Posts this late in the day are the reason why I use equivocating words like "I hope" in the titles of earlier posts.
“Land alive, I do so like when that ‘Jog’ fellow from the internet goes on and on about comics so old they got to take a position on the prohibition of alcohol. If only he’d do it at an even greater length, and in a format I can easily take to the toilet.”
Consider your ass relieved, Planet Earth.
Coming very soon! Probably debuting at MoCCA in about a month, I think! It’s issue #3 of Comics Comics, the comics newspaper about comics, and it will feature lots of great comics and comics-centered features by many excellent contributors! And it will also feature me blabbing about the earliest exploits of Mutt and Jeff, no doubt dragging American print just a little farther down in the process! Get ready for several profane oaths, and horrific insults directed at Happy Hooligan’s hat! Good times ahoy! Every pillar of society will have the whole thing memorized in minutes flat, so watch this space for details as the golden day draws near.
The Shaolin Cowboy Vol. 54, #7
I always forget the “The” at the front of the title, until the cover reminds me.
It’s no secret that I like this series an awful lot, as infrequent as my opportunities to sing its praises are. It’s kind of amusing that publisher Burlyman Entertainment’s output has been so light in the past year that they barely even have any house ads to stick in the back of this issue - there’s the usual PROTECT plug (Darrow’s on the national advisory board), the same Burlyman website piece we’ve seen before, a joke ad about how infrequently Doc Frankenstein (Burlyman’s other, even tardier ongoing series) comes out, and a graphically bold display urging us all to check out the V for Vendetta motion picture, in theaters everywhere March 17 (of 2006). At least by the time issue #8 rolls around the Wachowskis will probably have some Speed Racer posters ready, or possibly ads for the dvd.
Ah, it’s no problem. That just means we get a six-page bonus section of airy b&w drawings from writer/artist Geof Darrow - aside from acting as a no-doubt quick fix for space concerns, it brings to mind the sort of catchy spot illustrations he used to do in the pages of Cheval Noir back in the day. Fitting, since Shaolin Cowboy strikes me as very much a retooled version of Darrow’s old Bourbon Thret concept, from the amazing 80s pages of Heavy Metal and Dark Horse Presents (and a 1995 French-language hardcover album from Delcourt, which might actually be a reprint of an earlier limited-edition thingy - anyone know if that’s new stuff, or a collection of the old pieces?). Same pug-faced design for the protagonist, same ‘random selection from an imaginary library of adventures’ structure, same energetic appreciation of nonsense.
But Shaolin Cowboy also trades some of Bourbon Thret’s visual density for a bracing sense of speed, and an evident appreciation for puns and word games (or maybe I just read the wrong episodes of the older work). Much of this issue is spent with Our Hero’s talking Ass, following his mad flight across the surface of Little Sweety (a trundling dinosaur/city), the enigmatic Baby Bling stuffed dirty diaper-first into his mouth, with Skippy G and Father M, an odd couple of talkative flying demons (“Skippy G, it is easy to see that the time you spent torturing Rod McKuen was time well spent.”) in hot pursuit. The talk rarely stops, but Darrow’s crisp sense of orchestrating complex, intuitive ‘movement’ across the span of many pages never falters.
It’s clearer than ever that this comic excels as a segmented series of exercises in rushing visual storytelling -- the anecdotes often neatly contained as passages in single issues -- the artist pushing himself to manage increasingly complex stretches of longform action and hi-jinx, all while the writer indulges his love for silly, wordy fun. I’m sure the lavish outbursts of visual wildness, from the famous panorama of rogues from issue #1 to the water-borne dual chainsaw ballet of issue #6, will leave some readers wonder if there’s any ‘real’ point to it all. But the sight of the Cowboy staring down a segmented foe, speaking in segmented word balloons, tongue-kissing a saucy skeletal bride with a sword protruding through one eye and political gags pouring out of his mouth, may yet force a reassessment of priorities.
Really, it’s the comics about stoic swordsmen and talking animals having adventures atop and inside dinosaurs that ought to be making the case for style-as-substance, and nonsense-as-beauty. This one’s regularly among the most eloquent arguments.