Imagine this: there's this legendary anthology collection that's been lost for some 40 years. That collection contains tabloid-sized comics art by some of the most brilliant cartoonists to ever lift a pen — people like Moebius, Will Eisner, Guido Crepax, Justin Green, Jeffrey Jones, Barry Windsor-Smith, Harvey Kurtzman, Joost Swarte, Gahan Wilson, Jack Kirby and literally dozens of other great creators.
And, oh yeah, the book doesn't just feature work by cartoonists, but also work by famous celebrities like Frank Zappa, film director Frederico Fellini, legendary Canadian writer Pierre Berton the, genius writer William S. Burroughs… the list goes on and on.
Sounds pretty far-fetched, doesn't it? It's unlikely. It's a hoax. It's story from Hicksville or from a fannish daydream. Nobody would fault you for feeling that. I thought it was a hoax, myself, when I read about this book in The Comics Journal #299 in an amazing article with the worthy title "How Michel Choquette (Almost) Assembed the Most Stupendous Comic Book in the World". The title had to be a tipoff of the true intent of the article, right? A book like this was too improbable, too unlikely, too much like a story that somebody would make up to hoax an avid comic book fan.
But the fact is — it's true. There actually is a long-lost comic book collection from the early 1970s, and the story behind the missing book is almost as interesting as the book itself.
In 1970, Jann Wenner, who created Rolling Stone — then the hippest and most influential magazine of its era, in a time when magazines were important, well read and important – commissioned a young man named Michel Choquette to create a 16 to 24 page supplement for a 1971 issue of RS. The supplement was intended to chronicle the 1960s in comic book form, as kind of an endnote for those who had just lived through that tumultuous era and were interested in reminiscing about it.
It would be an understatement to say that Choquette embraced the project with real gusto. In fact, he latched onto the project with a single-minded intensity that quickly consumed his life. The simple little 20-page project very quickly became a magnum opus. Why, Choquette reasoned, should a book about the '60s only present comics by American cartoonists? Or just comics by overground cartoonists? Or, heck, why just cartoonists altogether? Why not make this a truly special book, a unique and special chronicle of the era from creators from all corners of the world and all aspects of comics art?
Amazingly, Choquette did exactly that, literally traveling all around the world, sleeping both on couches and in luxury hotels, meeting people like Salvador Dali and legendary Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, R. Crumb, Frank Zappa, Jack Kirby — a veritable alphabet soup of great creators. And despite the relative pittance that Choquette could offer these talented creators and the scant assurance of seeing their work published, dozens of creators actually ended up creating work for this great white whale of a project.
By October 1972, after an ongoing struggle with Wenner and the RS staff, Rolling Stone had pulled out of the project, but that only spurred Choquette on even more. In a way the editor was freed up from his obligation to Wenner and his publishing house, so The Someday Funnies — now ballooning to an epic size — could now be shopped to publishers all over the world. Typically for the ambitious Choquette, he imagined the book would be published in countries all over the world. Choquette had bites from publishers — Harper & Row and Pengiun showed some interest, and he tentatively signed with a French publisher.
But ultimately all of these plans fell through. No publishers were ready and willing to invest money in such a quixotic project. It's hard to blame them. In the mid-1970s comics were seen as the exclusive province of hippies and the emotionally stunted, and it was difficult to imagine a massive, oversized, 200+ page, adult hardcover anthology comic selling enough copies at absurdly high prices to make the investment worth it.
Choquette's impossible dream finally ended in 1978 when, deep in debt and after exhausted every single option available to him, Choquette filed for bankruptcy and allowed his dream to die.
But thankfully times have changed dramatically in almost every way since the early '70s, and what seemed impossible obscure in 1973 is almost indescribably tantalizing in 2011. Finally the good people at Abrams ComicArts, who have produced some tremendously vital collections of classic comics, have reprinted Someday Funnies in two hardcovers. I can't say that the book was worth the wait, but it definitely is a real treasure.
Most every strip in the book is tremendously exciting to read. More than that, each one-to-three-page story is unique, inspiring and intriguing. For instance, this one-pager by Sergio Aragones is really exciting to read. For one thing, it's a serious story — imagine that from Aragones — about a horrible massacre of college students by police before the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.
Or look at this amazing half-pager by Don Martin that manages to be ironic, chillingly dark and hilarious all at the same time.
Or this surprisingly great comic story by legendary writer and journalist Tom Wolfe:
And this Barbarella strip is plain gorgeous:
There's page after page after page of unique and exciting comics art in this incredible book. Flipping from page to page brings a tremendous panoply of great creators each exploring an incredible era in world history from their own unique perspectives. Most anthology comics are disappointing on some level, including some rotten strips among the great ones. There are a few dogs in this book, but they're far outweighed by over a hundred thoroughly unique and fascinating comics.
Forty years after
it was first organized, the legendary Someday Funnies has finally been published at long last. It's worth the wait. We never really knew what we were missing.
Jason Sacks has been obsessed with comics for longer than he'd like to remember. He considers himself a student of comics history and loves delving into obscure corners of this crazy artform. Jason has been writing for this site for about seven years and has also been published in a number of fan publications, including the late, lamented Amazing Heroes and The Flash Companion. He lives in north Seattle with his wife and three kids.