Gomer Goof by Andre Franquin. Volume 2 cover detail

Gomer Goof v2: “It’s a Van Goof”

The first thing I learned when I picked this book up is that the proper title is “Gomer Goof.” There is no “the” in there. It sounds like it should be there because it would be there in a more literal translation of the French title, “Gaston La Gaffe,” but it’s not.

“Gomer Goof.”

Seriously, eventually, I will get used to that.

But, first, excuse me while I go back and edit my review of volume 1 to fix that….

Credits

Writer: Andre Franquin (with additional text by Delporte)
Artist: Andre Franquin with Jideham on backgrounds
Lettering: Design Amorandi
Translator: Jerome Saincantin
Published by: Cinebook
Number of Pages: 48
Original Publication: 1960-something

 

I’m Torn

Gomer reinvents the card table with special legs

I’m not sure if it came out as strongly as it should have in my first review last year, but I had a bit of a problem latching onto the character.  Beyond just trying to figure out what the set-up for the strip is, the style of humor wasn’t necessarily up my alley.  There were some laughs, but Gomer grated on me more often than he charmed me.  He wasn’t sympathetic at all.

The question is, will he eventually wear me down if I read more?  That’s why I committed to reading the second and third volumes.

With the second volume, I’m starting to warm up.  The batting average was higher this time, and Gomer only annoyed me on a few occasions.

It’s not like Gomer is your standard comic strip hero.  He’s lazy.  He’s borderline dumb at times.  He makes fantastic contraptions with such obvious shortfalls that you have to believe he’s incapable of thought.

There’s a fine line between charmingly goofy — like Disney’s goofy — and Gomer Goof, who can be fairly unsympathetic.  He often destroys things because he’s dumb and doesn’t think of others.

 

The Evolving Goof

Gomer Goof pushes the car to be helpful

With this second book, I started to see him as being more naive and optimistic.  There’s a joy he has with every one of his inventions.  When it fails, he doesn’t look crestfallen.  He doesn’t give up.  He’s just ready to move to the next thing, even if it leaves the offices a mess, or a car a totaled wreck, or some other major side effect.

He’s only trying to be helpful.  And he won’t take “no” for an answer.

We’re only on the second book of the series. Perhaps Franquin was still feeling his way through the series and who the character was.  Maybe things will get even better from here!  Maybe I’m about to meet the Goof everyone in France loves so much!

Maybe?

I hope so.

 

The Specifics

Like with the first book, this one has text pages telling short stories.  The illustrations that go along with them are nice, but I’m skipping over the prose.  They don’t interest me. This isn’t the back matter of “Watchmen.” I read comics for the combination of words and pictures from one panel to the next.

You don’t miss anything by skipping those pages, though. I’m glad these books include them because I’m a completist.  But, personally, I don’t want to slow down to read them. I might go back to them someday…

Franquin’s art is still saving this book.  His ink line makes up for any shortcomings in the gags, the stories, or the characters.  I want more of that, not less.

Gomer Goof plays with balloons

There are some great visual gags in this book dealing with balloons – whether it’s Gomer playfully focused on keeping one up in the air so much that he trips and falls into a water fountain, or how he deals with a large number of balloons flooding the office.

Gomer’s trademark car gets a lot of play, as well, as he takes a lesson from the balloons to figure a way out of parking tickets, or the way he ensnarls an entire town’s traffic just with his driving “skills.”

Fantasio dances to Gomer's amusement

It’s all matched by Franquin’s expressive art.  His style is unique, and he pushes his characters into exaggerated poses that work well.  Every reaction and every emotion feels amplified.  Franquin’s characters don’t do “meh.”  They play in the extremes, and I love that.

Technically speaking, I have to mention this again: Franquin’s inking is amazing.  The way he plays with line weights and clothing folds is second to none.  I did a little practice sketching the other day of Gomer and Fantasio based on Franquin’s drawings, and came away more impressed than ever by how strong an influence the inking stage is on Franquin’s final art. 

The characters feel like they have simple designs.  The have round heads, large mitts for hands, and rubber hose limbs.  Trying to capture that look is more difficult than you might think.  You might get the underpinning correct with enough practice, but trying to mimic that ink line would be a torturous task.

 

Available in Print!

Gomer drives his car in the fog

Cinebook is publishing this series, so I have some good news for you: It’s available in a print edition!  Yes, this is one of those rare reviews on this site of a title that’s available on dead wood for far cheaper on Amazon than the cover says.  If you don’t like digital, you can’t complain about this one.

Thankfully, Cinebook is printing the series at the full European album size, so you’re not getting the shrunken pages like you get with some of their books, like “Largo Winch.” The art looks great at this size.  With Franquin’s brand of inking, too, you’ll be glad to see it at this size.  It needs it.  (That said, reading this on a big iPad in landscape mode so you can only fit half a page on the screen at a time is awe-inspiring.)

The colors are also not muddy.  Due to the simpler color schemes available when this series was originally created, everything shows up bright and clear here.  There’s no muddy darkness caused by paper soaking up ink.  OK, maybe there’s a little.  Gomer’s sweater could stand to be a shade brighter here and there, but you wouldn’t notice it if you didn’t think about it.

Also, a Cinebook book smells really good.  No, seriously, you know that fresh book smell when you open the pages for the first time?  Cinebook gives you that every time.  Whatever this paperstock is, it’s great on the nose.

 

Recommended?

Gomer Goof by Andre Franquin. Volume 2 cover

With only a slight hesitation, yes.  It’s not fully formed yet, I don’t think. We’ve turned a corner and I’m very hopeful for what I might read in the third book now.  You won’t have to wait a year for that review, either.  I’ll get to that one sooner rather than later.

It’s worth it just for the art, though…

— 2018.096 —

 

Buy It Now

Buy this book on Amazon Click here to buy digital BD comics albums through Izneo.com  Buy this book on Comixology

10 Comments

  • JC Lebourdais November 26, 2018 at 8:57 am

    As you said, Gaston is a character that takes getting used to. He was never my favourite of Franquin’s series (Spirou and Modeste & Ponpon were) but it’s entirely his creation, as opposed to taking over from others. It’s so typically belgian that I was not sure how it would translate into english; the vocabulary is also very much anchored in belgian culture. At the same time, its evolution is reflecting on Franquin’s mental state, as he was almost constantly battling bouts of depression, some more severe than others; in later strips, that shows. There is a certain fatality in Gaston’s stories, a hopelessness of human nature. It’s “no good deed” turned up to eleven. It started as a filler in the pages of Spirou weekly and took a life of its own, very much adopted by french people.

    Reply
    • Augie December 3, 2018 at 8:24 pm

      I’m looking forward to Fantagraphics publishing his latter stuff next year. Oh, wait! I just found it on their website and it already came out this year:

      http://www.fantagraphics.com/dielaughing/

      Time flies. It came out back in May…. I’m all mixed up.

      Excuse me while I go place an Amazon order….

      Reply
  • mcd91 November 28, 2018 at 3:36 am

    Gaston can‘t be grabbed because he‘s anti-establishment. His traits are that he cares about the most basic aspects in life, plus he‘s very committed to his inventions.
    Gaston is one of the greatest comics ever, and I‘m a bit astonished that you don‘t really get him, maybe the subevrsive elements are what you dislike, but I could be wrong of course.

    Reply
    • Augie December 3, 2018 at 8:26 pm

      Subversive can work for me, but it’s a fine line to walk. A lot of what I read ion the first book just struck me as Gaston being willfully annoying and destructive, instead of doing something with a purpose. He wasn’t trying to make a point; he was just dopey and obnoxious. He’s growing on me with the second and particularly third book. Fantasio is a great straight man to work against, too.

      Reply
  • iamfear7 November 29, 2018 at 2:00 pm

    “not fully formed yet”

    The thing is, at this point it IS fully formed, because the series is not published in order, so volume 2 here is volume 6 or 7 in French and the art is in Apex Franquin mode! The earlier volumes had half-page strips and the art -while great because Franquin of course- was more simplistic and “stiffer”, like in the earlier Spirou books.

    Those early strips were funny but maybe not as good in comparison, and the art not as appealing, so I can definitely see why they wouldn’t start from the beginning. It’s not super-important continuity-wise, but you do miss the natural evolution of the strip’s style and characters. A prime example being ‘moiselle Jeanne (the girl in the car in your sample, whatever her name is in English) who starts off as a gag not being drawn as pretty as the other office girls, but grows in later volumes into a great main supporting character/girlfriend.

    Speaking of that, there is a recent remastered and recolored version of the whole series by the way, everything reprinted in order with plenty of stuff that was serialized in Spirou magazine but never put in one of the collected books… bringing the whole thing to 21 volumes compared to the original 15 or 16 (whatever it was).
    http://www.gastonlagaffe.com/albums.html
    I’m really not into double-dipping but if I had the budget I’d go for it to get the newly added bits.

    Reply
    • Augie December 3, 2018 at 8:20 pm

      Ah, interesting. I should have known they were publishing this out of order. So I guess it’s just me getting into it. I’ll say this — I loved volume 3. Wherever that falls in the chronology of the work, It’s good stuff for me. I’m in now. I’m just still not a fan of the text pages.

      And, yes, I definitely prefer the later style to the earlier, more graphic/flatter style, so I’m glad they started where they did.

      It’s kind of like what Fantagraphics is doing with The Carl Barks Library. They didn’t want to start with the earlier books because they weren’t the best stories or art. So they started in the middle, but they’re being frustrating by not putting volume numbers of even years on the books. It’s just a collection of books that, if you happen to know the order, you can line up right on the bookshelf…..

      Reply
  • Eric van Schaik December 1, 2018 at 5:16 am

    In Holland the complete serie’s is published with a print with everything book. It will consist 21 volumes. Every piece Franquin did is published integral, with new translation and sometimes re-colored.

    Reply
    • Augie December 3, 2018 at 8:21 pm

      I just clicked over to the GastonLaGaffe.com and those new books look beautiful. We’ll never get that over here, so I’ll have to settle for what I can get. Ultimately, I need to learn French so I can buy nice things and read them. =)

      Reply
  • iamfear7 December 4, 2018 at 1:46 pm

    Randomly commenting because for some reason, even tho I get the email notifications for this article, I am unable to see the new comments on the page itself… stupid wordpress haha :/

    Reply
    • iamfear7 December 4, 2018 at 1:48 pm

      …and of course, that comment seems to have solved the problem somehow, and now I see everything…

      So nevermind!

      Reply

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