Ah, the cartoon Treasury. What a thing it used to be, back in the day before fancy iPads and phones and the world still cared about comic strips enough to buy them in awkwardly-sized horizontal printed book form – sometimes twice! There’s no doubt the artform was practically perfect in every way when the likes of The Far Side and Calvin ‘n Hobbes dared ask fans to buy what were, essentially, repeats of the squared paper collections they already had (and trust me, fans had ‘em). Who cares if they didn’t fit in the bookshelf just right?
Like day-old pizza, it’s all about the flavor. With flavor in this case being all of the original content PLUS a few bonus goodies tossed in to help ease the pain. With pain in this case the bellyaches that could be indigestion (from that day-old pizza…), but in all likelihood are from the belly laughs and raucous good times. I’d still call the doctor, though. It might just be gas.
Pearls Hogs the Road: A Pearls Before Swine Treasury is such a collection, and a damned fine one at that. Would you believe it’s actually the ninth Pearls Before Swine treasury? This means every strip from recent square-shaped collections I’m Only in This for Me and Stephan’s Web are included here in all their original black ‘n white and Photoshop-colored glory. That’s a healthy swatch of funnies that originally graced (what remains of) newspapers and digital browsers between March 3rd, 2014 through September 6th, 2015. It’s also the first double-dipping treasury of Pearls strips since 2015’s heresy-taunting Pearls Gets Sacrificed, and if you’ve already come this far why not complete the whole set?
I won’t waste much of your time explaining what Pearls Before Swine is here, except to say it’s a pun-heavy comic strip featuring talking animals and morons. Often both at once. It’s often quite funny, and not just by milquetoast newspaper standards. The time’s are a’changing, though, as Pastis notes the number of complaints in recent times have started dwindling. Old people used to complain at the word “Hell”, he explains. Now, no one complains. “Which tells me that all of those old people have died.” On with the show!
A few words about that composite cover; pretty much like every recent Pearls collection, author and shameless self-promoter Stephan Pastis has spliced his way into his own comic, or in these cases the other way around. Apart from the open plundering of Berkeley Breathed (who used to do the same bit years back, only with penguins and bunnies), Pastis goes for the jugular with his most disturbing photographic mish-mash yet.
This time around we’ve got a boozy biker bar, daisy duked babe (actually credited Biker Babe in the credits), and the Pearls cast in true Easy Rider mode. How can a short-shorts sportin’ Pastis possibly compete with his little bike and tassels? The back cover isn’t any better, featuring the nastiest tramp stamp you’ve ever seen. OK, that’s a fib; all tramp stamps are pretty nasty.
Because Andrews McMeel is double-dipping with the funnies (albeit in totally funny, awesome ways), I’m double-dipping with my reviews. Consider this editorial recycling a win-win for the planet and our collective sanity (now leave me alone, Al Gore).
“But the biggest surprise in this collection are the trio of three new comic strips drawn by none other than Bill Watterson, which marked the legendary cartoonist’s return to the comics page for the first time since closing out Calvin ‘n Hobbes back in December 1995. I honestly thought that these strips wouldn’t make any collection, let alone a standard one like this, but here they are in all their glory.”
“Standouts include series Rat going to war against Santa, the return of apathy coffee, as well as a surprising number of strips dedicated to the absurdities of rampant smartphone usage. While not featuring much in this collection, Larry does show up as a party clown for kids and in what can only be described as the nightmarishly icky cross-breeding of crocodile and Pastis (you’ll know it when you see it).”
I mentioned extra goodies here (and day-old pizza), so you might be wondering what they are. If you’re a long-time Pearls reader, it’s all good news. Not only do you get the booze-laden front + back covers with that disgusting butt-crack, you’ll also get a special dedication to comic legends Bill Watterson and the late Cul de Sac creator Richard Thompson, who sadly passed away last summer after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.
Thompson’s legacy looms large over this collection, especially with the inclusion of three very special strips created by Watterson to help benefit Team Cul de Sac, a charity working with The Michael J. Fox Foundation to help raise awareness – and fight – Parkinson’s Disease. Also here is Pastis’ original online essay about how the process came about, comparisons to Bigfoot, and a fun little follow-up.
Also helping pad the page count are, as expected, Pastis’ running commentary on every page, a few bonus photos and surprise doodles, and even a playful dig at the inexplicably popular online satire Garfield Minus Garfield (second only to Will It Blend for online asininity). Enjoy your time with Pearls Without Rat.
There are few comic strips worth a damn out there anymore, and almost none have the sheer audacity to care like Pearls Before Swine. That’s why it’s so easy to keep endorsing these collection-collection treasuries, of which Pearls Hogs the Road: A Pearls Before Swine Treasury is no exception. If you’ve already got all the others, heck, there’s no excuse not to add this one to the pile, especially since it contains the Holy Grail moment when the reclusive Bill Watterson returned for a good cause. Plus, nobody makes comic covers so equally hilarious and gross as Stephan Pastis. Despite the short-shorts, this one’s a winner.