Graffic Traffic – Column

Graffic Traffic

by Ryk McIntyre
illustration by Greg Prendeville

This month in G.T. let me fall on that old “he obviously has no real column this month” tactic of reaching into the ol’ grab bag for a couple o’ recommendations. Y’know, in case you’re the type who reads comics in public. C’mon, admit it, you love the stares you get on the subway.

From the twisting imagination of James Kochalka (the man responsible for the James Kochalka Superstar CD and its accompanying mini-comic) comes the funny punk send-up of the Superman mythos “Little Mister Man” (Slave Labor Graphics), which answers many of the questions regarding Kal-El that no one hitherto dared pose. Questions such as, what if Pa Kent was a fundamentalist/mad tinkerer/embittered white trash kinda guy? So, we’re treated to scenes of him bullying young little mister man, fitting him with a device to render him powerless, then testing it by knocking him unconscious with a baseball ( “Ready? I could’ve been a pro pitcher, y’know!”). Furthermore, young L.M.M. is roughed up by bullies, teased by snotty girls, loved by his well-meaning mom, and gifted with a robot pal by his Satan-fearing dad, all in the hopes that he’ll throw off his Satan-gifted powers and become a normal little boy (I can’t wait for issue #2!). Seriously, while this is gag-o-licious, it also has some heartwarming and heartbreaking moments. Humor always works best with an authentic base. James Kolchalka knows this.

Next worth mentioning is the one-shot “DogMoon” (DC/Vertigo, Robert Hunter-Words, Tim Truman-Art), an allegorical tale about a trucker who transports the dead to the Afterlife, and what happens when he falls in love with one of his passengers. It echoes the Greek myths of Charon and his underworld boat. I dunno… if you like Robert Hunter (long-time Grateful Dead Lyricist), you’ll like his take on the story. Personally, I think he’s windy, (as in full of… ) but what we have here are 62 beautiful pages of Tim Truman art. This is no small thing, indeed. Mr. Truman could illustrate a phone-book and I’d buy it! If there’s a better artist, consistently, in the field of comics, you’d have to remind me who you’re talking about. At $6.95 it’s a pocket-money leap, but jump, baby, jump.

As our story continues, let me mention, but not necessarily recommend, the current Dark Horse mini-series, “Tarzan vs. Predator” (Walter Simonson-Words, Lee Weeks-Art). For all this series has to recommend it, namely its creative team, story-wise, it seems as if it’s over before it even starts. The basic problem with all the “Someone vs. Predator” stories is this: Whether it’s Batman, Magnus Robot Fighter, Tarzan…whatever, you have a conflict featuring a faceless being and if you kill it, that’s OK, they’ll create a new fight against a singular character that some company has paid for, or has invested a lot of money in. To whit: Batman will never lose. Neither will Magnus or Tarzan. If you kill them, that’s it, OK? Kill a predator and you can have another for whenever they do the “X-Men vs Predator” mini-series. It’s not so much a problem of the creative team, as it is the fact that singular commercial properties NEVER DIE IN THEIR OWN COMICS. Nope, just never happens… sorry.

At only issue #2 “Marc Hempel’s TUG & Buster” continues to please. I think I mentioned issue #1 in these pages, but if I didn’t, oh Lordy… you gotta get this. The story centers around the diminutive “Buster,” an over-hormonal, excited lil’ guy and his friend, or possibly the manifestation of his unrealized macho yearnings, Tug. To describe the book isn’t enough. In this issue, Tug gets a haircut. It’s an experience, and it’s Marc’s gazooky art (It’s a real word! Look it up…). A lot of people hated Marc’s art in the recent Sandman story, but perhaps they never felt the caress of Gregory, Mr. Hempel’s straight-jacket-wearing, GUB!-shouting, psychotic, huggable lil’ asylum resident. Cry for these people, they know not.

Lastly, but not beastly, is the local indie compilation of small-pressers, known as “Don’t Shoot! It’s Only Comics!” The brainchild of publisher Jef Taylor, this is a great example of how the richest, most fertile earth will always be found in the underground. I was handed issues #14 and #15 at a party recently and it was the best part of that particular evening. #14 is a “100% Girl Artists” issue, and #15 pre-features “Little Mister Man” (remember the beginning of this column? No? What a short attention span twit you are!) along with over fifteen other bits. What can you say about this quarterly collection? Nothing bad. Original, glittering, raw and compulsive, these comics are the hope of a medium long soggy with superheroes and dumb-ass stories. Let’s hope Jef Taylor gets rich doing this. Screw Dark Horse, this is the trove of treasured independent vision, artistic playfulness, and rich satire/drama/anger/entertainment that the word/picture medium of comics wants, and what it needs. In my failing mind, I see visions of Superman splayed out, Jesus-like, on a loam-rich bed of “Don’t Shoot! It’s Only Comics!” The only problem with it is that dead Kryptonian is dripping Krypto-blood all over a great book. By the way, D.S.I.O.C. is available by mail-order (contact: Jef Taylor, 140A Harvard Ave. #308, Allston, MA 02134) or at Million Year Picnic, The Garment District, Pipeline Records, and many other fine dens of iniquity.

To end this column, have you read the recent DC/Marvel cross-over, with it’s attendant Amalgram Universe books? You haven’t? Oh good, there’s some of us left. Let’s organize. Let’s take all the shit over. Until next time, we are Legion.

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