Tony Millionaire

"Billy Hazelnuts"

(Reviewed by Tony Ross MAR 27, 2007)

"The guy we have to worry about is that skeleton-robot I made from the meat grinder when I was insane..."

Billy Hazelnuts by Tony Millionaire

Wow, I'd heard of Tony Millionaire, but never seen any of his stuff until I picked this up the other day. All I can say is don't be put off by his reputation for comic book ribaldry. This is a great weird story that I'm definitely going to be reading to my daughter when she turns around seven or eight. Which also happens to be roughly the age of Becky, a pigtailed little girl who lives in a ramshackle mansion where she's built a strange contraption to view distant planets. Downstairs, her mother's campaign against the kitchen mice leads the little creatures to construct a kind of garbage-based golem to be their champion. When the mother counters this construct with a housecat, it is Becky who tracks the creature down, heals his wounds with honey and gives him hazelnuts for eyes and a proper name.

The ornery little creature and Becky are soon enmeshed in a series of surreal adventures, sparked by a tedious little boy named Eugene. One hesitates to reveal too much of what follows, but just to give a taste: clockwork alligator pirates, seeing-eye skunk, mad scientist, matter enlarger, Noah's Ark, a whale, a rousing sea battle, and a planetary junkyard all come into play. It's a wonderfully inventive weird story, filled with great lines. For example, Billy stands on the back of a motorized rocking horse, yelling defiance at pursuers: "I'm a barrelful of hate! Come open me up!" Or a villain coolly considers the wreckage wrought by Billy: "Hmmm... The little fellow is tougher than he looks... a regular brass cupcake!" Or my favorite line of all: "The guy we have to worry about is that skeleton-robot I made from the meat grinder when I was insane..."

This strays into some pretty dark stuff, and as one reviewer very correctly points out, follows the "marchen" (German folktale) template in many ways (marchen are typically characterized by elements of magic or the supernatural, such as the endowment of a mortal character with special powers or knowledge), and the artwork definitely fits the tone. One of the reasons I'd never checked out any of Millionaire's work before is because I just wasn't into his rather crude style of drawing. I tend to like clean, crisp work, and his stuff made me think of the Katzenjammer Kids or something like that. However, it totally works in this story. One kind of strange thing is that none of the characters have pupils, Becky has solid black eyes, and everyone else has solid white eyes, or else glasses that cover their eyes. Not sure if this is a tribute to Harold Gray (of Little Orphan Annie fame), or what, but it definitely adds to the overall mood. Some may find this is too dark or weird for their taste (although it pales in both respects next to the original Grimm stories and Dr. Suess), but don't be fooled -- it's a modern classic.
  • Amazon readers rating: from 3 reviews

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About the Author:

Tony MillionaireTony Millionaire (Scott Richardson) was born in 1956 in Boston and grew up around the seaside town of Gloucester, Massachusetts. He came from a family of artists and was encouraged to draw from a young age. He often drew comic strips for his on amusement.

Millionaire (this is his legal name) attended the Massachusetts College of Art, where he majored in painting, but left without graduating. While in college, he began drawing houses in rich neighborhoods for money and this became a primary source of income for the next 20 years while he lived in Boston, Florida, California, Italy and in Berlin (for five years in the the 1980s). When he returned to the US in the early 1990s, he move to Brooklyn, New York and began drawing regular comic strip, as wells as cartoons for trade journals, tabloids and an alternative newsweekly. He first debut Maakies in 1994.

Maakies has won him three Eisner Awards and has been animated for Saturday Night Live. Besides Maakies, Millionaire has produced a series of comics and picture books collectively titled Sock Monkey. It features “Gabby,” a child’s stuffed animal, and “Mr. Crow,” a real bird with a taste for distilled spirits. Of note, The Cartoon Network has recently scheduled his animated pilot, The Drinky Crow Show, for its Adult Swim programming block.

He lives in Pasadena, California with his wife Becky Thyre and two daugthers. About Us | Subscribe | Review Team | History | ©1998-2014