Friday, July 4, 2014

Needless Things Special Comic Book Report – Independents Day

I have a small stack of comics I’ve gotten that I want to draw some attention to. I don’t typically review comic books and I didn’t feel like I could write a full-length post about any one book; not even a collection. But once again fortune has intervened and I realized our nation’s Independence Day was coming up. One lame play on words later and I had the forum for my comic book reviews.

Today I’ll be taking a look at comics from rock n’ roll bands Calabrese and Radio Cult, a collection from Mini-Komix, and Box Brown’s beautiful biographical work – Andre the Giant: Life and Legend.

Klassik Komix: Giant Monsters Starring Professor Morté
Available From MiniKomix.com
Editor: Jer Alford

Original Art: Shane Morton

It was a lock that I was going to take a look at this one. Not only does it feature a bunch of giant monsters from the Golden Age, the collection is presented by my pal and Monstrosity Championship Wrestling boss, Professor Morté!

Giant Monsters collects reprints of giant monster comics from the Golden Age with all-new interstitials and introductions drawn by none other than Morté himself. Each story is a bite-sized morsel of fun and terror – from the realms of fantasy to the Congo to the far-flung depths of outer space, there’s something here for everybody. This is a perfect little book to carry around with you or leave in the bathroom readin’ rack. 
 
There are nine short comics followed by a longer, featured tale that is broken up into three parts. I really like this format. I honestly think the big publishers would benefit by aping this on a quarterly basis to feature some of the md-level characters.

Anyway – there aren’t any duds here. Each story moves right along and delivers the twists and turns you would expect from classics pulp sci-fi and fantasy. The art is a lot of fun to look at because at first glance it all has that “old comics” look. But as you make your way through the book, different artistic styles become apparent and it’s a blast to see the different styles of storytelling. 
 
And then, of course, there’s Professor Morté’s artwork, which I always enjoy. Not only are there the intros and interstitials, he’s crammed a few other goodies in the pages that I don’t want to spoil but that I guarantee will take you back to the wide-eyed days of your youth.
The quality of the book itself is nice. The covers are thick and sturdy and will bear up to some travel and storage in bags or cargo pockets or whatever. The pages are thick paper with a nice, aged tint. I don’t know if you can request “old timey” paper or what, but this stuff feels and looks aged and vintage. The binding is good – I read this thing like it was any other book and the pages are all intact. The printing looks great – there’s none of the blotching or loss you might expect from such a publication. Everything is clean and professional.

This is a curiosity that’s worth your time. I had a lot of fun reading it and will definitely be keeping it in my Weirdo Books collection. 
 
Calabrese: The Comic Book
Available From CalabreseRock.com
Writer: Eric M. Esquivel

Artist: Dave Baker

Colors: D.W. Frydendall

Letters: Robert Mion

Cover/Additional Art: Andrew Barr

If you’re not familiar with the band Calabrese, they’re three brothers that play horror rock full of “whoas” and “ohs”.

Their comic book is absolutely hilarious.

Loaded with non-stop pop culture references and humor from the dark spirit world, Calabrese: The Comic Book is part Scooby-Doo, part Tomb of Dracula, and part MAD magazine. As much as I like Calabrese’s music and the brothers themselves, I did not expect such a fun, fully-formed narrative from this comic book.

The story depicts Bobby, Davey, and Jimmy as unwilling agents of the supernatural equivalent of S.H.I.E.L.D. They get roped into visiting a very familiar Eastern European country to assassinate the current ruler. It’s a load of familiar tropes blended up and applied to America’s premiere horror rock band. The art is fun and cartoony. If I had to describe it I’s say it’s like pre-code comics as drawn by Pendleton Ward. Not as out-there as Adventure Time, but with the same loose, expressive style.

The production of the comic is on par with anything from the big publishers. There aren’t any of the printing errors or even editing issues that often plague projects like this, though there is one word bubble where I think “lost” is supposed to be “not”. And I’ve got Batman comics with worse errors than that.

There are times where a lot of story needs to be told and the print gets super tiny and dense. For the most part it isn’t an issue. As a matter of fact, it’s pretty amazing how little the jam-packed dialogue interferes with the art. But there is one section of backstory where it gets a little tough to read. Otherwise I burned right through the story and was left wanting more. I could easily see this as a sustainable premise if the brothers and the artists involved can invest the time.

This one is another fun book that I’m glad to have. But let’s face it – you’re not going to go to CalabreseRock.com and just order a comic book. So go ahead and get yourself a shiny, new Calabrese shirt, some stickers, and maybe a switchblade comb or some fancy Calabrese shades to go along with your funnybook.

Radio Cult: The Comic Book
Available From RadioCult.com

Writers: Various
Artists: Various

Cover: Peter Cutler

Radio Cult is another rock band who have produced their own comic book, but theirs actually has more in common with Professor Morté’s book than with the one from Calabrese. It’s an anthology style book with several different stories from a number of creators. 
 
This is a fun-filled book that would be right at home in the all-ages section. There are four short stories by various creative teams, as well as activity pages and fun ads, both of which are hilarious spoofs on familiar products. 
 
I know I’ve talked before about how I haven’t read Archie comics, but I don’t know how else to describe the feel of this one. The art all just has this wonderful sweetness to it, aside from one tale that evokes the style of Tales From the Crypt and the old EC Comics stuff.
A lot of style and story is packed into this comic book. I feel like the band did everything just right – the anthology format gave a number of creators the opportunity to tell stories, the ads are a hoot, and the whole comic is quick fun that demands multiple reads. This is the best sort of cross-promotional merchandise.

Like I said with Calabrese – you aren’t going to go to RadioCult.com and just order a comic book. Go ahead and load up your virtual shopping cart with t-shirts, booty shorts, and kitty cat tiaras while you’re there. Feel free to send me pictures of you reading your Radio Cult comic while decked out in your sassy new Radio Cult attire! Unless you’re a dude. Then keep that mess on Snapchat.

Andre the Giant: Life and Legend
Available From Amazon.com


Everything: Box Brown

You really don’t need to read past this sentence:

Buy this book right now.

Andre the Giant: Life and Legend caught my eye when it was offered in Previews. I think it was the first rundown I did a few months ago. I love Andre, but Andre’s name and likeness have been used on plenty of things I haven’t felt compelled to purchase over the years. That simple image of Andre on the cover was so evocative. That’s what got me. Just from the grainy, small picture in the green section of Previews I felt like I was looking at something special.

I was absolutely right.

Box Brown has taken everything he has ever heard about the most legendary man in professional wrestling – Andre Roussimoff, or Andre the Giant to pretty much everybody in the world – and created a biography that covers fact, fiction, and everything in between. The source material for this biography are the host of interviews, documentaries, and articles about Andre that have come out over the past thirty-odd years and Brown has documented everything in the back of the book. Once you are done reading, you will feel compelled to hunt down a lot of the resources – trust me.

The book itself is possibly the most beautiful comic I have ever read. Box Brown’s cartooning style is simple while being powerfully expressive. The lines and dots that comprise our protagonist’s face throughout the book tell the story just as much as the words that accompany them. It will take hindsight to know this for certain, but I believe one of the panels late in the book is my favorite that I’ve ever seen. Andre is on his farm doing a Sports Illustrated interview and is talking about family. There aren’t even any words in the panel, but it’s one of the most moving I’ve ever seen.

As touching as Andre is, it is also hilarious. Andre was known for his inscrutable humor and it is plenty in evidence here. Many of the stories told are laugh-out-loud funny and the visuals that go along with them are perfection. 
 
I have to credit Mike Gordon with drawing my attention to how well Brown handles kayfabe and match psychology. I was aware of it on some level, but it took Mike mentioning it for me to really understand just how effortlessly Brown depicted matches from both the perspectives of the wrestlers and the fans. I knew it was great; I just didn’t give any thought to how difficult and complex a thing such storytelling would be.

And that is the true magic of Andre the Giant: Life and Legend – Box Brown has taken a multitude of stores about a complex and enigmatic man and woven them into a seamless, compelling narrative. I feel like the storyboards for a fantastic animated feature are right here in these pages if there were a production studio brave and smart enough to attempt such a thing.

Since I commented on the physical quality of the above titles I feel like I should do so here: it’s built well. Long gone are the days when small press books would feel inferior to larger publishers’ products. This is a nice edition with a thick cover and sturdy pages. The printing is clean and completely error-free as far as I could tell.

I’ve ordered several copies to give as gifts for various occasions because this is my favorite thing that I’ve bought this year and I want to share it with as many people as I can. This book is that rare magic that is both entertaining and inspirational on many levels – not just from the wonder and emotion of Andre’s story, but also from the skill and talent of its creator, Box Brown.

Buy this book right now.

On the Beach
Available From jeanvendors.com

Everything: Jordan T. Neves

I’m going to close this one out with the most truly independent release of all – the minicomic I purchased from Jordan after interviewing him at Heroes Con.

I hadn’t planned on reviewing it because it’s eight pages and I honestly don’t know how to talk about eight pages, but they’re eight great pages. I had stuck this in my copy of Andre and just happened to read it before writing the above review. The whole time I couldn’t stop thinking about the little narrative I had just experienced and that review ended up taking me twice as long as it should have.

When I was done I read On the Beach again.

Obviously there’s a not a ton of story, and yet the pages here are crammed with it; much of the narrative being suggestive. Halfway through things… I can’t say they take a turn because expectations haven’t been established, and yet a turn is exactly what it is. This was a much different story than what I expected.

That’s really all I can say without giving too much away. I’ll just say this – if you see Jordan T. Neves at a con, pick up some of his comics. And check out his webcomic at Maraudercomic.com. He’s got interesting ideas and he created a comic that made me read it more than once in thirty minutes. And he kept me thinking about it.

6 comments:

  1. Nice reviews. So far I've only read one of these. Will definitely have to check out the others.

    Bobby

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    1. Just a bunch of fun books. It's nice that they all happened to hit me around the same time.

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  2. It's very nice to read such positive reviews of five very different comic books that all so out of the main stream!

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    1. It's nice to see such good books outside of the mainstream!

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  3. Nice reviews of some great books! I'm always in support of folks giving indies some love.

    I've only read two of the books here, but will keep an eye out for the other three. It is great that both Calabrese and Radio Cult have produced comics not just as easy merchandise money grabs, but because they love the medium. The Radio Cult one is exactly what the band is on stage - fun!

    And the Andre the Giant book...I have to give you a shout out as well for recommending this biography to me. I've read many comics featuring wrestlers but this one is the first time I've read one that seriously took on the subject matter yet had the most cartoony style. And it works better than any other I've read! I enjoyed it so much, I bought a couple of other Box Brown comics that weekend as well.

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    1. I'm not gonna lie - I love my superhero books and rarely deviate from those and the big publishers. But stuff like this makes me happy. It's good to know that talented people have options to express themselves.

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