Fragmaggots. That’s your word for today. An extremely mild expletive, but with enough impact to turn heads and give all those within hearing pause. Please try to insert it into as many conversations as possible. Indeed, Fragmaggots could have been the title of this new volume. It’s a word that features a lot. It is the frustrated utterance of Gomer’s colleague Prunelle, called into service continually because of something Gomer has done. And you can’t blame him.
The Gomer Goof books magically combine witty storytelling, great gag writing, and the incredibly talented cartooning skills of Franquin. There are precious few cartoonists that come close to his penmanship, his comic timing, or his high standards. Narratively, not a lot happens per page. There are a lot of repeat-until-funny scenarios, but it’s really about how Franquin gets you there, to the punchline. He has an uncanny ability to wring new comedy out of a situation that appears to have been wrung dry, returning to it at unexpected moments. The introduction of what seems a rather innocuous item or character is, in fact, an opportunity for fresh mayhem.
In this volume, the mayhem comes largely from Gomer’s not-so-trusty ancient car, his cat, his black-headed gull, and a cactus. What would happen if, for example, the cactus was put in the lift…? Let’s see. Or the car was given a fuel additive? That’s good for a few pages. Now, a bad-tempered gull living in a busy office, that must be ripe for comic value, mustn’t it? Yep, pages of it.
The humour works much like a sitcom, in that there’s a distinctive setting, regular characters, in-jokes, returning themes, and a lead character that is both likeable and utterly hopeless. It’s almost comfort-humour. Reassuring, and yet satisfying.
The only disappointment is that we have to wait a while for the next book. I have just one thing to say to that. Fragmaggots.
And if you liked that: Check out Franquin’s work on Spirou & Fantasio