Retro Review: Plop! #10 (March/April 1975)

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Dying is easy, COMEDY is hard.  But combining them is where things get REALLY interesting…

Your Major Spoilers (retro) review awaits!

Plop10CoverPLOP! #10
Writer: Sergio Aragones/Steve Skeates/Ambrose Bierce/E. Nelson Bridwell/Joe Orlando/David V. Reed/John Jacobson
Artist: Sergio Aragones/David Manak/Rick Estrada/Basil Wolverton
Colorist: Uncredited
Letterer: Uncredited
Editor: Joe Orlando/Paul Levitz
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: 25 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $20.00

Previously in Plop!: The early years of comic books were filled with many different genres, some of them ridiculous and bizarre, but as the decades moved on, readers seemed to lose interest in the westerns, the romance, the space adventures.  Superheroes stuck, but there were also a few enduring stars in the realm of humor comics, notable Mad Magazine and its various knockoffs.  Originally brought together to do a Mad-style funnybook, the creators of this comic were in a meeting with DC’s then-editor-in-chief discussing what to name their book.  Some wanted to call it ‘Zany,’ but writer Steve Skeates insisted that the title wasn’t important, to which Carmine responded that they couldn’t call the book something ridiculous like, say, “Plop!”

And thus a legend was born.  Interestingly, Plop!’s anthology format shared more than a few similarities with DC’s horror titles ‘House Of Mystery’ and ‘House Of Secrets’, including sharing “hosts” with those books…

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These days, Cain & Abel and Eve are primarily known for their supporting roles in Vertigo titles such as ‘Swamp Thing’ and ‘Sandman’, but there was a time when each was merely a horror host in the vein of the Crypt-Keeper, and this issue opens with a black-comedy bit in which the threesome tags along on Santa Claus’ sleigh on Christmas Eve.  Saint Nick sputters that it’s tradition that he travel alone, but Cain manages to calm him down by offering to tell a familiar tale…

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Is it intentional that the opening reminds me of the opening of ‘Fractured Fairy Tales’ from the old Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoons?  Almost certainly not.  Also interesting is seeing Sergio Aragones doing full interiors rather than the margin gags that he became known for in ‘Mad.’  This tale itself is based on the fable of Androcles and the Lion or, as most of us know it, that thing they keep referencing in all those old cartoons…

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Kind-hearted Androklutz continues to get involved in situations that he shouldn’t, saving a drowning man only to get arrested for destroying the man’s armor, as well as interfering with a Roman noble and his indentured servant, landing him in the coliseum.  Knowing that his destiny was to be thrown to the lions, Androklutz seemed doomed…

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Heh.  There’s a lesson for ya, kids.  The dark humor at the core of Plop! is what makes the book really notable for me, taking the Mad/Cracked/Crazy template and playing to the most disturbing funny possible.  The longer-form tales are supplemented by one-shot quickies on different subjects, from ‘Prescription Plops” to “Prison Plops” and back…

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Are they all equally effective?  Noooo, and some are as flat as flat can be, but I find a perverse enjoyment even in the stinkers, perhaps an artifact of my own Mad Magazine habit as a child.  The next tale in the issue is told by Eve, taking place in a laboratory, narrated by the mad scientist’s young assistant.  Of course, it gets a little weird when the scientist enters and begins chiding the lad for “talking to the audience”, and sends him off to feed the dragon.  Herbie continues to narrate, and is quickly eaten, leading to the denouement.

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That ending always makes me laugh (which probably says a lot about me), while the terrible trio and Santa Claus continue their journey around the world.  Given his turn, Cain turns in the story of what might be one of DC’s most promising 70s superheroes…  GROOBLE-MAN!

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Having finally discovered the super-powers he has been searching for, our hero is a bit disappointed to find that they only last 62.4 seconds before returning to normal.  Fortunately, the power-word can be used over and over, allowing him to set off on his crime-crushing career!

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Aaaaand, that’s when things get a little out of hand…

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If I ever work for DC Comics, the first thing I do (after reviving Ambush Bug in his own Indiana Jones-style globe-trotting adventures in stupidity) is to put Grooble-Man at the forefront of the Justice League Of America.  Because, honestly, can it be any more ridiculous than Lex Luthor’s leadership?  The issue wraps up with several more pages of quick punch lines, presaging Gary Larson’s later ‘Far Side’ comic strip…

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As the book ends, Santa ditches Cain and the crew at the South Pole, leaving them with a long walk home, and leaving me with a satisfying chunk of reading.  Anthologies are always the proverbial crapshoot, especially when it comes to the highly subjective humor genre, but this issue entertains me from top to bottom.  My collection of Plop! is, sadly, incomplete, and DC is highly unlikely to every collect it in any form at all, leaving it as one of the few must-buy back-issue purchases for me.  I admit that not everyone will enjoy this kind of humor, especially grotesqueness such as the beautifully gross Basil Wolverton cover (not even one of the creepiest ones he provided for the book, I might add.)  To be sure, some of you are probably wondering what the heck I find so funny here, and that’s fine.  Those that get it, get it, and those that don’t aren’t competing with me for the hard-to-track-down back issues, leaving Plop! #10 with a very impressive 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.  If you ever find an issue of this book in some dusty back-issue bin, I recommend snatching it up, if only to see what Sergio Aragones can do unconstrained by tiny gutter-sized sketches…