Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Battling Boy by Paul Pope


Paul Pope has delivered unto us, the huddled,starving comic-loving masses, yet another epic, astounding effort into our favorite medium and I couldn’t be happier.  

Me = Pig + Poop.  

Now, full disclosure, I’ve liked most everything Pope has done so far; 100%, Heavy Liquid, THB, Batman Year 100, and One Trick Rip Off/Deep Cuts... but this might be my favorite.  It has something a lot of those other works don't seem to have, or maybe it just has more of it than I've seen before. Regardless, this book is a must read.

For starters there is Pope's art. I love every line he lays down in this book. This guy is my art hero.  His level of cartooning and use of the medium in this book alone mark him as one of the greats in my opinion. The book is just beautiful.

The only thing wrong is the guy just doesn’t seem to put out enough work to make me happy, much like Frank Quitely, another great.  This might be because he’s slow (or slower than the average comic artist), or maybe he’s just choosy with what projects he finds the time for.  I don’t know, and I don’t care.  I just need more.  Like right now.  I needed more right after I turned the last page on this undersized little book full of immense talent.

If I have a complaint, that’s it: the format.  Why would anyone want to squeeze this beast of an artist into the tiniest cage possible?  It doesn’t do the work any justice, and I really do believe, as much as I enjoyed Battling Boy, I would’ve loved it even more if it had been regular sized or even larger like it deserves.  I know there are publishers out there (Oni, old Tokyopop, etc.) that believe comics should be "hipper" and come in smaller sizes, like someone is going to stuff them in a pocket or something, but that is just ridiculous.  Nobody has pockets even that big. Digest-sized comics might be okay for some people, but I prefer to be able to see and appreciate the art that someone like Paul Pope obviously labors over, and not be forced to look at some tiny thumbnails with text so small it’s almost illegible.  This format is an F- stain on an otherwise A+ grade book.

Now apparently Pope announced this project quite a while ago and there are some readers and proposed comic connoisseurs who think this matters.  It doesn’t.  Especially when you look at this guys art.  His line work looks so effortless, so free… I’d love to see him actually physically draw something.  It must be a thing of beauty.  I don’t know if he attends conventions, and given the air of rock n’ roll artist that I’ve heard he puts off or is put upon him, he probably doesn’t, but I’d like to shake the guys hand at one someday and just say thanks for all the hard work.  Man, he really does set fire to a page!

So now that I've gushed over the art lets talk about the writing.  

Not every artist we like can write a decent story... but Pope can and does in this very book. And it seems like he is pulling from all the things he (and the collective we) love. In this one book he gives us elements and homages to Akira and Moebius and the Batman TV show and Astro Boy and 80’s cartoon super powered t-shirts and a Kirby-like take on Pulp Heroes and Norse Mythology and all in what seems to be a semi-dystopian ragtag maybe-future... but is still recognizable and relatable.

Our her Battling Boy is being sent "rambling" to Earth on his "turning day", or a planet close enough to this one, by his father, a celestial godlike hero who might be who the Thor mythology is based around. This Thor is basically forcing Battling Boys origin story upon him as a rite of passage, one which Bb is kinda apathetic about at first but eventually warms up to. So this book is Battling Boys origin story in effect.  This is his call to adventure and although it’s force-fed to this unwilling would-be hero, it's a fascinating one. It's his job to clean up the monsters of Arcopolis.

This book is action packed, but not with the in vogue widescreen violence popularized in the last decade, this is more akin to rock 'em sock 'em silver age fisticuffs with a twist. Battling Boy is a straight-forward, take no crap, super powered t-shirt having kid who’s actually written and drawn as a kid, not an adult with a kids body, or a kid acting like no other kid would ever act ever… but a kid. 

In the end it's just a great romp and I would have no problem giving this to my 10 year old daughter to read. She's going to love it, and I think you will too if you pick it up and give it a chance.

MIssion Statement / Nerd Alert

I had a couple of reasons to start this blog really, maybe three.  Here goes.

Lets call this my New Year's resolution for 2014:  One post a week or so on a comic that I think needs me to sing it's praises to whoever might accidentally land here and feel like listening because it might not be catching enough eyes on the shelf...

So here's my secret origin, so you'll know who is trying to get you to spend your hard earned bit coins.

My name's Douglas and I very recently moved to an small, rural eastern Kentucky town.  And that is the nicest way of saying I'm easily more than an hour away from... just about anything and anyone I have any kind of relationship with aside from my wife and my 3 little girls.

Long origin story short:  My wife was offered a position at a local College, hidden away in a virtual Mayberry, as a Professor and a Librarian.  It was a College we have both always held in very high esteem for it's commitment to providing social mobility to those who would be unable to afford it so it was just an impossible opportunity to pass up.  It's a pretty awesome place to be a part of and I'm really proud of her.  It's also hands-down where we want our three little girls to go to college.

As an added bonus, I was also able to transfer and pursue my Criminology degree at a much more prestigious University with a great Criminal Justice program.  It was a no-brainer.

So as a side-effect of that move, I've ended up leaving my local comic shop, and all my nerdy comic book and movie film freak friends behind.  And it's rough.  ROUGH.  I'm the kid with nowhere and nobody to sit with in the lunchroom of life here now.

These girls I live with just don't seem to care about my views on Prometheus or how badass Brandon Graham is at writing / drawing Prophet.  They don't "get it" when I describe how Ready Player One was sent from the future to kill my bookshelf boredom.  They just don't care.

I've been reading comics regularly since I was 4 or 5 years old.  I don't think it's a habit I'm capable of breaking or one that I'd want to break... ever.  But part of the fun is sharing and discussing all the awesome tidbits, the ephemera, the minutia of it all.  And I've officially lost my comic book support group.

That's where this blog comes in... A HEROIC DOSE of all the things I think are badass and deserving of attention.  And an excuse to talk about it.

Hope to see you around, and make sure to subscribe!