Liberty Meadows - July, 2001

"Liberty Meadows" by Frank Cho is the first comic strip since "Bloom County" that has made me laugh out loud in a public place.  That should probably say it all right there, but I will expand on that nevertheless.
OK.....Picture this: Sitting in a mall food court, reading my regular crop of comics, I turn to a recent issue of Liberty Meadows.  I'm about three or four strips in when I find that the urge to laugh is becoming overwhelming; by the sixth or seventh strip, I am afraid I am going to shoot my coffee through my nose.  Suddenly, I am looking around, wondering if anyone is going to carry me off because they think I've gone quietly mad.
THAT is Liberty Meadows.

In more practical terms, Liberty Meadows is a "funny animal" strip about an animal haven where a diversity of misfit characters (e.g. Ralph the circus bear, Leslie the hypochondriac frog, Dean the pig....both literal and figurative) interact with their "keepers" Brandy and Frank.  It is a combination of adventure strip and flat-out humour which shows no respect for other comic strips, standard rules of syndicated comics, the fourth wall, and even itself.  Frequent appearances are made by characters from other strips and by the creator, Frank "Monkey Boy" Cho himself (represented as, of course, a monkey).  The strip plays up flat-out slapstick humour, while adding liberal doses of (tasteful) violence and sexy art.  The character Brandy, the Lynda Carter/Betty Page meld who graces the cover of each issue, is a curvaceous beauty who appears to be the only sane person in the entire lot, being that she is not obsessed with catching a giant catfish, scoring at Al's Treetop Tavern, or placing Star Wars action figures in lewd positions (bet you're interested now, aren't you?).

Artistically, Liberty Meadows is a delight.  Cho's line is clean and crisp, while his sense of form is detailed, allowing him to play with his characters visually in ways that recall some of the better Looney Toons features.  He apparently draws on influences as diverse as J. Allen St. John, Alex Raymond, Wally Wood and Berke Breathed, creating an interesting visual blend of realism and absurd exaggeration.  As a result, many of his strips could work just as well as pantomime.  Meanwhile, for the male audience, his frequent depictions of Brandy in sexy situations are worth the price of admission alone (and have led at least one other cartoonist to label the strip "Puberty Meadows"....stinker).

Liberty Meadows is probably available through at least one major newspaper near you, but if not can be found on the comic stands every month in collected format from Insight Studios Group.  Or, if you just can't wait that long, you can check out the strip online, along with some of Cho's unpublished and pinup art (check out his black and white gallery...yow!) at the Insight Studios home page.

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