Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Roarin’ Rick’s Rare Bit Fiends #1

The Most Bizarre Book Ever! Period!

Above you see pages 4-5 and 8 of Roarin’ Rick’s Rare Bit Fiends #1. I placed them up there with no commentary because they speak for themselves. This book is what I imagine dropping acid must be like. Each page is either a self-contained story or a series of random panels. Every 5 pages or so we have a new story of the three men told in a very simplistic rhyme scheme but telling a similar peculiar story. There are no real characters, no real conflicts (although there is one fight scene), and many odd images juxtaposed around other odd images. What the heck is this? The 60’s all over again?

No, but it takes some reading of the letter column to make any kind of sense of this. Or you have to have heard of the an obscure comic by Winsor McCay run in the 1900’s New York Evening Telegram (If you saw these when first published, please raise your hand. Or have the nursing home assistant raise it for you).

Rare Bit Fiends is a pet project of Rick Veitch, who was Alan Moore’s accomplice on Miracleman and Swamp Thing. After Moore left Swamp Thing, Veitch took up the writing chores for the magazine for the next two years. Bad blood between him and DC occurred when he was denied the ability to run a story where Swamp Thing meets Jesus near the end of a story arc where the man-monster was trekking through history. It was at that time that Veitch turned to self publishing books.

So what is this book? It’s a dream journal of Rick Veitch. It contains ideas and situations taken directly from his dreams. He got the idea from a challenge issued by Scott McCloud to several artists to write and draw a 24 page comic in 24 hours. Rick’s first result was a dream journal that he released to his friends in ashcan version to rave reviews. The less said about “rave reviews” from friends and fellow artists, the better.

There are 21 issues of Rare Bit Fiends floating around out there, somewhere. No doubt they are awaiting the pull to someone’s crapbox, perhaps even mine. If so, I can’t imagine them being more bizarre or random than this one.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Fairer Sex, Part I: American Woman #2 (flip side is a Samwise short)

You know I’m gonna leave you woman. Bye-bye, bye-bye

Antarctic Press has made a name for themselves with their Warrior Nun and Gold Digger series. The San Antonio shop is still in business today and appears to be doing booming business with steampunk and zombie tales. This was one of their lesser known titles and it has a very special place in the crapbox. It is, without a doubt, one the shortest and most pointless series I’ve ever read. I’ve read Razorguts and Rare Bit Fiends, so that last line says a lot. American Woman’s entire run is two issues.

I can only assume that issue 1 of American Woman (...get away from meee-he…) had an origin story. Here we get no explanation of her powers, origins or who she really is. What we get is a six page fight with shiny bubbles attached to the outside of a building. About 80% of the action is told through the mouths of various news reporters. We get two panels of American Woman (…mama, let me beeee-he… sorry, I’ll stop now) thinking something and then the building blows up.

I wasn't aware she was speaking of the storyline at this point. Oh, and surprise, the building is undamaged! By the end of this issue none of this will matter, trust me. Because of all the power she’s absorbed, AW gets covered in skyblue energy and stars while flying off to parts unknown. It’s then that we are introduced to the main villain of this issue.

The Mime. Not a rip-off of Joker, DC lawyers. This guy doesn’t speak. He’s hated by everyone. And he has invisible weapons. Like this little number: the invisible WORLD-DESTROYING BOMB!

I’m totally serious about that. And speaking of serious, Amercan Woman gets into a serious chat with some guy she knows. Who cares what his name is, in less than four pages, the issue and series is over. Here she is covered in blue sparkle stars.

Next we see AW, she’s speaking at an Independence Day rally. The mime is there doing tricks in the crowd. As usual the people are hurling insults at him. Meanwhile American Woman spouts off stuff that sounds vaguely fascist like the line below.

Except ours is a nation built on individualism and freedom of speech and many other large concepts that insure the right to dissent from majority opinion. Sieg Heil, American Woman, Sieg Heil. She shouldn’t be up there anyway. She should be stopping the mime, who is in the process of lighting the FUSE on the invisible PLANET DESTROYING WORLD BOMB.

Yeah good luck with all that, American Woman. If only Hulk Hogan-man there was our hero. Boom!

Heh-hee! Well there goes the neighborhood. No wait! It’s a WORLD DESTROYING BOMB.

American Woman should turn in her hero license for this. I will say this: American Woman is possibly the best hero parody I’ve ever read. What hero lets the villain destroy the world. Better than All-Star Batman and Robin. That is suppose to be a parody, right?

The Samwise feature on the flipside of the comic was four pages long and the whole joke was ruined by the publisher putting the pages out of order. Come on guys, you can’t count to four? You can’t put four pages in sequence? Nitwits.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Trencher #2

The “magic eye puzzle” of comics

I’ve had a soft spot for Keith Giffen for quite some time now. I’ll admit that I didn’t get into his books until after he started his run on Justice League in 1987, but I quickly picked up all his Ambush Bug stories, Video Jack and even some of his work on LSH and Jonah Hex. No one can argue that he isn’t a talented writer/artist. Some of my fondest comic memories now and in the past I owe to Giffen. From his plotting of the best, funniest and most human Justice League to his recent translation of the Battle Royale manga, Giffen’s writing doesn’t fail to impress. His art was always “quirky”, with flattened, abstracted images being hemmed in by very ordered, almost regimented boarders. But his style was always understandable and brought a certain flavor to book, much like contemporary Bill Sienkiewicz.

Trencher puts all that Giffen goodwill to the ultimate test. Here is a title where the art makes it so difficult to distinguish what’s going on that you spend minutes going over each panel individually. Maybe it’s not totally Keith’s fault. Giffen supposedly did this series relying on ink instead of pencils. This gives each image a very definite bold edge that looks a bit like they all came out of a kid’s coloring book. But you add to that Lovern Kindzierski’s ambitious color palette and you end up with panels that look like the inside of food processor after it has chopped up someone’s vegetable bin. Let me show you what I’m talking about. Here is page one of issue 2. I’ll give you a hint, there’s two people on this page.

Like some kind of “Where’s Waldo” book gone wrong, every page will have you staring for minutes, possibly hours, in confusion. That’s Trencher’s back/upper torso on the ground in front of the cyber-granny, who’s name happens to be Cher Noble (heh). The book is about Trencher, a bounty hunter of sorts who repossesses errant or misplaced souls. I’m not asking too much at this point as I’ve gotten a slight headache from the first panel. Gideon Trecher’s body will regenerate from any injury, usually within 24 hours. He is assisted in his mission by Phoebe, who maintains radio contact with him and tells him who to go after. She’s never shown. Not quite sure what Phoebe is even after reading the book, but oh well. By the way, as we start the issue. Cher Noble appears to have blown off Trencher’s left arm and his body below the midsection. Trencher doesn’t seem too impressed.

Trencher, I’m beginning to feel the same way. It’s like staring into the toilet after you’ve thrown up. All the mashed up colors swirling together… eww. Anyway the story is that Cher Noble’s soul needs to move on from this Earth and Trencher’s trying to help that process. Cher gets the best of him and looking like a reject terminator, pursues him to administer the coup de grace. Trencher decides to beat feet and commanders a car. After much staring, I deciphered that this book is very gore heavy.

Yeah, that’s some poor innocent Trencher just squashed while making his getaway. So he fits the anti-hero mold Giffen perfected when he created Lobo. Granny keeps pace with him and some how Trencher gets her trapped on a exploding truck or a truck blows up and falls off an overpass or flys up in the air and crashes on her inside a shopping mall or … heck I can’t make out what’s going on in these panels. I haven’t had this big a headache since last New Year's Day.

Anyway, Cher Noble ends up with her brains hanging out of her head, so Trencher dashes them on the pavement to do her in. The cops are coming so Phoebe recommends that Trencher “play dead” while the chassis (his body) regenerates. Trencher wakes 23 hours later and busts out of the morgue.

If you can’t make out from the scan, the sign on his crotch says “Sorry Gals”. Giffen still has a wonderful sense of humor. His next few pages prove that he’s not afraid of developing distinctive bad guys either. Most writers would stop themselves before unleashing a supervillain with the power of…well, you’ll see for yourself in a few minutes. First though Phoebe sends Trencher to Arizona to assist the next soul in need of travel planning. Once he arrives, he finds his quarry already taken care of, but not before he crosses paths with the insane dude who did him in. Ready yourself for “The Hurler.”

Yes, a villain with the power of projectile vomit. That’s the kind of idea you don’t see thrown around a lot these days. Mainly because most comic writers are older than twelve. Trencher tosses him out of the bar and into the street. The Hurler takes Trencher’s act a bit personally.

Using his awesome power of puke, the Hurler destroys the building Trencher is standing in. Trencher emerges unscathed and smacks the Hurler down after some artful dodging of throw up. Just as Trencher is about to leave, an emerald armored superhero shows up spouting gibberish about how Hurler had rights even if he was a menace and Trencher should have left him be. He gets the smackdown treatment too. But the issue ends in a pull back from the action as another party has taken an interest in Trencher’s activities.

Yes, that is Supreme being given the Giffen “Trencher” treatment. Beside the hard to interpret art, I’m intrigued by what Giffen would do with Liefield’s Superman stand-in. Alan Moore did a great deal with him and Giffen might have tons of leftover Supes stuff from when he did JL (Keith couldn’t use the man of steel for it due to the Byrne reboot). Sadly, I don’t have issue three.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Redblade #1


THE undead samurai superhero versus tech-demon comic you’ve been asking for.

Redblade is a guilty pleasure. A three issue run from Dark Horse in 1993 did not find a following and the character sank into obscurity. The book is a one man show presented by Creator/Writer/Artist Vincent Giarrano. Giarrano has worked on some of the big guys (Spider-man, Batman, The Terminator) but his runs were not that memorable to me. Currently the artist appears to be out of comics and on to more conventional work.

Mostly this issue features Redblade running around doing the same things that most of his counterparts in Image books were doing, hacking and slicing bad guys. While normally that would turn me off, strangely Giarrano somehow made this book endearing and managed to infuse something like a personality into the title character and his sidekick. I freely admit this book is trashy, but I warmed to the characters anyway. Kind of like how you can enjoy “Army of Darkness” but still see the cheap effects and inherent campiness of it all.

Also it’s packaged attractively, in a four page gatefold cover with art on both sides. Pity I didn’t get two of this particular issue, as I’d like to have had one to take apart so I could really see the inside cover picture. And the book never tackles Redblade's origin. Who cares, origins are for wimps. What this book is about is demon fighting. So we begin with Redblade attacking a group of demons in some other dimension. Here Redblade is kindly hacking away at one of them. Yah!


This demon was beside himself after his defeat. While Redblade chops up the remaining horde, there’s trouble brewing back on Earth. Seems someone has built a huge weapons factory that the demons could use to create planet-wide havoc and destruction. All they need is a human sacrifice to get things started. Lucky for them the corrupt and greedy CEO is about to remove an inspector that’s extorting money from him.


So he drowns in a pot of goo and then bursts from the container’s side covered in wet concrete only to have wires zip from the wall and electrocute him. I’m glad nothing complicated is involved in summoning these demons. What we are left with is the demon Engetsu, a long-time foe of Redblade.


He looks like all the worst parts of my entire action figure collection put together. I see Micronauts, Shogun Warriors, Transformers and even a bit of Power Rangers in this strangely blended bad guy. Whatever his design, he’s bad news for the factory and its workforce.
Meanwhile, Redblade is summoned by his master Ganko. She? He? (hard to tell sex when someone looks like a spider combined with a plant bulb surrounded by floating eyes) knows all about Engetsu and orders Redblade to help.


He is reistant until Ganko brings up honor and then his samurai-ness causes Redblade to yield to his duty. Ganko has one other surprise for him.

So suddenly Redblade is a buddy-cop movie as well as undead samurai vs demons possessing humans book. I’m still along for the ride. At least I get a semi looking at Vena’s chrome-plated chest and G-string. Ahem, anyway… Engetsu meets with his boss, a nasty demon called Gorn who gets a two page spread. Gorn sends Engetsu a lesser demon called Tull by process of human sacrifice.


Next, Engetsu has turned the automated factory into a living demon production facility. It borgs all the workers including corrupt CEO guy and begins moving toward the big city. On the way it kicks a security van up into the air.


That’s actually in very poor taste, but I snickered anyway. As the demon-factory arrives, Redblade and Vena appear in Earthly guises. Seems Ganko gets their sexes reversed. Again, this is silly but I cracked a smile at the way Redblade reacts.


Is he truly shocked or just trying to check out his own rack? We’ll never know as the demon-factory shows up and the credits for issue one roll. In all, an enjoyable ride from Giarrano and one I would have enjoyed seeing more of. If only all the trips to the quarter bin uncovered such gems.