Wednesday, August 03, 2005


Alrighty… time to start digging through the San Diego pile.

Written by Matt Maxwell, Drawn by Luis Gurana, Cover by Steve Lieber
Available from the Author

The horror-western genre will add a new face this fall when the first issue of this book hits the shelves via Speakeasy Comics. In the meantime, you can easily enjoy and appreciate this nifty preview of what looks to be a darkly entertaining story.

STRANGEWAYS brings together cowboys and werewolves (where most stories in this genre seem to have an affinity for cowboys and vampires). That means a different type of action being brought to the page, and a different depiction of the western landscape, one moodily developed by Gurana in shadowy, scary tones.. Maxwell’s story finds us focused on the travels of a carriage and its occupants, and as the genre demands, they find themselves traveling in lands that maybe they should have avoided.

Of course, if they did, the story would be damned dull, and over quite quickly.

We’re given just a glimpse here of what’s to come, but it’s made apparent that there will be thrill, chills, and gore aplenty to give the reader a visceral experience. Matt’s a friend, and I know how much time and effort he’s put in to making this book a quality read, right down to the beautifully gruesome cover by the great Steve Lieber. It’s cool to read this and see how it’s all paying off for him. I’m expecting big things from STRANGEWAYS once the pamphlets start shipping in November.

Written by Sara Ryan and Drawn by Steve Lieber
Available from the Artist

If this were the only thing I had returned from San Diego with, I would still consider that trip to be a huge success.

I’ve made no secret about it: Steve Lieber is my favorite comics artist, and if I had my choice, he’d be the first person I’d hire to draw just about anything I’d want to write. There’s very little he can’t do, from high-level action heroics, to quiet, talking heads. Few people have his level of versatility, and few ever will.

This little book finds him working with his (very) talented wife, Sara Ryan, again. Their first effort, ME AND EDITH HEAD, was a supplemental project to her excellent novel EMPRESS OF THE WORLD. This time out, they start fresh, introducing us to public relations ace Maddy. Maddy is a nice normal woman with a crazy job, an asshole of a boyfriend, and too much to do with her life in too little time. However, the intervention of an alternative circus starts a tumble of dominoes that leave her with a new direction in life.

FLYTRAP is just about perfect. In fourteen pages, we get a well-rounded portrait of who Maddy is, what moves her as a character, a feel for the “world” she lives in, and a solid step towards who she is going to become in the next phase of her life. If this were published by Marvel, it would have taken six issues to get to this point. Wonderful stuff.

Written and Drawn by Paul Horn
Available at the Cool Jerk Website

I picked up Paul’s 2004 effort last year and was immediately smitten with his sharply wicked sense of humor and lack of reverence for, well, everything. I even put myself on his mailing list, and now I get the weekly strip e-mailed to me. So I guess you’d call me a fan.

COOL JERK follows the denizens of Spittle Beach, primarily wiseass Armpit and his superior-in-every-way girlfriend Puppy as they roll through their normal lives battling the forces of stupidity, inanity, and pop culture horror. Horn has been doing the strip for about fourteen years now, so he’s solidly found the voices for his characters. He also only does a strip a week, so you don’t get the sense of burnout or exhaustion that you find in many other long-running strips.

Paul does real-world artistic stuff and does JERK for fun at this point, but I’d like to see him roll the dice and start talking to Image or Speakeasy or someone about finally starting to collect the JERK strips in trade paperback. He deserves to find a larger audience for the work, and I think it’s out there; besides, once in a while, it’s nice to get paid for doing what you love.

Written and Drawn by Dave Roman
Available from the Author

ASTRONAUT ELEMENTARY is a book I always look for when I go to a show. Dave Roman’s “mini-manga” is one of the few being produced in this format that has an all-ages reach in its storytelling, and I like being able to pass it around to the younger set in my life.

The titular school is located on a space station somewhere out in the far reaches of the universe, and its student body is comprised of the best, brightest, and oddest that the galaxy has to offer. The primary story here in this triple-sized effort focuses on a robot named Cybert who has been sent to the school to destroy another student. Amusingly, this doesn’t get him sent to the principal; instead, he is given a far worse fate: a trip to the guidance counselor, whose job it is to make him see how limiting his career goal is. It’s even funnier than it sounds.

Other stories follow the Cybert’s target, a young gay student named Spike, and Team Feety Pajamas (a group of kids who believe they’re bullies who run the school). Each segment is drawn in Roman’s wonderfully whimsical style, and those segments are packed with story. Previous issues were eight pages each, but this one is truly triple-sized, with 24 pages of packed-to-the gills goodness. I hope Roman soon finds the opportunity to publish all the AE stories together in a nice collection.

Written by Rich Johnston and Drawn by Thomas Reidy 3rd
Available from The Vicious Circle Project

When I saw this on the table, I couldn’t resist it. I swear, I actually heard a booming voice say, “The power of Satan compels you to buy Johnston’s book!”

Just so you know.

So what has comics’ biggest rumor monger done this time? WANNABEE is the story of a time traveler who has come backward to live out his dreams of becoming a big-time comic book writer. His conveyance draws him to an ambitious young woman named Julie who shares that dream. Together, they work to try and find success by bringing together Alan Moore and Marvel Comics for a dream project.

Nah… that’s the end of trying to describe this thing in serious terms. Fuck that.

WANNABEE is really just Johnston taking the odd crap he’s heard and absorbed over the years and living out a personal parody and fantasy of himself and his quest to write comics. Roberto kidnaps Alan Moore, shaves him bald, and tries to use him to get a series of his own greenlit by Joe Quesada. And you’re telling me Rich hasn’t tried this already?

Sell me another one.

Still, it’s mostly harmless and inoffensive, and Rich doesn’t try and play it too broadly. Reidy’s art is too inconsistent to do the book any favors, but it could have been worse: Johnston could have drawn it himself. WANNABEE isn’t anything great or fantastic, but it settles in for pleasantly dumb and diverting, and that may just be enough to call it a success.