Saturday, January 7, 2012

Alternative Comixology: Recommendations Beyond the New 52.

It's true that it took the DC Universe's colossal, sassy reboot to get me using Comixology and legitimately purchasing and downloading new books directly onto my ipad. But there's only so much self-aware Aquaman, Catwoman cleavage, and bad Bat-Dads a man can take, so I started to poke around the Comixology app to find some alternative books that might be a little better suited to my tastes. 

I lean suggestively towards indie, awkward and quirky, and thanks to some recent sales I got to try out a virtual bounty of brand new (to me) and eclectic comics that I perhaps wouldn't have otherwise discovered...

If you want to stretch yourself beyond the Big Two, then why not join me after the jump and we can be hipster elitest jerks. Together. <3

 I had never heard of this one, but boy howdy am I intrigued by that cover!

The Bulletproof Coffin by David Hine and Shaky Kane (Image Comics)
The Bulletproof Coffin is an utterly weird but endearing six-part miniseries about an everyday guy who cleans up people's houses after they die. When he discovers a slew of vintage Golden Nugget comic books that shouldn't even exist he gets thrust into an increasingly bizarre world where his own life becomes entwined with the lives of the long-forgotten Golden Age characters, like The Unforgiving Eye and Ramona Queen of the Stone-Age. Each book contains a sizeable excerpt from the one of these faux vintage comics and if - like me - you enjoy the goofy old stylings of the thirties and forties, then this twisted re-imagining is pretty satisfying.

It's an interesting mix, obviously rooted in superhero history, but it also sometimes reminds me of the bleak, emotionally distant work of Clowes, or the stiff absurdism of Kupperman. A very odd read. I picked up all six for, I think 99 cents each, and they compelled me to keep reading, even though I wasn't always sure exactly what was going on. I like this series the more I think about it.

Be a Man by Jeffrey Brown (Top Shelf)
I'm already a Jeffrey Brown fan and have been meaning to pick this one up for a while because, well - look at the cover! Brown has written many autobiographical comics, often containing vignettes of his relationships, and after his book Clumsy, Jeffrey was facing criticism that the book made him look like... well... kind of a pussy.

So Jeffrey reworked the story in this testosterone-fuelled new edition Be a Man where he is far more virile and manly and can spin a naked woman above his head after sex. It's a heroic, masculine read that should leave you feeling musky and virile and just about ready to punch/fuck just about anything. This one will cost a mere $2.99 and is worth it for the laughs.

Monstrosis by Chris Wisnia (SLG)
Speaking of Daniel Clowes (as we did briefly earlier) he is quoted in the front of Chris Wisnia's Monstrosis, describing it as "the most eccentric comics project" he has ever seen. It's a hilarious, and deliberately convoluted parody/homage/love-letter to the classic giant monster books of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee. The plots are nonsensical and complicated, the dialogue is dense, and it's all wonderfully and knowingly ridiculous. Kind of in an Adult Swim sort of way. It openly mocks the conventions of the past, and yet you get the sense that Wisnia is a huge fan and wouldn't change a single one of them.

The book is black and white, which might be a shock if you've used to the lurid eye-molesting of the mainstream, but it's a perfect fit - especially if your only exposure to these classic works has been through the black and white reprinted collections. I've only read the first two issues so far, but they convinced me to buy all six parts, and this one is an absolute bargain too - the first issue is free, and subsequent issues are 99 cents. It's packed full of content too and even if you're exhausted by the weight of the dialogue, you should enjoy the beautiful monster attack pin-ups that convincingly ape Kirby's art. There's also an adequate explanation as to why a) giant monsters wear giant underpants and b) why they're so angry all the time. Yes, they're both related, and the answers still amuse me. If you love Kirby you should love this.

Space Warped by Herve Bourhis and Rudy Spiessert (Kaboom!)
I'm a big fan of European comics, and this Star Wars parody by French creators Bourhis and Spiessert is an absolute joy. Each page is packed with rows and rows of beautifully illustrated panels, much like Tintin or Asterix (or Dungeon, which it most reminds me of), giving it a clean, crisp, animated feel, and while not necessarily laugh-out-loud funny it's full of dry wit and clever wordplay. It's a surprisingly stunning and sophisticated work which retells Star Wars in a medieval setting (druids instead of droids, and all the spaceships are birds).

There are six books in the series but only five are currently available. And did I mention they cover the entire original trilogy? Books 1 and 2 are A New Hope, 3 and 4 are Empire Strikes Back, and we are currently in the middle of Return of the Jedi. I got issue one for 99 cents in the sale, but they shouldn't set you back more than a couple of bucks each.

Ghostbusters (Ongoing) by Erik Burnham and Dan Shoening (IDW)
And why not some Ghostbusters? I've only heard good things about this new ongoing series, rendered in a stylised animated style, so when issue one was also 99 cents I figured it was time to give it a try. There are four issues currently available (I have read three of them) and they're not bad at all - they've certainly piqued my interest.

I think it's difficult for anyone to try to run with such iconic and established characters but this mostly works, even though it does tend to dwell on previously established ghosts and incidents. The only character that both artist and writer struggle to make work for me is the most important one, Venkman, who never really has that true Bill Murray vibe for me, and always seems to look like a mean, leering rapist. Just look at him on the cover there - does that really say Bill Murray to you? Especially compared to a character like Egon who they've captured perfectly. I think Murray's humour is actually quite understated, and although his words have a lot of bite, if you watch him as a performer it isn't always apparent on his face. They keep drawing him with mean downward eyebrows, but Murray is all raised innocent eyebrows if you watch him. I know an awful lot about Bill Murray's eyebrows.

I'll keep at it for now though.

That's my current bit of exploration beyond the New 52. If you have any recommendations for more diverse books on Comixology then I'd love to hear them, and if you'd like to see more of these kind of articles then please let me know!


  1. I wonder if they had to slant the eyebrows due to legal reasons? I'm serious too. You know how certain action figures need to be a more generic version of the celebrity.. maybe Bill Murray didn't want his likeness, or his eyebrows, or himself a part of this? Just an odd thought. Now I want to download some odd comics.

  2. Ha, I don't think Billy Murray wants to ever be part of anything!

    I just think the eyebrows down plus a smile is such a cliched expression. It's Wile E. Coyote, not Peter Venkman. No one wants to see him 'tudin'.

  3. I have no trouble with the jump between Bill Murray and leering rapist, but that's just me. I think J probably has a point.

  4. I think J is right. I know they did get the go ahead for his likeness but not until some of it was already drawn.

  5. I'm probably talking more about characterization than likeness though.