You may not have known — I certainly didn’t, and I pride myself on being something of an expert on movie minutiae — that William Wyler’s 1942 Oscar-winning cinematic classic, Mrs. Miniver, was followed by a sequel, The Miniver Story, in 1950, but that’s okay : Michael Aushenker did, and he decided that one lame follow-up probably deserved another,
Mind you, his 2016 self-published comic, Professor Mrs. Miniver, is intentionally lame, and that makes all the difference in the world. Aushenker hails from the “batshit-crazy slapstick” school of cartooning, and as such, his sensibilities are pretty well right in tune for a project of this sort — which only makes sense, I suppose, given that he’s the one who came up with it, amirite?
Well, yeah, I am — it happens sometimes — but the laughs in this one, plentiful as they are, may fall just a bit flat to those not familiar with at least the first “Miniver” flick, given that the premise here (Kay Miniver finishes school, becomes a professor as the title implies, and then has elements of her past come back to marginally “haunt” her while, at the same time, finding herself utterly unable to tap into even the tame “youth culture” of her time) is predicated more or less entirely upon having a working knowledge of the character so that you can properly “tune in” to the ways in which Aushenker’s interpretation of her is exactly the same in some ways, quite different in others, to her big-screen iteration.
Now, for my part, I have seen Wyler’s first film, but I’ve never seen the follow-up, so who knows? Odds are better than good that I missed a few deliberate “call-backs” to that one, but no matter : Aushenker’s jokes fly at you a mile a minute, some hitting and others missing, but the sheer effort he puts into packing every panel with at least something interesting or weird or off-kilter is damn admirable, and the Ditko-esque flair he spices up his cartooning with in this story is really effing cool.
That wrinkle disappears in the “Lincoln Horse” backup feature, where the more unhinged visual stylings we’re used to from Aushenker come back to the fore, but that’s as it should be considering that the idea of a purple horse that looks (and sounds, and acts) like “Honest Abe” — probably because, “spoiler” alert, it is the revered president himself, woke up one morning to find himself magically transformed — is the sort of utterly unhinged thing we’re used to from this auteur of the absurd. If anything, this stuff is even funnier than the title feature, but again, that may largely come down to the fact that you needn’t come into the proceedings armed with any sort of foreknowledge about, well, anything at all. A bar that low is one that even I can clear, and as a result, this portion of the book tickled my funnybone to a fairly unhealthy, but no doubt enjoyable, degree.
All told, then, this comic is a nice showcase of Aushenker’s multi-faceted skills, all employed in service of the same goal, which is simply to make you laugh your ass off and groan at the inanity of it all in equal measure. I can always get behind a project like that — and if you’re the sort of reader who can, as well, then you’d do well to score yourself a copy of this very entertaining book.
For more information on Professor Mrs. Miniver, as well as Michael Aushekner’s numerous other comics, check out his blog at http://cartoonflophouse.blogspot.com/
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