Gomer: Gofer, Loafer follows the pagination of the 2009 French language reissues of Gomer Goof’s escapades, but the content was crafted by André Franquin in 1969. By then the strip was a finely tuned comedic juggernaut, and all favourite situations recur here in imaginative variations of what’s gone before. Gomer does as little work as possible around the Spirou office, exasperating his boss Prunelle, and has time to work on plenty of inventions. De Mesmaeker arrives several times attempting to have those contacts signed, each time somehow falling foul of Gomer’s latest creation, and while he can invent countless new devices, he can never quite get his distinctive car to run as it should. There’s even a return for the notorious goofofone, with inevitable consequences.

Several standard occurrences are combined for the sample page. The beauty of the strip isn’t in the jokes themselves, which can be predictable, but in the execution. Franquin controls the slapstick so precisely from set-up to conclusion, instilling a sense of anticipation all the way through, and doubles up the joke. We can take it for granted that despite Prunelle’s ecstasy at the thought, those contracts aren’t going to be signed, and we also know that because such attention has been drawn to De Mesmaeker’s smart car it’s inevitably not going to survive the strip intact. The means of destruction is the well established malfunctioning of Gomer’s own car. However, despite the sublime staging, what really makes the strip special is the cartooning. It’s so instinctive, the big feet, the exaggerated responses, the poses and expressions so amazingly selling the mood, and Franquin even extending that to the wonky wheels of Gomer’s car. Every strip in this book is as masterfully drawn.

Franquin continually surprises with Gomer’s inventions, taking a swipe at pop-art furniture in one strip, and always creating a glorious, busy mess with sound effects and clouds of smoke if Gomer’s been let loose with chemicals. While the inventions inevitably either fail or don’t work as planned, the joy is in watching the disaster unfold. While the agreeable Gomer’s never despondent at failure, Franquin occasionally takes pity, and the shower phone gag is a gem. Franquin credits Yvan Delporte and someone identified as Michel for supplying a few of the jokes, and recurring topics this time include Gomer’s menagerie of unwholesome pets, a termite outbreak, and fantastic use of a bowling ball. The surreal touches are delights, a gem being the reader having to supply their own explanation as to how a fish skeleton ended up in Prunelle’s typewriter.

Gomer: Gofer, Loafer is a visual master on the top of his form, and there’s more to come in Gomer, Duke of Goofington.