Sunday, September 30, 2007

He Done Her Wrong by Milt Gross

According to the publisher's blurbs and the afterword by Paul Karasik, this is the second wordless novel published in America (in 1930, one year after Lynd Ward's God's Man). It's funny and zany and cartoony in all the best ways, with gags piled upon gags and a plot left behind wherever necessary to make more jokes.

A tough backwoods type finds a girl, loves her, but is tricked by his despicable partner into staying deep in the woods while the partner woos the girl (with word that the hero is dead) and whisks her off to the big city.

It gets sillier and less obvious from there, since the heel doesn't keep the girl very long (after a run-in with a street-corner gum-vending machine) and soon is chasing after a rich matron. It all comes together in the end, of course, where the good end happily and the bad end unhappily. (Since that's what fiction means.)

Parts of this are a bit opaque seventy years later -- I had to be told that the thing that stymies the villain is a gum-vending machine, for example. (I thought perhaps it was a parking meter.) Especially without words, some cultural details can be difficult to understand. But it's still very funny, and a great example of what a good cartoonist can achieve without words.

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