And now, because Otter Disaster demanded it, we take a step into the surreal.  Buckle your seatbelts, dear friends, ’cause your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Reid Fleming, World’s Toughest Milkman #1 awaits!

Writer: David Boswell
Penciler: David Boswell
Inker: David Boswell
Letterer: David Boswell
Editor: cat yronwode
Publisher: Eclipse Comics
Cover Price: $2.00
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $2.00

Previously in Reid Fleming, World’s Toughest Milkman: The independent comics trends of the late 1960s had waned greatly by the 70s, but reignited in the early 1980s with a new wave of independent comics companies.  The advent of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles brought about a new surge in independent comics publishing, many eschewing the superheroes that had come to define success with the ascension of Marvel and DC Comics to the top of the charts.  Eclipse Comics had pioneered the Graphic Novel format, as well as embracing the Direct Market distribution process, and spent the early 80s releasing many critically acclaimed titles (including the American presentation of Alan Moore’s Marvelman as ‘Miracleman’.)

And then, there came Reid Fleming…


Creator David Boswell took the name Reid Fleming from a childhood bully, and first published stories featuring this iteration of the character in 1978.  After a single self-published issue (which I have never had any success in finding anywhere, and whose existence I quietly doubt), Boswell brought Reid to Eclipse, opening with that explosive (and well-rendered) splash page.


As for the World’s Toughest Milkman himself, Reid finds himself quietly philosophical as he hurtles towards a probable explosive demise…


Reid’s arc of descent miraculously ends in a swimming pool, saving his life but ruining a quiet suburban brunch…


Like so many independent books of the era, Reid’s adventures are a stream-of-consciousness affair, but Boswell is gifted with excellent comic timing, aided by his finely detailed art.  Reid’s commanding air quickly has the entire neighborhood working for him, pulling together to extract his truck from the water.  Their efforts prove fruitless, but fortunately, Reid has a bottle of Rye…


With a character and story this unique, it’s sometimes hard to pinpoint a particular influence, but Dave Boswell’s work seems to be very much of a piece with Bernard Herriman’s ‘Krazy Kat’ in tone and linework.

It also has the distinction of being really funny…


Reid continues his appointed rounds, dealing with each customer with his usual customer-care standards…


I won’t say that I want to emulate Reid Fleming in my day-to-day professional affairs, but… that won’t make it untrue.  After a quick detour to watch his favorite show (“The Horrors Of Ivan”, the story of a living skeleton who may or may not live in an MC Escher painting, which is as bizarre as it sounds) and huck a rack of milk bottles at the owner of the house whose TV set he commandeered, Fleming returns to Milk, Inc. where Mr. Crabbe is waiting to call him on the carpet…


Dragged into the office of Mr. O’Clock, Reid is nonetheless able to stay positive…


After being told sternly that he’s lucky not be reading his own name in the obituaries (“That’s tough to do, all right!”), Reid is told the harsh truth: This wrecked milk truck is the eighth, and one more will mean the end of his career with Milk, Inc.  Crabbe is overjoyed to hear that his nemesis might be on his last legs, while Reid…  Well, Reid is…  Um…


Our Mr. Fleming suggests that O’Clock invest in a good rug (“They raise ponies in Yakutsk, just for their hair!”), then sets off for home, only to have Crabbe intervene once again…
ReidFleming110While Mr. Crabbe takes Reid’s advice and “works” on his truck, the last thread of hope to keeping his job, Fleming thumbs a ride with his friend Lena Toast, erstwhile actress and robust young hottie, on her way to play a little golf.  He agrees to join her, after grabbing his golf clothes and brushing his teeth with shaving lotion…

It’s… complicated.


With a story that meanders in this fashion, you have to have your pacing down, and especially make it worth following the dotted lines and keep up with your characters.  Boswell’s dialogue is wonderful, like a Tracy/Hepburn movie, with a slightly meaner edge…
ReidFleming112There’s also a lot to love if you’re a fan of the truly absurd…


…with the added bonus of being really funny.  Lena ends the game early (“I never golf after sunset”), and offers to show Reid another way a man and woman can have fun together.  Sadly for the Milkman, she is suddenly called back to set to reshoot a scene that went wrong, but is at least able to give him a ride home…


…with a side of innuendo.  The next morning, Reid returns to work (sitting through a three-page roll-call, which is far too long to reproduce here, but is really worth the read, and prepares for his first day of work under his new “no destroying trucks” status quo.


Okay, that last joke isn’t exactly high-brow, but it still cracks me up.  Unfortunately, Crabbe’s “improvements” to his truck are going to make it difficult for Reid to keep his word to Mr. O’Clock…


I won’t spoil the surprise for you, only mention that there are another couple dozen issues of this book over the next 20 years, all still titled ‘World’s Toughest Milkman.’  So, y’know, there’s a chance it goes his way.  Still, this issue is a great example of the kind of comic books that nobody makes anymore, the kind of books that would probably be a much-beloved (but inconsistently updated) webcomic.  Reid Fleming, World’s Toughest Milkman #1 is equal parts Thomas Pynchon and Elsie Segar, featuring intricate art, witty dialogue and inspired-yet-inexplicable plotting, earning a highly recommended 4 out of 5 stars overall.  If you ever bump into one of these issues in the wild, grab it quick-like, it’s worth it…



An excellent example of what a talented creator can do all by themselves. (Plus, the art is fascinating.)

User Rating: 5 ( 1 votes)

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Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.

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