Brian Chippendale, writer/artist
self-published, October 2007
This is what those “fun” superhero comics that nobody but predominantly superhero-comics bloggers reads would look like in an alternate universe where Gary Panter took over as Marvel house artist instead of John Romita Sr. and Los Bros Buscema following the departures of Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. The major difference, of course, is where in those books the action-humor blend is the primary selling point, here it’s simply the tool Chippendale uses to set up the action beats and environments that are the meat of his cartooning. The yuks and fights are the means to an end, not an end in themselves, but they also happen to be really really crackerjack, which is more than you can say about this book’s Big Two brethren.
Plotwise, this is a follow-up to Chippendale’s earlier Battlestack Galacti-crap, a story of two tribes (cue Frankie Goes to Hollywood) of costumed weirdoes battling it out over the right to sell cupcakes in a particular area of their sci-fi city. It’s exactly as nonsensical as it sounds, which is totally fine because the point is the drawing, and man, it’s a pip. This issue kicks off with a brief silkscreend color section that evokes the full-color openings of manga volumes, a comparison subverted here by the supreme ridiculous of the subject matter (one of our warring tribes, Teamy Weamy, is debating whether to change their name to Team Tomb or Team Tummy). The rest of the comic comprises three separate, vaguely interlocking vignettes, each defined by the way they use sequences of panels to pace action. In the first (back at the cupcake stand from the first issue) a bug-laden “bugcake” is lobbed past a stunned onlooker at the head of a disgruntled customer; Chippendale draws the action out over several panels to call attention to its kinetic silliness. This is in contrast to the next big bit, in which panel after panel is left silent while two characters are placed on hold as they call a credit card company to find out why one of their cards has been denied–here the drawn-out sequencing conveys boredom rather than action. Things kick into high gear in the second section, which involves a pair of super-types infiltrating an underground lair and battling robot-type dudes. Chippendale’s chunky, crunchy line is a surprisingly effective canvas for action choreography, making the space in which the action takes place feel solidly constructed and lived-in while lending a certain palpable oomph to various ninja stealth antics, laser dodges, and one really memorable blast at a bad guy. the third and final sequence is mainly an excuse to create a convenience store shaped like Godzilla called Snackzilla, I guess, but it too has a laugh-out loud depiction of slapstick involving a bunch of characters getting bonked on the head with a baseball bat and sent tumbling down a hole in the floor by a secret member of a rival gang. After a funny, deadpan two-page bonus comic by Ben Jones about a dog who will become the Chosen One but at this point mostly stands around with his tongue lolling out, the comic ends with another two-page color section; as with the first issue, this finale displays Chippendale’s knack for drawing figures in freefall, but this time uses it to set up a funny gag about one falling character remembering he can fly mid-plummet.
The character designs are all funny and easy to parse–I sort of want to see these folks cross over with the gang from Powr Mastrs; the environments, particularly in a trio of stand-alone pages toward the end of the book, are immersive and mysterious; and since Chippendale is working with basically one or two large panels per page it’s probably a lot easier than Ninja or Maggots for your average civilian to follow. This is the kind of minicomic you’ll read from cover to cover each time you come across it wherever you keep your minicomics. If you spot this at a con you should buy it.