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Hey, all. Welcome to the second installment of "Make-Believe War." I'm your host, Joe. All you people still sticking around after my first column, I'm recruiting you for my war. But first I guess I ought to let you in on who I am and why I'm fighting.

Like I said before, I'm Joe. I've been reading comics since I could read anything and I've been writing on the internet about them in some form since I first stumbled onto AOL. I moved from Eastern Kentucky to study writing and film in college, and haven't left New York yet. I teach public school in Brooklyn now, and am in the process of creating a generation of ghetto nerds. I contribute to Listen To Us, We're Right, one of those comic blog things. My fiancée tolerates my habit as best she can, but her sister has already succumbed to the wonders of New Frontier, We3, and Preacher.

I love all kinds of comics, but I also demand high standards. Doing superhero stuff? Fine, make it great. Doing autobio? Fantastic, make it great. There's no reason for comics to be satisfied with what the fans will accept. If we're not constantly pushing forward, we're just as childish as our worst critics assume.

This war came to me in a vision involving the King of the Land of Make-Believe invading Cartoonland. Liberal interpretation has led me to believe that it's time for imagination to take comics back from corporate dullardry. And this is really where you come in. Read what I (and others writing about comics) write. Think about it. Process it. If you agree, fight for it, whether with your wallet, your voice, or your talent. Reward greatness and when you see mediocrity (or worse) do your best to make it better, or else punish it. You're as much gardener as soldier in this war, and it's actually a more apt metaphor, but it doesn't sound nearly as cool so fuck that.

So, there. You're recruited. I didn't even have to play rock songs with subliminal messages or anything. Back to the war.

Amazing Joy Buzzards One way to look at Comic Book Galaxy's motto, "pushing comics forward," is pushing individual comics forward so they may be viewed and appreciated by more folks. I hope to be bringing comics to your attention that either escaped your notice or you'd dismissed for whatever reason. To that end, I'd like to talk about The Amazing Joy Buzzards by Mark Andrew Smith and Dan Hipp and published by Image. The first four issues (and bonus web content [warning, spoilers contained therein!]) are about to be released in trade form, and it's going to be well worth your time.

When I first read about it, I had this weird combination of excitement and trepidation. A fun adventure comic about a rock and roll band and their mystical luchador friend? It sounded too good to be true. There was no way it could actually live up to the promise of its premise.

Well, it did. The story moves at a fast pace, with steady jokes, action, and characterization. The book has some intrigue without being bogged down by tedious subplots. The art has a nice Mahfood/Mignola/Hewlitt hybrid feel that totally feels right. You also get a nice balance between ongoing stories and one-issue story satisfaction, a balance, looking at most mainstream comics, that is apparently harder to strike than one would think.

Now I'll admit this comic isn't for everyone. But if you're hungry for fun, exciting comics that don't take themselves too seriously but are presented with skill and craft, do yourself a favor and check this out. Reading The Amazing Joy Buzzards feels like flirting (and then hooking up) with that really smart, funny indie rock chick at your friend's party. It's not going to change your life, but you'll have a damn good time anyway.

The other way to look at the "pushing comics forward" motto is like a car stuck in the mud. You've got to go out and push from behind. You have to find the part of the car worst off and get it out of the mire. I think that works for comics, too. To that end, here's my first Free Awesome Comic Improvement Idea:

Publishers: Give Your Superhero Artists Fashion Magazines

Superhero comics usually have the fashion sense of, well, a middle-aged nerd. And I'm not talking about the superhero costumes, either. That's another subject entirely. I'm talking about how superhero artists often depict people in normal clothes. The clothes usually range from nondescript (Kirby's infamous crowd scenes, to use an excellent artist as an example) to insane retarded blind person. It doesn't have to be that way. You don't even have to go out a lot or live in New York (but it does help). Fashion magazines are available everywhere, and some of them even have good stuff in them. Hell, Vice Magazine has great examples of "Do's" for free on their website! Great artists like Dan Clowes know that how a character dresses shows a lot about them (contrast Random Wilder to Dan Pussey to David Boring). Not every character should be a fashion plate, but their clothes SHOULD say something about them. But mainstream guys seem to miss the boat most of the time.

If you want a good example of a mainstream artist who really gets this, it's Adrain Alphona, who draws Runaways for Marvel. Each character in this book has his or her own style and it tells you something about that character. It's not just that, though; it's also more interesting to look at than yet another Guy In Suit or Girl in Dress. Other good examples are Bryan Lee "Scott Pilgrim" O'Malley, Jim Mahfood, Los Bros. Hernandez, and the aforementioned Dan Hipp.

Bad fashion sense (or worse, NO fashion sense) won't kill your comic. But really thinking about how your characters dress and doing a bit of research can only make it better. Ask Betty and Veronica. Last I heard, they still bring in some sweet cash. It's an easy effort, but I think it can pay off big-time in quality.

-- Joe Rice

Send review copies to:
Joe Rice
309 Jefferson St.
Brooklyn, NY 11237

The ADD Blog by Alan David Doane. Trouble with Comics Reviews of comics and graphic novels. Commentary about the artform and industry of comics. Get back to the main page.

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