On one hand, it’s sad that Drawn & Quarterly’s third volume of John Stanley’s MELVIN MONSTER comics of the 1960s is the final one. On the other, the title’s short life — all of nine issues — means it never got a chance to suck.
Collecting issues #7-#9 of ye olde Dell series, the hardcover finds little Melvin up to his old tricks. Basically, that amounts to him attempting to be as normal a kid as possible, despite his green skin, scary visage and backward-acting parents, the aptly named Mummy and Baddy.
Amid the stories here — some shorter than ever at two pages, and even one that’s literally just half a page — Melvin gets a babysitting job, where the tot is a giant; encounters a mammoth “supermonster”; is chased by a totem pole inexplicably brought to life; turns the tables on a talking tree; and temporarily becomes a frog (not to mention a normal human boy, in the series’ final gag).
Two recurring plotlines pop up, in both this volume and the series at large. In one, Melvin tries unsuccessfully to convince witch Miss McGargoyle to enroll him in her school — akin to Charlie Brown attempting to kick the football held in place by Lucy. In the other, Melvin tries successfully to prevent being eaten by Cleopatra, his family’s pet alligator.
The former isn’t funny compared to the latter. In fact, what was to be Melvin’s last go-round with Cleopatra makes for this book’s highlight. Devoid of dialogue, it’s purely an exchange of physical comedy — something at which Stanley excelled like no other creative talent, writer or artist, in the medium. —Rod Lott