Muzzlers, Guzzlers, and Good Yeggs: by Joe Coleman, 166 pgs. By Todd Taylor

Jun 04, 2007

This is a little hard-bound pocketbook that I easily finished on the train in a day. It does a great job of editing down and condensing the meat of long, interesting stories. (I had previously read the great books put out by AK Press, Jack Black’s You Can’t Win and Ben Reitman’s telling of Boxcar Bertha in Sister of the Road, which are highly recommended in their own right.) That’s only half of what the book’s about. The other half is the illustrations. And just as the non-fiction of bum life, serial killer life, and life at the bottom of society’s spittoon are unraveled in words, there are unflinching illustrations almost every other page. Most of the people drawn look like they’ve been placed in a whirling blender, bled dry, then sewn back up by a hack doctor and thrown back on the street, allowing the virus of low society to further consume them in boils and rashes. It’s not pretty, but it’s honest, and it’s hard not to stare. What fascinated me was the story of Carl Panzram. When he says, “My intention was to kill everyone and anyone I could,” the dude was on a mission that didn’t end with sodomizing and killing twelve-year-olds. He tells a story of setting off bombs in a train tunnel, which would not only derail a train but also set off pre-positioned poison gas canisters, and he’d sit at the mouth of the tunnel, shooting whoever tried to escape. So, if you’re looking for a mauve Hello Kitty book to complement the cantaloupe colored one, this book probably wouldn’t be a good choice (as a matter of fact, it’d probably rape Hello Kitty, maybe kill her). If you don’t mind grit and true stories replete with hookers, murderers, con men, and sycophants, all illustrated, this is darn good bet. –Todd (Fantagraphics, 7563 Lake City Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115)

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