The setting is dignified, the language is so proper it seems appropriate for an English tea, and the characters are an odd mix of animals and inanimate objects. Tony Millionaire’s latest addition of “Sock Monkey” presents a hilarious mix of imaginative situations distorted by the eye of the artist.
The comic centers around a sociable monkey made from a stuff sock, affectionately called Uncle Gabby by his friend, Mr. Crow. Uncle Gabby and Mr. Crow are led through a series of adventures that consistently test their beliefs and kindergarten philosophies. The enigmatic storyline is a peculiar fusion, combining childlike circumstances with a dignified dialogue and violent endings.
Millionaire begins each of his “Sock Monkey” comics the same way: a fairy tale-like view of different houses, complete with dark corners and large turrets. Whether it is “a summer afternoon in Newton lower falls,” “one flowery morning in Brooklyn, the scent of gingerbread on a gentle breeze,” or “high on a hill overlooking the navy yard,” Uncle Gabby and his partner-in-crime are always in a new whimsical enterprise that will inevitably get them into trouble. Millionaire’s detailed drawings allow him to make even a stuffed monkey with a top hat and a crow with buttons for eyes look like they have definable personalities.
In this lively episode, Uncle Gabby and Mr. Crow are possessed with the desire to go hunting, after coming across a room filled with mounted specimens reminiscent of a grandfather’s taxidermy addiction. However, due to their small size, they both decide that they should attempt to catch salamanders. Mr. Crow is enraptured with the ambitious idea, shouting, “Salamanders! I believe I could ‘take’ a salamander! Just show me the salamander that could get the better of me!”
After interrupting a civil tea party held by several ladybugs and bees, the mischievous Gabby and Crow confine the entourage in a butterfly net and beg them to hold still while they pin their bodies to pieces of soft velvet. Following the salamander’s adamant refusal, Mr. Crow becomes aggressive concerning the task at hand and threatens the “imp” to get ready to “Meet your maker!”
Needless to say, their unusual escapade is jarred to a halt when Uncle Gabby and Mr. Crow realize the cruelty in killing living things, including small flowers. However, Millionaire manages to end with a disagreeable twist of fate accompanied by several amusing lines.
The bizarre and vicious conclusions to his comics leave the reader wondering exactly who this sick artist is. And while they are not laugh-out-loud funny, they certainly do lend an air of distracting amusement to the clever and unconventional strip. As stated by John Flansburgh in his introduction for Millionaire’s trade paperback, “The Adventures of Sock Monkey,” “it’s hard to sum up why these strips work so well, especially with their often violent crash endings, but I suspect they remind us of our own play as children: the bed is at sea, and everybody dies at the end, but they’ll be back later.”
And to quote the unstoppable sock monkey himself, “Yes, isn’t it grand?”