Every now and then some savvy publisher will obtain the rights to a worthwhile foreign comic strip and make my week by issuing it in a bound edition. Among the excelllent imports to be had at your local comic shop are ASTERIX, TINTIN, MODESTY BLAISE, DAN DARE, and while fewer in translated editions but still outstanding, VALERIAN: SPATIO-TEMPORAL AGENT. And now, add CLARA to that list of excellence.
First appearing in the mid-1990's in the pages of EL JUEVES magazine, CLARA DE NOCHE (here translated as "Clara By Night") is a bawdy humor strip focusing on the (mis) adventures of Clara, a Betty Page-esque streetwalker with a heart of gold and her interactions with the bizarre and often pathetic men who pay for her services.
Writers Carlos Trillo and Eduardo Maicas wisely opt not to dwell on the darrker elements of the world's oldest profession and provide the reader with a character who would be handled much differently in the USA insomuch as Clara is more than just a visual cue for the one-handed comics fan; she's got a clearly defined personality and sense of wry humor about herself and her chosen field, and adding a touching note to the story, Clara is a single mother who sells her body to provide for her son, Pablito, whom she clearly adores. The one note of pathos in all of this is that Pablito is old enough to understand what his mother does and why, and there are several stories in the collection that illustrate his point of view on the subject.
And make no mistake, this is definitely and "adults only" series, what with its constant doses of sexual activity, but none of it is portrayed in an offensive manner, so there are no "hamburger shots" or spewing fluids that are so common to this genre, and the overall package has charm to burn.
But the real draw here is the outstanding artwork by Jordi Bernet, one of my all-time favorites. Perhaps best known in the states for his work on TORPEDO 1936, the guy blows most illustrators out of the water with a style that wears its Alex Toth influence on its sleeve, and the humorous style on display in CLARA bears the Toth mark, but cleverly blended with a heavy dose of Harvey Kurtzman and a dash of Sergio Aragones; speaking of Aragones, he's an admitted Bernet fan, and when a god of cartooning like Aragones likes your work, you have got to be a badass. And let me assure you that Bernet is no fucking joke, despite this collection's cornucopia of jokes about fucking.
Bottom line: this volume is absolutely worth shelling out the $24.95 for, and is a gorgeous hardcover that will appeal to both male and female readers alike. TRUST YER BUNCHE!!!