Posts Tagged ‘Andrew Robinson’

One of the chief gripes that a lot of folks who’ve fallen away from comics over the years have is that the medium just takes itself way too fucking seriously these days — and I have to admit that, looking over much of the output that comes from the “Big Two” (as well as a number of independent publishers), these past (and hopefully future) readers do have something of a point. A quick glance through the pages of almost any randomly-chosen five or six “floppies” on the racks of your LCS are enough to make anyone think that “dark,somber, and brooding” is the order of the day in what were once thought of as “funnybooks.” Which isn’t to say that many of these (overly?) serious titles aren’t involving, interesting, smart, and maybe even fun, in their own way — but goddamnit, whatever happened to stupid fun?

Well, it may be in short supply, but I’m pleased to say it’s not entirely extinct altogether thanks to writers Jody Leheup and Sebastian Girner, artist Nil Vendrell, and colorist Mike Spicer, the “brains” behind the new overtly outrageous, over-the-top Image Comics mini-series Shirtless Bear Fighter!, who have wisely chosen to ask — and answer — the question “what would happen if Grizzly Addams ingested a dozen tabs of bad acid and picked a fight with Yogi Bear? And did it all when he was naked?”

The particulars, for those who must know them : a major city called —- uhhhmmm — Major City is under attack by ferocious, apparently-mind-controlled bears who kill people and wipe their asses against buildings. Nobody knows who or what is commanding the creatures, but never fear — the FBI has a plan. They’re going to head out into the wilderness and persuade a perpetually-naked mountain man who was actually raised by bears (before turning on them and becoming their mortal enemy) to come into town and deal with the problem. He’s got all the tools you need for the job : super-strength, a ferocious attitude, and more body hair than his opponents. It proves to be a tough sell, though — even a lifetime supply of flapjacks (don’t call ’em pancakes!) and maple syrup can’t persuade our reluctant hero at first, but a jog down memory lane combined with insults to his manhood end up providing the impetus that outright bribery can’t, and soon enough he’s taken to the skies in his fur-covered “Bear-Plane” and even put on some pants! Major City, here we come!

Some subplots make their presence known at the very end of this first issue — it seems the combined forces of a skeevy, gentrifying real estate developer and a pig-faced demon known as the Hillbilly Warlock are “guiding” the possessed bears — but this is definitely “shut your brain off and go with the flow” material all the way, as it damn well should be. Vendrell’s cartoony art, Spicer’s bright, vibrant, right-outta-Saturday-morning colors, and Andrew Robinson’s tone-setting cover (side note — there are also a couple of variants, but weirdly enough Image isn’t doing a “Pride Month” cover for this one even though they are for most of the rest of their line-up and you’d think it would be a natural here) seal the deal, not that there was ever too much danger you were going to take a premise this fantastically absurd with anything less than several thousand grains of salt, anyway. Characters are presented in the broadest, most one-dimensional strokes possible, every page presents a new situation that’s flatly (or, in the case of our digitally-obscured protagonist’s phallus, far from flatly) ridiculous on its face, and none of this is meant as a criticism. Quite the reverse, in fact.

I suppose the anti-animal cruelty crowd (which includes yours truly under normal circumstances) could find something to bitch about here if they really have nothing better to do with their time, but the violence unleashed against our four-legged friends in this book is a lot more Looney Tunes than it is Ruggero Deodato. You needn’t read any hidden subtexts into Shirtless Bear-Fighter! simply because, hey — there are none. Man vs. nature is a story as old as time, it’s true, but when you filter even the most hackneyed premise through the minds of creators this talented and this unglued, it definitely has a way of feeling fresh, new, and vibrant — as well as garishly, gleefully, and gloriously idiotic.

So what are you waiting for? Let’s get stupid!

 

Maybe I’m just a crusty old-timer who yearns for days gone by, but goddamnit — I miss having comics on the store shelves that were sick and wrong.

Oh, sure, plenty of series have moments here and there designed to shock — Saga is certainly famous for it, although such instances been fewer and farther between lately — but books with a genuinely twisted and perverted core premise are in painfully short supply, and have been for some time. Thank goodness (or, more likely, its polar opposite) then for a couple of upstanding gentlemen I admit to never having heard of before named Doug Wagner and Daniel Hillyard.

Granted, the first issue of their new Image Comics five-parter, Plastic (which comes our way under the auspices of the suddenly-surging 12-Gauge Comics studio/imprint) isn’t going to make you suddenly forget all about the work of gleeful reprobates like S. Clay Wilson or Mike Diana, but it’s more than enough to make the morally and ethically average reader feel more than just bit queasy, and that’s something to be grateful for. Consider, if you will, this scenario and let me know if it ticks enough boxes off your “dude, that ain’t right” checklist : former “black ops” agent turned serial killer Edwyn Stoffgruppen has finally met his perfect partner, Virginia. She calms his homicidal urges with her non-stop sex drive, and the two of them seem to be having the time of their lives travelling the backroads of America in his old Ford LTD. Heck, they’re getting along so swimmingly that they’re even planning a trip to Rome together. But when a run-in with some local hooligans leads, by a fairly straight-forward series of interpersonal connections, to Virginia being kidnapped by a Louisiana multi-millionaire, our guy Ed’s put in a sticky situation : either kill some of the rich asshole’s enemies for him, or his old lady gets a bullet in the head.

Okay, put that way things sound more than a little bog-standard, but there’s one tiny detail I forgot to mention : Virginia is a plastic sex doll.

If you take a look at the preview pages included with this review, they suddenly take on a whole new meaning with that in mind, don’t they? And what appears to be rather banal dialogue? Well, it’s really anything but. Wagner’s script rather masterfully portrays Edwyn as precisely what he is, namely a hopelessly sick fuck, but you also sort of want the best for him and his “lady” friend, not so much because “either” of “them” are sympathetic figures in any way, but simply because the alternative to him living happily ever after with a rubber fuck-toy is probably so much worse. One way or another, then, “good” outcome or “bad,” things are probably gonna get even weirder and bloodier before this whole thing is over.

Hillyard’s art is almost disconcertingly innocent in its appearance, with a definite and pronounced animation influence, which is what makes it so perfect for this kind of depraved material. When one of Virginia’s kidnappers starts licking “her” arm, for instance — damn, you wanna feel physically ill. And given that veteran colorist Laura Martin primarily hews to a bright and vibrant palette (again underscoring the animation cel look), the downright garish contrast between what’s depicted and the way it’s depicted borders on the dizzying. I can see a strong argument being made for the idea this book’s art really doesn’t “match up well” with its story, sure, but I think a conservative viewpoint like that rather misses the point entirely, in my own hopefully-humble opinion. And while Andrew Robinson’s memorable cover should be more than enough to clue the average store browser in to exactly what they’re getting with this one, anyone who bails on this series after this opening shot across the bow isn’t someone I can necessarily begrudge for their sensibilities — this is, after all, a book that probably will (hell, probably should) only appeal to the tiniest and most (ahem!) specialized of audiences.

The fact that I’m part of said audience may be a cause of concern to my therapist, I suppose (that is, if I had one), but come on — you and I both know I could give a flying fuck about that. Recently a rather pompous-seeming individual opined that he detests me (not my reviews, mind you, but me, personally) “with the fiery heat of a thousand suns” due to what he perceives to be my apparently-obvious intellectual shortcomings as evidenced by my comic reviews in particular, and I would imagine that my whole-hearted endorsement of a series as amoral (at best) as this one will sink my already-low stature in the eyes of these self-appointed “honor brigade”-types even more, but there are plenty of self-serious, sanctimonious titles out there explicitly designed to appeal to the sort of folks who think that stories featuring super-heroes with PTSD or asking themselves “do I have the right to kill villains X,Y, and Z” passes for “deep.” Well, they can keep all that shit — truth be told Marvel, in particular, hasn’t been able to do angst properly since Steve Ditko walked away from Peter Parker/Spider-Man. My own interest in moral heavy-handedness is at an all-time low, and if you’re as sick of it as I am, then chances are you’ll agree that Plastic is the perfect antidote to all this wretched, over-wrought earnestness.

Will you feel appropriately guilty about enjoying this comic? Oh, I should think so — hell, I dearly hope so. But who are we kidding? That’s half the fun, too, isn’t it?