The PopCult Comix Bookshelf

Blessed Be
by Rick Altergott
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1683967781

Blessed Be is the first long-from work by cartoonist Rick Altergott, and it’s an absolute gem.  The story stars Doofus, the short, chubby loser with a page-boy haircut and straw boater who was originally featured in short gag back-up comic strips in magazines like HATE and Eightball back in the 1990s.

Originally Blessed Be was serialized in black-and-white in the anthology comic, Raisin Pie, which Altergott split with his wife, cartoonist Ariel Bordreaux, but the story was left unfinished. Since the last issue of Raisin Pie was published in 2007, Altergott has extensively re-written and re-drawn and colored the much-expanded story, and the result is an incredible comic book story, with distinctly adult themes. He’s also incorporated some of the work he did for VICE in recent years, too.

The result is a 150+ page story that grabs you and makes you want to finish it in one sitting.

While Doofus and his dim-witted sidekick, Henry Hotchkiss are the stars of the story, the real main character is the fictional seaside town of Flowertown USA and its mix of bizarre characters and people who are struggling to be normal. There’s lots of drugs, sex and violence involved, and even more biting satire and social commentary. Blessed Be manages to occupy a space somewhere between Archie Comics and the worlds of Charles Bukowski, Todd Solondz and Timothy Leary, with a nod to crime stories and slapstick comedy along the way.

He’s populated Flowertown with a surreal collection of characters: Naked net fishermen who dominate the beach and speak in their own unidentifiable language; A secret society that pulls the strings of power in the town…and has as their secret a most unexpected characteristic; A teen drug-dealer, hellbent on revenge; Denizens and patrons of “Big Disgusting Burger Inc.”; Someone who leaves Chick Tracts all over town; and of course, Doofus and Henry.

Altergott’s art is an almagam of some very impressive influences.  He manages to maintain his own style, while showing nods to Mad Magazine‘s iconic artists like Jack Davis, Mort Drucker and Wally Wood. His storytelling, layout and pacing are terrific and the coloring on this work is spectacular.

The story is filled with nudity, both male and female, and adult themes and drug use. The violence is not gory, but as placed in the story it’s shocking. While the art might make you think that this is simply a light-hearted comedy, it’s actually a pretty intense drama and definitely not for children or for pearl-clutchers of any age.

Having said this, I think I enjoyed Blessed Be more than any new work I’ve read so far this year.

Let’s quote from the publisher’s blurb…

Altergott’s farcical earnest cast of smalltown bums, outlaws, hippies, bikers, and babes — with names like Father John Beggarweed, Stink Hair Stu, Rubberneck Nelson, Muttonchop O’Rourke, et. al. — intertwine in a web of crime and mystery involving satanic ritual, religious tracts curiously popping up around town, naked fishermen, and psychedelic drugs, driving the narrative to ever-greater depths of hilarity (even though none of his characters are in on the jokes). Blessed Be reads like an R-rated Mad magazine parody of Our Town written by John Waters and drawn by Mort Drucker and Wally Wood. Altergott both skewers and celebrates an eerie realm of ’70s men’s magazines and small-town conservatism. A cult favorite since the 1990s amongst intellectuals and philistines alike for his impeccably crafted brand of lowbrow humor, cartoonist Rick Altergott has never crafted a full-length graphic novel — until now.

Blessed Be can be ordered from any bookseller using the ISBN code above, or you can purchase it directly from the publisher.