Review by Frank Plowright
The fifth Gomer Goof album translates André Franquin’s strips from 1969 into 1970, yet such is the astonishing poise of the cartooning only outdated office technology reveals these strips as of their era. The humour is certainly timeless, inventive farce.
When originally published, part of the joke was that Gomer was the office boy at Spirou, the French comic in which his adventures appeared. While all around him attempted to ensure the smooth production, Gomer was more interested in following through his own extraordinarily creative ideas, sleeping, and playing pranks on the staff. The sample page is unusual in presenting a selection of jokes rather than a sequence leading to a payoff, but defines Gomer’s dangerous activities. Just soak in that beautifully expressive cartooning.
Although featuring more panels per episode over a full page, Franquin is to some extent aping the formula of the newspaper gag strip, yet his is a constantly active brain, and by 1969 it’s rare that he’ll produce sequences around a single theme. Winter snow providing the background conditions for several jokes is the nearest to that in Goofball Season. Such is Franquin’s unique mind, that time after time even seasoned gag strip readers won’t see the final panel gag coming. One strip begins with Gomer performing a standard seaside puppet show in the office to entertain his colleagues. Managing Editor Prunelle is very pleased as De Mesmaeker has arrived unannounced, and perhaps with Gomer occupied those all-important contracts will finally be signed. However, De Mesmaeker hears the continual laughter coming from another room along with the roars of a beast. He likes puppet shows, and wants to see what’s so riotous, only to be confronted with his red-faced likeness screaming about contracts. Once again, they remain unsigned.
Of great joy is the return of the goofophone, last seen in Gone With the Goof, Gomer’s building shattering musical instrument. It’s a brief return, but it also features in four pages of text and illustration, purporting to be Prunelle’s diary as he observes its reclamation by nature. This text feature permits some great illustrations of the device, but Yvan Delporte’s writing packs in nowhere near as many good jokes as Franquin would have managed. Franquin was always meticulous in giving credit for using ideas supplied by others, and two strips were conceived by Bibi, who’d supply two more, one apiece in 1971 and 1972. Bibi remains mysterious, with no connection to the long running French strip Bibi Fricotin.
The final page is a full page gag about gas heaters that so angered the French national gas company that Spirou were forced to run a series of information strips as compensation. Now that’s a good gag!
£6.99 or $11.95 for Goofball Season buys you 44 pages of one the world’s greatest ever cartoonists at the peak of his creativity. It’s difficult to imagine the money could be better spent on entertainment.