The Final ’80s Countdown, Part Sixteen.

§ July 17th, 2023 § Filed under final countdown § 7 Comments

Today I am doing the last of the two-voter getters from my Fave ’80s Indies (plus Marvel/Epic Because Why Not) survey. It’s a long’un, so strap in:

Yummy Fur (Vortex/Drawn & Quarterly 1986-1994)

Yummy Fur started as a mini-comic self-published by cartoonist Chester Brown, running seven issues from 1983 to 1985. It would be picked up by Vortex Comics, reprinting the contents of those minis in the first three standard-sized comic issues and continuing with new material afterwards.

While many of the very earliest strips were short stand-alone gags, the main thrust of the book was the adventures of Ed the Happy Clown, to whom horrible things would happen and continue to happen through the features’ tenure in the book. However, some of those short seemingly unrelated strips would eventually feed into the main Ed narrative, most notably “The Man Who Couldn’t Stop” (about a man sitting on a toilet who, well, it says right on the tin, really).

The Ed stories tended to be surrealistic, morbidly humorous, occasionally shockingly violent, grotesque, and often a little sad. There’s a lady vampire in there too, who becomes one of Ed’s few friends in his travails. The childlike Ed just suffers through nightmarish scenario after nightmarish scenario, the peak of which is, well, the minature head of an other-dimensional Ronald Reagan replacing part of his penis. Hence:

And on top of all this, most issues featured as back-up stories just straight adaptations of stories from The Bible, which also seemed to occasionally feed, at least thematically, into the lead feature. Was it a strange mix? Oh, certainly. But it was all done so…plainly and matter-of-factly that both the humor and the horror were unfettered by any sort of distance between the narrative and reader. It was right there, in your face but not overblown, presented in an almost mundane way.

After ending the Ed story in #18, Brown moved on to more down-to-earth autobiographical stories (but not without the occasional flight of fancy, such as in “The Little Man”) which ran through the rest of the series. The Bible back-ups continued as well. This was at the height of the autobiographical indie comic, and Brown was one of the most prominent in the genre.

There have been numerous reprints from this series, and it gets a little confusing particularly with the “Ed the Happy Clown” material. (One should also note that Brown did self-publish a collection of the first six minis in ’85.) I’m delving into the Wikipedia article to keep it all straight. However, I do own the initial trade paperback reprint from 1989, which contains the Ed-related stories from the first 12 issues and a foreward by Harvey Pekar.

The second Ed collection from 1992 also ends the reprints at issue #12 (with some material from a later issue), and includes a new ending.

In 2005-6, there was a nine-issue Ed the Happy Clown comic series from Drawn & Quarterly, re-presenting the Ed story as it appears in its definitive, “truncated” version from 1992, along with notes from Brown. This was collected into the 2012 Ed the Happy Clown hardcover, which is still available as I type this.

And the later autobiographical material has been collected into three volumes: The Little Man (various short strips), The PLayboy (about Brown’s fascination with said magazine), and I Never Liked You (the life and loves of Teenage Chester). Not reprinted is a big chunk of the latter “Ed” stories (from #13 – #18, though portions of #17 make it into the “definitive” edition), and I believe a few things from the “mini-comics” era also remain unreprinted. The Bible stories are also uncollected, far as I can tell, which honestly surprises me a little.

Long, long-time readers of this site know that I had some trouble tracking down a couple issues of Yummy Fur for the longest time. #6 and #9 eluded me for years, though I did eventually track them both down. Issue #9 was the last, getting a copy from, of all places, Scott McCloud’s collection back in 2013.

Now I knew one of the reasons some of those issues of Yummy Fur were so hard to find was that Diamond Comic Distributors decided to not carry the title for a while, presumably to make room for higher quality, better selling material. Eventually, after all the accolades Yummy Fur received, Diamond was shamed into carrying it again. According to the Wiki article, because of being dropped by Diamond, ordered bottomed out on #9, with a reported print run of under 1,700 copies. No wonder it was such a pain in the ass to find this stupid issue.

Anyway, Yummy Fur is pretty great. It’s a shame that so much of the Ed story was removed from the “definitive” edition, but those later issues should be sorta relatively easy to find. So, get the official story in the hardcover, and get the “deleted scenes” in issues #13-#18. The autobio stuff is entertaining, too…Chester doesn’t really pull any punches in depicting his life, so brace yourself for some cringey discomfort. Hope you like masturbation!

But if you want the Bible stories, you’re gonna have to buy the original issues. In fact, ideally, you should get a full run of the series for the unadulterated experience. I mean, good luck finding #9. No, you can’t have mine.

• • •

Okay, that’s it for the two-voters…on to see what series got three votes in my little ’80s indie overview thingie! Thanks for reading, pals!

7 Responses to “The Final ’80s Countdown, Part Sixteen.”

  • Thelonious_Nick says:

    Here we go. Yummy Fur is one of the greatest things ever. The humor is not for everyone! I certainly didn’t read it at the time, but loved the series when I bought them later as back issues. When I sold my collection last year, this was one of the things I considered holding back. (Though I ended up selling everything.)

    The juxtaposition of the main strip with the Gospel of Matthew backup is an interesting choice. I like how straightforward the biblical adaptation is. But the almost affectless delivery also highlights the beauty and strangeness of the Gospel story.

    Actually, maybe that’s the point? How the Bible story is as strange as the absolutely crazy story Chester draws in the main strip?

  • Thom H. says:

    Chester Brown is an excellent cartoonist. Louis Riel is an absolute masterpiece in my opinion. I’ve only read a little bit of Yummy Fur, which I should remedy when I have a chance.

  • ExistentialMan says:

    How in the world did I forget about Yummy Fur? I came across later issues of the series at a LCS near the Ohio State University campus in the late 80’s when I was an undergrad. I was alternately morbidly fascinated and delightfully disgusted by the Reagan penis arc. Thus began a fifteen-year quest for a complete set which, thankfully, ended at a Motor-City-Con in which I finally scored issues 6 and 7. One of the most uniquely creative and personal series ever published.

  • Roel Torres says:

    “…and a forward by Harvey Pekar.”

    (Just offering up a quick correction: it’s a “foreword” not a “forward.”)

    I love 80’s indy books, this series is completely in my wheelhouse. Great stuff! Thanks, Mike!

  • LouReedRichards says:

    I have the Ed The Happy Clown collection from ’89. I picked it up after reading his interview in The Comics Journal. What a wild ride! The one comic that got passed around to all of my college aged friends. None of them were comics fans, but they all seemed to love it. Its beat up, water stained and yellowing, the way that all good books that get passed around should be!

    Come to think of it, I think Reflex magazine, with its focus on alternative music AND cool comics helped prime the pump for them.

    That masturbating squid should have been the sensational character find of ’83. There’s no justice in this world.

  • Pal Cully says:

    I remember your quest for those two issues. My copy of Ed the Happy Clown looks a might disheveled because I would loan it out to unsuspecting friends. One of my favorite series.

  • Snark Shark says:

    “his interview in The Comics Journal.”

    I’ve read THAT! But oddly enough, never the comic!