Review by Fiona Jerome
This first Maakies collection brought Tony Millionaire to the attention of a huge new audience of hipster comic readers. Millionaire’s work looks beautiful and, at a distance, innocent, but reading it is like being dashed in the face with a bucket of sick.
Maakies brings together irregular and daily strips from 1994-2000, letting you see Millionaire’s gradual evolution as a storyteller and philosopher as he develops the central characters who would star in all the Maakies strips – Drinky Crow, an alcoholic with a taste for self-destruction, and a boorish monkey called Uncle Gabby. Their comments on the world that’s passing them by, when it’s not pissing on them from a great height, make up the bulk of the material, but along the way Millionaire introduces a rich catalogue of dysfunctional characters.
Maakies is set on a pirate ship, ruled by the despotic and violent Captain Maak, and over the course of the brief strips the duo encounter countless nihilistic situations and absurdist characters. These include a robotic doctor who invents disturbing and often dangerous devices and a sexy crocodile lady pirate – vagina dentata in spades!
In the strip Drinky Crow and Uncle Gabby try to adapt themselves to life aboard ship but whenever things seem to be going well something happens to trip them up and they frequently end up not just wishing themselves dead, but acting on that thought.
In between this depressing narrative, if you can call it that, are various surreal interludes, and running alongside the main strip there are often mini strips slotted in above or below the main panels. Some comment on the action, some offer light entertainment in the great tradition of daily strips.
Millionaire is an expert draughtsman and master of multiple styles. His very detailed artwork, often reminiscent of woodcuts and old prints, draws on the graphic fluidity of the likes of George Herriman, the whimsy of Windsor McKay and the visceral mark-making of Underground Comix artists such as S. Clay Wilson.
Maakies is a repository for every sick joke, unkind but true thought, knee-jerk reaction and base sentiment we, as humans, experience. It acknowledges our darkest nights and most soul-numbing fears and makes laugh-out-loud strips out of all the weakness, mean-spiritedness and paranoia. Excellent!