Maakies is a syndicated weekly comic strip by Tony Millionaire. It began publication in 1994 in the ‘New York Press.’ It currently runs in many American alternative newsweeklies including ‘The Stranger,’ ‘LA Weekly,’ and ‘Only.’ It also appears in several international venues including the Italian comics magazine ‘Linus’ and the Swedish comics magazine ‘Rocky.’
The strip focuses on the darkly comic misadventures of Uncle Gabby (a drunken Irish sock monkey) and Drinky Crow (an alcoholic crow), two antiheroes with a propensity for drunkenness, violence, suicide, and venereal disease. According to Millionaire, ”Maakies’ is me spilling my guts… Writing and drawing about all the things that make me want to jump in the river, laughing at the horror of being alive.’ Maakies strips typically take place in an early 19th century nautical setting. There is rarely any continuity between strips.
Maakies often includes visual references to historic works of art, especially to the popular graphic arts such as Japanese ukiyo-e, European engravings, and early American newspaper comics. Like many early 20th century Sunday strips, each Maakies comic usually includes a second, smaller strip (known as a ‘topper’) that runs along the bottom of the main strip. Tiny landscape drawings are interspersed between the panels of these strips. Also, a tugboat (referred to once as ‘the enigmatic Maakies tug’) appears somewhere in the background of virtually every strip. The characters of Uncle Gabby and Mr. Crow in Millionaire’s ‘Sock Monkey’ comics and books are loosely connected to their ‘Maakies’ counterparts. They make occasional appearances in the weekly strip.
Millionaire has given differing accounts of the origin and meaning of the word ‘maakies.’ ‘Maak’ is the name of a character in the strip, a ship’s captain who apparently is Uncle Gabby’s employer, and in one sense the strip seems to be named after him. Discussing the characters’ development, Millionaire said ‘I fleshed them out as best I could at the time, knowing that they’d grow over time. That’s why I didn’t call the strip ‘Drinky Crow.’ I called it ‘Maakies’ because I didn’t know who would become the most important character as I went along.’ However, on more than one occasion he has claimed that the true significance of the strip’s name is a strict secret: ‘I can’t release that information until a certain person dies… Because he or she would be extremely pissed off to even know that that name was being used.’ Elsewhere he has attributed the origin of the word to his friend Spike Vrusho: ‘Some of the tugboats in New York harbor have a big M painted on the side of them and my friend Spike Vrusho used to say ‘MAAKIES!’ in a high pitched screech every time he saw one.’
Terrence Ross is a real-life friend of Tony Millionaire from Brooklyn’s Fort Greene neighborhood who frequently appears as a character in Maakies. In the strip he is drawn as a mechanical lizard who wears a black cloak and hat and has the number ‘147’ imprinted on his forehead; he claims this is his IQ. Sometimes he delivers a monologue or reads a poem of his own composition. Other times he introduces one of his sinister or bizarre trademarked inventions, such as a ‘safety harness’ that ejects the wearer’s spinal column from their body using a cherry bomb and M-80s.
Numerous episodes of ‘Maakies’ have been drawn (and possibly written) by cartoonists other than Millionaire. The most frequent ‘guest cartoonist’ is Millionaire’s nephew Curtis Sarkin, who drew the strip in a child’s unsteady scrawl; his daughter and nieces have also made occasional contributions. One ‘Maakies’ strip reprinted, in the original German, four panels of an illustrated poem by Wilhelm Busch dated 1867 and featuring the accidental demise of Hans Huckebein, an inebriated, Drinky Crow-like bird. On another occasion, after Millionaire had drawn a comic featuring a stereotypical Native American character, Chief Boomerang, ‘Maakies’ ran a ‘rebuttal’ strip by Tania Willard of the Secwepemc Nation lambasting Millionaire, his characters, and his editor. A pair of Maakies strips are purportedly drawn by Drinky Crow and Uncle Gabby (who passed out in the middle of drawing his).
Millionaire has occasionally drawn X-rated adaptations of his familiar ‘Maakies’ characters (e.g. ‘Shtuppi Eisberg, the Libidinous Penguin’ instead of Drinky Crow) for ‘Screw,’ ‘Legal Action Comics,’ and other explicit venues.