My Favorite Comic Story of All
(The below was written for the 2011 Team Cul de Sac benefit zine created to raise funds for research into Parkinson’s Disease. It was assembled by Craig Fischer with the question “what is your favorite comic (comic book, comic strip, graphic novel, whatever), and why?”)
I can just about guarantee that my favorite comic isn’t shared by many others. In fact, I’m often surprised to find out that anyone’s heard of it. My favorite comic is “Hukka vs. the Bob!” by Keith Giffen, Robert Loren Fleming, and Karl Kesel. It originally ran as the seven-page backup story in Atari Force #20 (August 1985), which happened to be the last issue of that series, so maybe at that point, no one was watching what got published. I can’t imagine it getting through a lot of oversight, because it’s so wonderfully odd.
Hukka was a kind of orange space lemur, kept as a pet by Chris Champion. He spoke in the broken English shared by alien beings and baby superheroes in DC comics, always starting with his name/species — “Hukka bite?” “Hukka yeah!” Chris bought him a “personal pal”, a robot playmate named Bob. Bob resembled an ambulatory tombstone in blue-and-white, rolling around on wheels and saying only his name.
The result, when the impish creature meets the unexpectedly demented machine, is hilarious. It starts simply. At first, Hukka is scared by the toy. Then Hukka tries to ride Bob, enjoying bossing something else around, but Bob takes his commands a bit too literally. When Hukka winds up hitting the ceiling, he gets angry and tries to punish the robot — resulting in a very angry mechanical bent on revenge.
I really wish I could simply show you the story, because there’s no way to explain why this exchange is so darn funny.
“Hukka nyah nyah Hukka nyah nyah!”
“BOB” (in big jagged letters)
“Hukka goodbye … Hukka PLAYNICE, Bob!”
There’s more to it than just gags, though. There’s a message there about us creating our own monsters and even a House of Mystery-style “just desserts” ending. Of it all, my favorite part is the way this story taught me how much could be done with sound effects and extraordinarily talented lettering, supplied by Bob Lappan. During the action sequence, most of the dialogue is “Hukka” and “Bob” in different tones and emotions. When I first encountered this tale, I wasn’t very familiar with reading the comic language of art, and this story taught me a great deal about pacing and movement and how powerful images could be — without my even realizing it.
I do know that, at the time, I wasn’t the only one who loved it. “Hukka vs. the Bob!” was considered good enough to reprint in the Best of DC #71 digest, containing the Year’s Best Comics Stories, in April 1986. (I’ve included only selected pages here, because I wouldn’t want to get in trouble for reprinting the entirety of a forgotten 30-year-old comic story.)