Vintage Comic Review: “Laffin’ Gas Cartoonies” #3 (Blackthorne, 80s August Special)

Welcome back to 80s AugustThe Splintering’s month-long celebration of the greatest decade. Ever. (Change my mind)

Today, we’re going to take a look at Laffin’ Gas Cartoonies issue 3, which was published by Blackthorne Publishing in November 1986.

Laffin’ Gas Cartoonies was an ongoing black-and-white anthology featuring several comedy and parody short stories. The book is very much in the spirit of Mad Magazine, albeit with exclusively comic-style storytelling. Issue three is 27 pages long (32 with ads), and features parodies of He-Man, the Terminator, the Smurfs, and several other 80s entertainment properties. 

Like other anthology books, Laffin’ Gas Cartoonies is going to be a bit tricky to review, but I’ll give a brief recap of the stories below. 

Diz-Nee-Man is more terrifying than Skeletor could ever be.

Me-Man and the Misters of the Universe – art and story byTaylor Overbey

A parody of Masters of the Universe, the brief adventure follows the brash hero Me-Man as he investigates the latest threat to the land of Infernia. This leads Me-Man on a quest that crosses dimensions, and brings him toe-to-toe with dastardly villains including Skullnoggin and Diz-Nee-Man. 

There are plenty of good gags throughout the story, including multiple “plugs” to sell toys, Me-Man’s costume changing from panel to panel to show different advertisements and endorsements, and one of the best sound effects I’ve seen in a while: “Gslortch!”

Citizen Kean – art and story by Hal Lane

Remember when comic book collections used to be worth money? Laffin’ Gas Cartoonies remembers. 

Infamous comic book hoarder Kean Crowe has died, and his massive, priceless comic book collection has gone missing along with him. His last words? “Rosebud.” Naturally. 

As the Citizen Kane-inspired story progresses, a reporter learns the truth about Crowe’s last days from one of his friends – a bizarre tale that combines elements of the Terminator and the Wizard of Oz, all the while featuring tons of familiar classic characters- Looney Tunes, Voltron, Betty Boop, etc. It may lean a little bit too much on references, but the end of the story wasn’t predictable, and it was a fun read.  

Before there was Who Framed Roger Rabbit? – there was Citizen Kean

Hobotech the Saggy Saga– art by Sam Wray and story by Don Chin

In a near future, the world is reduced to a near-nuclear wasteland. One Professor Egbert Stonehead is unable to convince President Raygun that an alien menace is planning an invasion of earth, and is forced to address the alien menace on his own.

Professor Stonehead instead must enlist the help of the common folk, mostly made up of bums and drunkards. What they lack in wits, they make up for in motivation, as they are willing to fight and die for their home world if it means saving their beer.

In a scene prescient of Independence Day, the aliens enter the atmosphere, and the rabble takes to the skies in refurbished “ancient” war planes. As it turns out, the human pilots are so drunkenly erratic as they fly that the aliens can’t adequately target them. 

The ending was abrupt, and it definitely doesn’t seem as though the alien robots had their hearts set on conquering earth in the end, but it’s humorous.

President Raygun putting out the trash! Sort of…

There are a few shorter bits in this issue, such as The Bugs Duckie Show (by William Van Horn) which essentially deconstructs the recurring explosion gag from Looney Tunes episodes. There is also a series of shorts called The Smirks (by Andy Ice), which are mostly funny, but some of the gags are so quick that they probably would have been better executed as a smaller comic strip rather than full pages. One episode of Tales of the Smirks also addresses the age-old question of “Was Smurfette basically the village bicycle?”

Like all anthologies featuring multiple creators, the art varies. I’d say that all of the stories are generally well-paced (other than maybe some wasted space in the aforementioned Smirks shorts), and the illustrations are predictably exaggerated versions of the properties they are parodying. 

With a $2 cover price, Laffin’ Gas Cartoonies seems slightly on the pricier end for a black and white book in 1986. However, picking up the back issues now is not an expensive endeavor. I discovered my copy of issue three in a Free Comic Book Day bargain bin. As someone who grew up mostly in the 1980s, I found myself really enjoying Laffin’ Gas Cartoonies for what it was, and I will be on the lookout for more issues of the short-lived series when I’m flipping through long boxes. However, if you didn’t experience the 80s and don’t have an “antiquarian longing” for the era (look it up), it’s almost certainly a relic that you can leave by the wayside.

We were all thinking it.

Thanks for reading!

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