In one section editor's office of a well-known local newspaper hangs a Jeff MacNelly cartoon. The Perfesser has just handed in a story with the plaintive remark that it might be long and need a little cutting. The next and last frame of the strip shows Shoe, smiling slightly with the gleeful malice of the born editor, as he brings down a meat cleaver into the suffering reporter's copy.
Jeff MacNelly, who doubles as an editorial cartoonist by day and as the creator of the Shoe comic strip by night, has collected some of the best of his noctural work in The Very First Shoe Book. In his introduction Art Buchwald asserts that the book will one day be a "collector's item, worth three Doonesburys or six Peanuts" . He may be right.
The books opens with Purple Martin Shoemaker standing in his sneakers on the branch of a large tree. In his mouth is his much derided but omnipresent stogie - the sign of a real newspaperman, one who begins as a tell-it-like-it-is hard-hitting writer of letters to the editor, but who quickly goes on to found his own newspaper, The Treetop Tattler Tribune.(FOOTNOTE)(END FOOT) Shoe's eyes are heavy-lidded even for a bird - one suspects that he may have had a few of the Perfesser's cans of Sudz or Belch Bavarian - and he mumbles out of the side of his mouth this introduction to his adventures: "For your convenience, I've divided this book into three parts; one, two and C." In miniature, there is the humor of Shoe.
Shoe, of course, is not alone. His closest friend and chief reporter is the Perfesser. An inveterate slob this nephew inquires once about some green stuff in the ice box and he answers, "That's either fresh salad or very old bacon"), the Perfesser lives in a tree-house lined with books and awash with old newspapers; he can never find anything, makes feeble stabsl at exercise (consisting principally of lacing and unlacing his jogging shoes), drinks with gusto, and occasionally reminds Shoe and his friends that he does have a Ph.D. in aerodynamics - unfortunately with a specialization in blimps.
Among the cohorts of this editor-reporter team are Irving Seagull, owner of a burgeoning junk yard (to him Christmas toys are only "junk seedlings"); Loon, the worst flying bird imaginable, forever trying to live up to his image of himself as an incredibly cool airline pilot; and Roz who, with her cigarette dangling precariously from the corner of her mouth, dishes out coffee and hash at Roz's Roost - the archetype of the cynical waitress in an irredeemably sleazy diner.
Anyone who likes drinking, journalism, wry humor, cigars, good drawing, or birds will almost certainly find that this Shoe always fits. (Avon, $4.95)