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Scurvy Dogs #1-5
By Andrew Boyd and Ryan Yount
Published by AiT/PlanetLar; $2.95 USD ea.

Pirates are the new Monkees! (Or is it Monkeys?)

Pirates are an important aspect of American pop-culture (which is the dread and envy of all other, and hence lesser, pop-cultures). The Sea Hawks, Captain Blood, Treasure Island, Yellowbeard...these are a few of the fine pirate adventures I have enjoyed over the years.

To these I gladly add Scurvy Dogs!

Avast, ye swabs!

America loves Pirates! America, the Hell's Angels of the World, has always celebrated the bold, dashing adventurer who fights to win, often by any means necessary....which explains a lot about U.S. foreign policy...

Of course, one country's pirate is another's privateer. Piracy has always been a matter of definition (right, Mr. Cheney?).

If you have letters of marque, you are a private warrior at sea, a "privateer". Without them you are a pirate. (The piece of paper makes murder and theft morally acceptable, according to the governments which issue them.)

One can see the moral ambiguities just lurking around definitions like that...

But as the wise man said, it is all thoughts, it is all words...

Who were these pirate guys, celebrated inthe pages of Scurvy Dogs, anyway?

Pirates were men who had escaped from a life at sea that we would consider intolerable for animals.

Pirates were sometimes violent people, but they lived in a violent, post-Saharasian world, a world in which common sailors were often treated little better than slaves, and who were usually regarded as dispensible by the officers who ruled over them at sea. (If, for example, you could kill off 20 percent of your men with bad or insufficient food before you returned from a voyage, you could save 20 percent of the money expended on pay...typical corporate ethics, unchanged since Columbus started his slaving business to pay the shareholders who financed his voyages, and who were waiting for their dividends back at the Spanish court of Ferdinand and Ysabella...)

Yar! Look alive!

Pirates were the men who fought back. When resisting recapture by the establishment which they had fled, they behaved no differently than the governments they opposed. But they did not have li'l pieces of paper, those magical fetishes so worshipped by governments.

Pirates rarely killed common sailors on the ships they captured, since these were the main source of pirate recruits. Many of them joined the pirates! Indeed, it was not unusual to hold a trial for the captured officers for the inhumane treatment they accorded their sailors. Common sailors usually looked forward to a chance to become free of their state of slavery to the state sanctioned corporations, ship-owners, or navies.

The life of a pirate was, even with the threat of death if captured by the state, far preferable to life as a slave to a national navy. (The pirate life has been admirably captured, with p'haps a shade of favouritism toward the pirates, by Bjorn Larssen in his masterful novel Long John Silver, which no afficianado of pirates should miss.)

Arrr...

Scurvy Dogs is a fun, light-hearted look at piracy by Andrew Boyd and Ryan Yount, who appear on the back covers of every issue. Unfortunately they are not dressed as pirates in their photographs.

Pirates are of course always fun to spoof, especially as they represent the rebel and anarchist that we all have hidden away inside of us. As primates (monkees!) we are not designed to work long hours at jobs we hate in great emotional stress and being restricted to monogamous relationships and limited to alcoholic beverages for relief of the unnatural tensions thus created. Serial polygamy, long hours of creative loafing, and regular cannabis consumption are more in keeping with what is optimum for primate health (along with a 90 percent vegetarian diet high in fiber). These are increasingly hard to find outside of the liberal bohemian fringe which every culture sports about its metaphorical chin.

With pirates, however, almost all of these things are traditional! (Except for the high-fiber diets. Pirates were really good cooks, however...being fed wormy biscuit and rotten meat as naval slaves made them appreciate good food once they were free...)

We therefore all (except those few fortunate enough to escape this fate) have an innate rebeliousness against the non-primate lifestyle which a post-Saharasian world has forced upon us for generations.

This is what pirates are the expression of for many of us, and this is what Scurvy Dogs celebrates. As the Scurvy Dogs navigate their way past the pop-icons of the past, they set a course for salty satire replete with remarkable ramifications!

Scurvy Dogs #1-5 were fun comix to read, although a tad uneven. Not every single joke is a winner, but there are more than enough flashes of brilliance to counter-balance this and draw the reader on: for example the "Hummel figurines" in issue four are brilliant -- My first thought was that Planet Lar should market them. I know I'd love to have a set in my living room!

My favourite character is probably Admiral Goofyfoot. We are not told much about this sombreroed mariner on his quest for Tang. I really like his hat! Perhaps we will learn more of his adventures in later issues (if there ever are any...)

For these five issues of Scurvy Dogs are the only ones so far. Good thing, too. Something like this could very easily be overdone. Yount and Boyd have resisted this temptation, however, and are giving the series a rest for now.

I do hope that they will continue it in the not too distant future.

(Say, how about a team up with some of S. Clay Wilson's pirates? Just a thought....)

Yo Ho Ho...

...and a bottle of Bass!

(I don't like Rum...that's another story...or Tory...)

Grade: 4/5

-- Marshall O'Keeffe



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