Hello, Rebels! Here is hoping this finds you all well. If you have read this column before that you probably noticed my schtick—to read old comics and spit out my two cents. Well, today, I am deviating from my normal formula. As I write this I sit about a week past the Rocky Mountain Con. The RMC is one of a myriad of smaller comic and pop-culture fairs up and down Colorado’s Front Range. Now, the Front Range is a not-too-distant drive from my ‘Good Life’ stomping grounds, and I was very excited to head southward for Ideal Comics’ first Denver con appearance.
The convention was super slow. So very, very slow. We sold two comic books.
The thing was not a total waste, though. I got a chance to reconnect with some friends of mine and meet some new folks. I got another chance to speak with comic and pulp writer (and former Green Hornet scribe) Ron Fortier; I met fellow Nebraskan comickbooker and playwright Bob Hall, and the legendary Jim Steranko, who I was not able to talk to until just before he had to leave! Steranko was a super-nice guy, although he actually scolded me for not taking more time to come over and chat.
Ron Fortier sold me a copy of “Terminator: Burning Earth.” That story is notable in part because the five issue miniseries was Alex Ross’s first published work. Watch this space in the next six months for a review.
On Sunday Morning, Fort Collins comicker Todd Jones was walking around the convention hall. We exchanged pleasantries, and the fellow that was walking with him introduced himself. His name was Felipe, and he introduced him self as a painter. It turns out that his booth was directly behind mine, and later that day I spied his wares. Among them was a mini-comic called Trubbled Youth, a B&W mini-comic with two short stories that are a blend of fiction and memoir of Felipe’s coming up in punk rock scene in 1980’s Denver. The liner notes explain that Trubbled Youth was actually originally serialized in the CSU student newspaper, and then in the manga Comic Morning. This mini-comic reprints two stories from the Japanese run.
I love punk comics. Like punk music, it is seldom that the elements broach the real questions—those existential worries about what
makes us human. It is more seldom yet that they try to offer solutions. But, yet, there is a beautiful honesty in many punk comics—the implicit knowledge that things are not what they ought to be, the acknowledement that we might not have the answers, and the express understanding that we must face the future, even if it sucks. And that maybe, must maybe, music will steel our souls with the defiant strength to survive.
I finished reading the comic and bustled back around to Felipe’s booth, telling him how much I had enjoyed the book and asking if he had reprinted any more Trubbled Youth. He had not—didn’t think there was a market. I noticed on his table other stuff, too, as we talked—beautiful painted works and prints there of, both of ‘fine arts’ material and nerd stuff—stuff that seemed somehow familiar. One book was a collection called Ankh. This volume is comprised of paintings of Neil Gaiman’s character Death from DC Comics’s Sandman. It looked so familiar. I do no not have Ankh, and was ignorant of Felipe Echevarria before then, but I could not shake the feeling I had seen his portraits of Death. The next day back at home I went looking through my file cabinets of comics to seek this out. And I found it.
Several years ago, my pal Andrew Grant handed me a stack of comics and comic stuff, telling me he’d picked these up someplace or other and thought I would appreciate them. There was the tabloid sized X-Men Wedding Special, some mis-cut Justice League from the early aughts, an original printing of a “The Spider” pulp that was missing it’s first cover. Among this miscellany were two pages cut out of Ankh, seemingly for promotional pieces. I had seen Felipe’s work for years, and frankly am a little embarassed I did not connect the dots sooner!
Back at the Fort Collins Con in August, one booth that really caught my eye that that for Flat Track Furies. I was intrigued by the idea of a roller derby comic–could someone make it interesting to folks who, like me, don’t care about roller-derby? In FoCo, I did not make it over to the booth, and so there I did not meet creator/artist Moriah Hummer. I decided I would make it a point to the book out in Aurora in a month. That month was last weekend.
I am a writer, but will begin with the art. But first a story. Many, many years ago, I worked at Wal-mart in the toy department. I had a great job. It was Christmas time, and I got to spend my days watching children’s excitement and helping parents pick out the perfect gift. The one thing I disliked was the Barbie aisle. A whole aisle–fifty feet of garish unnatural pink stacked ten feet tall. Stocking those shelves, I would feel the oppressive creep of the pink. I just am not a fan of the color.
Flat Track Furies is a greyscale comic with pink. You would think based upon my previously stated dislike, I would think all that pink would be a negative. I do not. Moriah has a strong line art style, using both black and grey lines, and her use of pinks actually brings a clarity to her art that is refreshing. Plus, using pink in the uniforms cues the reader to introduce her main characters quickly, a needful think in a book about team sport.
Of course it is not just about team sport. Hummer does a lot with her story, although the starting is not perfectly strong. I picked up the first three issues (the ones that are out!), and am very glad I made that choice. Issue one does a great job introducing characters, but the narrative is weak, and leaves many things unstated. I finished to book asking myself, “Um, what? And, Why?” But as the series has progressed, Hummer’s narrative has leaped forward. In the opus so far–from the girls’ home lives, to the governmental/corporate conspiracy, to the drama on the track itself–Hummer is weaving an increasingly complex and increasingly better story as time goes on. As far as writing, my only real complaint is that Hummer so far only writes three kinds of men: ciphers, cowards, and scumbags. Of course, the comic is about the female leads and I don’t want to take any away from them.
One of the most notable strengths of Hummer’s script is her ability to give her main characters wonderfully distinct voices. That is a hard thing to do well, and she excels at that. The ladies read like real people with real foibles and real ambitions despite the crazy events like monster attacks and para-governmental conspiracy. Flat Track Furies is definitely a title I will be following.
Of course for me, the real highlight of the weekend was seeing two of my closest comic book pals: Dan Conner and Patricia Krmpotich, the creator/artist and writer behind My Gal, the Zombie. I have written elsewhere about MGTZ, and so I won’t spend a lot of time here. Patricia was at the Rocky Mountain Con, and we were able to chat several times. Unfortunately, I had not read her last story, “I am Not a Monster” since it is only available in print, and is not for sale in my little town. After the Con, I was able to pick it up the two issues of MGTZ Hurts & Kisses Color Catastrophe #’s 1 and 2 from Dan, who was working at Mile High Comics and was unable to make it to the convention. I read them on the way home.
Number One contains “Potential” and “The Smiling Mask” both stories show Chelsea Checkers, the zombie gal, trying to deal with how people see her, while Number Two prints “I am Not a Monster, which asks the bigger question of how Chelsea sees herself, and who she will be. I’m telling you, I just love this title!
Well, this has gone on quite long enough. Thanks for hanging out for the end, and if anything intriguess you here, follow the links above and spread the love.
Until next time, see you in the funny papers!