Book Review: Blessed Be by Rick Altergott

In the opening of Rick Altergott’s first graphic novel, Blessed Be, a Flowertown judge sentences Tommy Cottonwood, a local drug dealer, to a year in Lispenard Correctional Facility. Time goes quickly, and a year later, Tommy is free while Altergott’s two most well-known characters, Doofus and Henry Hotchkiss, do what they do in Flowertown. Doofus is inducting his friend Henry into the 40 Acres (Achers) Club for men who have taken a vow of celibacy. Be careful though, break the rules and you may get blue-balled for life. Thus begins a tale chock-full of sex, violence (several murders and an accidental beheading), cussing, and other no-goodnik stuff, and it is all wonderfully silly and fun.

Buy Blessed Be by Rick Altergott

Tommy is released from prison with a strong predilection toward satanism and a chip on his shoulder toward the judge. Meanwhile, Scott and Astrid, two Flowertown teenagers, are falling in love. They plan on spending the weekend on Scott’s houseboat while his mom is gone for the weekend. Tommy sends a goon to poison the Judge’s houseboat’s water supply with LSD but accidentally hits Scott’s houseboat instead. Scott drinks the water and has an epic acid trip. He wanders out into the forest and Astrid must become a detective, working in part with the Judge, to try and figure out what has happened to Scott.

Doofus and Henry Hotchkiss take a bit of a back seat to Scott, Astrid, and Tommy’s stories in Blessed Be. Henry is unable to stay celibate, feels badly that he broke the rules of the 40 Acres Club, and would rather go out and live in the woods than disappoint Doofus. For those who are new to the world of Flowertown, Doofus is short of stature with a straw boater, and too tight of a shirt. He drives around in a go kart called “Kar” and likes to do a little metal detecting down at the beach. He also likes to sniff girls’ panties with his best friend, Henry. Henry Hotchkiss is tall and lanky, and dresses a bit like a hippie with his bell bottom jeans and floppy, oversized hat. It is obvious the two would do anything for each other, and they always get into mad-capped adventures. Take Laurel and Hardy to an X-rated movie and you have Doofus and Henry.

Each time you turn the page, something hilarious is ready to confront you. There are fishermen who fish in the nude (it keeps their clothes dry). Many frames are filled with two or three small scenes taking place simultaneously in the background. Each picture is often rich with hidden treasures. You will find yourself staring at the backgrounds for small, fun laughs throughout: look for Fuckingham Palace Massage Parlor, Hung Howie’s: Home of the Belly Stuffer, Pregnant Pussy Maternity Gifts, and random people fornicating in random places.

The quality of Blessed Be is very high, as is the quality of Fantagraphics books in general. There is a short afterword by Altergott explaining some of his career choices as he has wended his way back and forth across the United States.

Blessed Be will be released on April 30.

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Greg Hammond

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