I literally have no sense of Ben Wick’s place in history, of his true legacy. All I can attest to is that I used to read his comic strips when I was a kid.
I highly doubt that I got much out of it back then because much of the humour is socio-political, with a heavy accent on the political. It’s not that I dislike politics. Hardly. It’s just that I would have barely been out of grade school and I would have had a limited grasp of world politics.
And that’s the key problem with this collection: by being so socio-political, it’s firmly rooted in a specific era – one that its readers need be familiar with to understand the humour. Unless one was relatively aware in 1986-87, most of the commentary will probably be completely neutered.
Taken out of context, some 25 years later, the humour can still elicit chuckles – but, at the very least, one has to know who Brian Mulroney, John Turner, Ed Broadbent, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Mikhail Gorbachev are. It would also help to know about the state of the world with respect to Apartheid, the bomb, AIDS, the death penalty, …etc., back in the mid-’80s.
But, if one has at least a vague understanding of these things, then it proves an enjoyable read. The art is crude, granted, but this type of strip doesn’t require artistic ability; its author only had to know how to turn some of the most troubling or worrying stuff on its head. And Wicks does a good job of it.
I enjoyed revisiting those momentous couple of years, but I think that the strips were likely better enjoyed in their proper context. And I’d recommend focusing on one strip at a time, instead of reading a whole whack of them in one sitting; they tend to lose their potency when one doesn’t savour each individual joke or gag.