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February 14-20, 2007

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'The Real-Great Adventures of Terr'ble Thompson, Hero of His'try'

The Real-Great Adventures of Terr'ble Thompson, Hero of His'try
(By Gene Deitch; Fantagraphics; 112 pages; $18.95 paper)

Decades before designing the Ciné16 T-shirt and a year or so before beguiling hoards of kids with the Captain Kangaroo cartoon Tom Terrific, Gene Deitch created a newspaper comic strip in 1955 about an free-lance consultant (age almost 8) who helps out Washington, Columbus, Cleopatra and sundry other figures from history. Unfortunately, his parents and the neighborhood children believe he's just imagining things. The adventures of Terr'ble (the name was meant to sound like "the great and terrible Oz") ran less than a year, enough time for Deitch to experiment with fab-'50s graphics to equal the best of Jay Ward and UPA animation studios. The cartoonist was an essential part of a comic-strip wave so classically cute and goofy that it survived up to the present day, especially in Peter Bagge's work. Much applause is due Fantagraphic's computerized reprinting of the strip from what its still-living creator calls "miserably-printed newspaper remnants." The recolorization of the Sunday strips preserves the powerful simplicity of a strip that should have been a contender.

Review by Richard von Busack


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