Demon God Goblin Heaven
Jesse Balmer, Jonny Negron, writers/artists
Read a preview at Jesse Balmer’s website
Watch a preview video on YouTube
Buy it from Secret Headquarters
This seamless collaboration between ADDXSTC 2011 Top Tenner Jonny Negron and his Chameleon co-editor Jesse Balmer mines a whole lot of gold from one simple plot vein: the reversal. Every time you get a handle on who’s the biggest shitheel or badass in the book, someone comes along to flip that on its head. Protagonist Charles of Charleston (Balmer’s signature character) is Patient Zero for this technique. The four-page preview sequence linked above was my first exposure to the book, and in the events it depicts the dividing line between victim and victimizer seemed almost painfully clear: Balmer’s goggle-eyed, fleshy, flabby, furrowed, nude, cat-like Charles — a character that seemingly sprung fully formed from the head of one of those grotesque John Kricfalusi close-ups of a smiling or grimacing Stimpy — was undoubtedly at the mercy of Negron’s leering, Wayfarer-sporting, brylcreem-coiffed, switchblade-toting antagonist and his thugs. (Thugs wearing old-timey one-piece swimming costumes and Balinese masks, no less.) But reading the comic itself reveals that Charles was the victimizer up until this point, a rampaging id that consumed or assaulted nearly everyone or everything in his path, including himself, until fate intervened in the form of larger, tougher hombres. The reversal gives the story juice, and reveals a versatility in Charles’ character design to boot: What seems vulnerable and tender in one set of circumstances comes across as priapistic and grotesque in another. The shades-sporting creep, as it turns out, is merely avenging the Casper-like ghost surfer Charles assaulted after washing up on a nearby beach, and is in turn outgunned and outclassed by a dog dressed like Solomon Kane and powered like Doctor Strange. Balmer and Negron’s art styles don’t seem like a natural fit beyond their mutual penchant for the grotesque — Negron’s eroticized coldness has little in common with Balmer’s thick vibrating inks — but in this book, a series of memorable characters doing memorable things in a blackly psychedelic environment, they make a happy match, and that yo-yo pacing is key.