deliver this material as either barbed satire of censorship or commentary upon the prurience of his audience, as in one strip featuring a couple berating the reader for their cruel voyeurism.
VERDICT Subitzky’s uninhibited imagination and penchant for absurd humor create a thrillingly revelatory collection, with contributions by cartoonist Mark Newgarden.
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