30 Character Showcase #29: Raygun Roads

This month marks the arrival of the 5th annual 30 Characters Challenge, the excellent event run by ComixTribe publisher Tyler James, where participants have to create a new comic character for every day of the whole month of November.  I participated in the first year, successfully completing the challenge with 30 badly-drawn characters of my own, but haven’t done it again since.  I won’t be participating this year either, but thought it might be fun to spend each day writing up a little showcase to celebrate a new comic character who showed up in comic pages for the first time this year.  Comics are one of the most highly inventive mediums around, and this has been a particularly strong year for pumping out exciting new stories packed with compelling new characters.  Let’s take a look at some of my favourites.

29. RAYGUN ROADS

RaygunRoads1Created by Owen Michael Johnson and Indio

One of the true delights of the British independent scene this year, Raygun Roads is a concentrated blast of wild, psychadelic comics joy.  It tells the story of a teenage boy called Vincent, and how he’s rescued from his humdrum life by the Kittlebach Pirates: a rock band that come from a realm of pure pop culture, or perhaps from Vincent’s own imagination.  And the band’s lead singer is Raygun Roads, a hyer-charismatic whirlwind of pure sexual energy and creativity that inspires riots of adoration wherever she goes.

All of the Tittlebach Pirates are fantastically vivid creations, as brought to life by the crazy invention of Indio’s manic art style.  But it’s Raygun Roads herself who is the best-realised of the bunch, characterised by Owen Michael Johnson’s lyrical writing as this primal force of creativity, the artist and the rebel dwelling within all of us.  That’s right, folks: on some level, we’re all Raygun Roads!

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30 Character Showcase #28: Lucas

This month marks the arrival of the 5th annual 30 Characters Challenge, the excellent event run by ComixTribe publisher Tyler James, where participants have to create a new comic character for every day of the whole month of November.  I participated in the first year, successfully completing the challenge with 30 badly-drawn characters of my own, but haven’t done it again since.  I won’t be participating this year either, but thought it might be fun to spend each day writing up a little showcase to celebrate a new comic character who showed up in comic pages for the first time this year.  Comics are one of the most highly inventive mediums around, and this has been a particularly strong year for pumping out exciting new stories packed with compelling new characters.  Let’s take a look at some of my favourites.

28. LUCAS

Sheltered1Created by Ed Brisson and Johnnie Christmas

There is perhaps no character in this month-long list scarier than Lucas.  I think it’s because he’s a monster that is utterly human and believable, yet at the same time eerily unknowable.  A teenager in a secluded community of “preppers”, Lucas masterminds a scheme…. SPOILER ALERT… for all the communty’s children to massacre their parents and take over.  As far as first issue switcheroo’s go, it’s an absolute doozy that leaves you floored.  But it’s in the creeping dread of what follows in the subsequent issues that the true darkness of Lucas emerges.

On one hand, he can quite passionately argue about how he has compelling evidence for a huge apocalyptic scenario being just around the corner, and how murdering all the adults was a desperate play for self-preservation, with no other choice in site.  But then you get these flickers of ambiguity that suggest he’s just utterly batshit and just opted to kill all these people because he could, and because being king and controlling all these younger kids seemed like a good idea at the time.  And though he presents himself with the cold authority of an adult leader, Brisson cleverly reminds us that he’s still ultimately a child, giving him these petulant, petty moments of adolescent angst.  And I think it’s the smallness and the meanness of his evil that makes him truly chilling, little bursts of hormonal anger elevated to murderous proportions.

The end of the latest issue of Sheltered promises a left-field reversal of circumstance for Lucas, and I’m intrigued to see where that takes us.  But as dupicitous and unhinged as Lucas is increasingly appearing to be, I still have this sinking feeling that his predicted disaster is going to happen and prove him right.

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30 Character Showcase #27: Dr. Spencer Brownfield

This month marks the arrival of the 5th annual 30 Characters Challenge, the excellent event run by ComixTribe publisher Tyler James, where participants have to create a new comic character for every day of the whole month of November.  I participated in the first year, successfully completing the challenge with 30 badly-drawn characters of my own, but haven’t done it again since.  I won’t be participating this year either, but thought it might be fun to spend each day writing up a little showcase to celebrate a new comic character who showed up in comic pages for the first time this year.  Comics are one of the most highly inventive mediums around, and this has been a particularly strong year for pumping out exciting new stories packed with compelling new characters.  Let’s take a look at some of my favourites.

27. DR. SPENCER BROWNFIELD

StrangeAttractors1Created by Charles Soule and Greg Scott

Strange Attractors is a tricky book, as it seems to dance right on the knife-edge of science fiction.  Are the masterful uber-equations employed by Dr. Spencer Brownfield to keep New York City running smoothly by means of the butterfly effect a superpower, or is it just the highest-level mathematics of a genius far beyond our own reckoning?

Even before the reveal of his gift, Dr. Brownfield is an engaging figure.  When our protagonist Heller Wilson seeks him out for his aid in writing a college thesis, Brownfield seems a bit of an oddball.  But gradually, it becomes apparent that his eccentric rantings may have some credence to them after all.  Maybe he has secretly run New York City for the past 30 years?

The graphic novel is at its most exhilerating when Brownfield’s “equations” come together and influence the city in some apparently small way, their full effects at times only revealing themselves later in the narrative.  Greg Scott succeeds in the unenviable task of making maths seem exciting and vibrant on the comic page, presenting Brownfield’s talents as incredibly cool.  Soule, meanwhile, invests Spencer with real gravitas, the weight of both the heart-rending tragedy of the past and declining health casting a dark shadow over his future giving his actions a poignant focus.

Heller Wilson may be the ostensive main character of Strange Attractors, and he steps more centrally into focus in the story’s third act, but the character that’ll end up staying in your mind after you’ve put the book back on the shelf is crazy old Spencer Brownfield.

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30 Character Showcase #26: Meeks

This month marks the arrival of the 5th annual 30 Characters Challenge, the excellent event run by ComixTribe publisher Tyler James, where participants have to create a new comic character for every day of the whole month of November.  I participated in the first year, successfully completing the challenge with 30 badly-drawn characters of my own, but haven’t done it again since.  I won’t be participating this year either, but thought it might be fun to spend each day writing up a little showcase to celebrate a new comic character who showed up in comic pages for the first time this year.  Comics are one of the most highly inventive mediums around, and this has been a particularly strong year for pumping out exciting new stories packed with compelling new characters.  Let’s take a look at some of my favourites.

26. MEEKS

TheWake3Created by Scott Snyder and Sean Gordon Murphy

Yesterday I talked about how Lee Archer was the emotional core of The Wake.  That may be the case, but I’d say it’s Meeks that steals the show.  Full name Leonard Meeker, he is the wildcard in the ragtag group of marine experts assembled at the beginning of The Wake.  A genius deep-sea engineer turned master hunter and black market trader of rare marine life, he is described as living in a home fortress of his own design floating on international waters outside of anyone’s jurisdiction, due to his status as a notorious criminal.  It’s a fascinating backstory – practically building him up as a larger-than-life supervillain! – that makes it feel like he could be the antagonist of a different story, but in this particular story it’s only a brief burst of exposition amongst all the other things that are going on.

I was gutted when, in issue #3, it seemed like Meeks was killed off in abrupt, premature fashion, in a moment reminiscent of the “Clever girl…” bit in Jurassic Park.  So imagine my joy when he resurfaced in issue #4, and ended up being one of the longest surviving members of the ensemble!  Against the odds, despite him being set up as a villain and a foil for everyone else, his rude, acerbic demeanour makes him oddly likeable, and at the end of the day he ends up getting something of a heroic send-off.  Combine this with a cracking design by Sean Gordon Murphy – a look reminiscent of Lex Luthor of the high seas – and what could have been a throwaway character turned out to instead be highly memorable.

Now… where do we start the petition to have Snyder and Murphy do a Meeks: Magnificent Bastard Super-Pirate prequel series?

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30 Character Showcase #25: Lee Archer

This month marks the arrival of the 5th annual 30 Characters Challenge, the excellent event run by ComixTribe publisher Tyler James, where participants have to create a new comic character for every day of the whole month of November.  I participated in the first year, successfully completing the challenge with 30 badly-drawn characters of my own, but haven’t done it again since.  I won’t be participating this year either, but thought it might be fun to spend each day writing up a little showcase to celebrate a new comic character who showed up in comic pages for the first time this year.  Comics are one of the most highly inventive mediums around, and this has been a particularly strong year for pumping out exciting new stories packed with compelling new characters.  Let’s take a look at some of my favourites.

25. LEE ARCHER

TheWake1Created by Scott Snyder and Sean Gordon Murphy

Okay, by necessity this spotlight is going to require some spoilery discussion of the first 5 issues of The Wake, the excellent Vertigo series from Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy.  If you haven’t read the story and don’t want to delve into any of the plot twists, best step out of this post now.

Still here?

Okay, in the grand scheme of the narrative of The Wake, as it is laid out by the end of issue #5, Dr. Lee Archer is a character who was always destined to be doomed to a watery grave.  But for the first half of the series, at least, she is our heroine, the chief protagonist who stands as the emotional core of the story.  Right from the first chapter, she feels fully-realised: we don’t go into her history in detail, but we get just enough to hint at the trials in life that have shaped her.  The Wake woud not have the masterful tension it does if it wasn’t for the fact that we invest so much emotionally in the fate of these characters, Lee in particular.  We are rooting for her to overcome the increasingly insurmountable odds and be reunited with her son, and are devastated when even after everything she tries, that ends up not happening.  And that final video-link conversation between Lee and her son is just heartbreaking.  Her poignant final words just about brought a lump to my throat.

I’m interested to  see where The Wake takes its bold new direction moving forward.  But Snyder and Murphy will certainly have their work cut out replacing Lee Archer in the protagonist role.

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30 Character Showcase #24: Fox

This month marks the arrival of the 5th annual 30 Characters Challenge, the excellent event run by ComixTribe publisher Tyler James, where participants have to create a new comic character for every day of the whole month of November.  I participated in the first year, successfully completing the challenge with 30 badly-drawn characters of my own, but haven’t done it again since.  I won’t be participating this year either, but thought it might be fun to spend each day writing up a little showcase to celebrate a new comic character who showed up in comic pages for the first time this year.  Comics are one of the most highly inventive mediums around, and this has been a particularly strong year for pumping out exciting new stories packed with compelling new characters.  Let’s take a look at some of my favourites.

24. FOX

PrettyDeadly6Created by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios

We end our weekend-long focus on Pretty Deadly with a look at one of the more enigmatic figures to appear in the first issue.  Fox is Sissy’s guardian, strikingly mismatched with his companion.  She’s a little girl, he’s a towering old man.  She sings and talks lyrically, he  speaks little.  He is blind, yet seems gifted with second sight… and perfect aim with his guns.  Based on some of the cryptic statements he makes to other characters, we can conclude that he has a fascinating backstory, and that whatever sights he saw before being struck blind were quite horrifying.

He’s an intriguing figure: protective, but too distant to really be called paternal.  He reminds me of a bit of a ronin figure, or like the hero of Lone Wolf and Cub or, of course, Zatoichi.  He’s a man of mystery, and I’m eagerly anticipating learning more!

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30 Character Showcase #23: Sissy

This month marks the arrival of the 5th annual 30 Characters Challenge, the excellent event run by ComixTribe publisher Tyler James, where participants have to create a new comic character for every day of the whole month of November.  I participated in the first year, successfully completing the challenge with 30 badly-drawn characters of my own, but haven’t done it again since.  I won’t be participating this year either, but thought it might be fun to spend each day writing up a little showcase to celebrate a new comic character who showed up in comic pages for the first time this year.  Comics are one of the most highly inventive mediums around, and this has been a particularly strong year for pumping out exciting new stories packed with compelling new characters.  Let’s take a look at some of my favourites.

23. SISSY

PrettyDeadly5Created by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios

Yesterday we talked about Deathface Ginny, the ostensive headline character of Pretty Deadly.  But based on the first issue at least, the actual main character of the story is Sissy.  A young girl with a distinctive cloak made from a skinned vulture, it is her who sings the song of Ginny in the first issue, and her whose ill-advised act of theft brings wicked forces down on her and her companions.

A favourite moment of mine in Pretty Deadly #1 was the conversation between Sissy and the little boy in the house they’re sheltering in.  I loved the dynamic of them both appearing to be around the same age, but Sissy being much more worldly and beleagured than her wide-eyed companion.  Throughout the issue, Emma Rios does a great job of alternating between making Sissy appear very wise and alien with her unusual eyes, and emphasizing how young and childish she actually is with her oversized clothes and soft features.

I don’t know if Sissy will remain a focus once Ginny enters the fray, but for the moment I find her to be a compelling young protagonist.

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30 Character Showcase #22: Deathface Ginny

This month marks the arrival of the 5th annual 30 Characters Challenge, the excellent event run by ComixTribe publisher Tyler James, where participants have to create a new comic character for every day of the whole month of November.  I participated in the first year, successfully completing the challenge with 30 badly-drawn characters of my own, but haven’t done it again since.  I won’t be participating this year either, but thought it might be fun to spend each day writing up a little showcase to celebrate a new comic character who showed up in comic pages for the first time this year.  Comics are one of the most highly inventive mediums around, and this has been a particularly strong year for pumping out exciting new stories packed with compelling new characters.  Let’s take a look at some of my favourites.

22. DEATHFACE GINNY

PrettyDeadly3Created by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios

It might seem strange to include in this list a character who has thus far barely appeared in a comic story.  In Pretty Deadly #1, we experience Deathface Ginny almost entirely through other characters telling us of her story.  But that speaks volumes of the impression the character makes, even in her limited role in the opening stages of the Pretty Deadly narrative.

A big part of that is the highly striking design given to her by Emma Rios.  It was a face that popped up in backmatter ads months before the book’s release, and that alone was enough to generate real buzz about the book.  Once we get into the comic itself, though, Kelly Sue DeConnick crafts an intriguing mythology around the character, suggesting she is the daughter of Death himself, and how if you call for her, she’ll come riding on the wind.

We might not have seen a lot of Deathface Ginny thus far, but I’m keen to see more…

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30 Character Showcase #21: Jon

This month marks the arrival of the 5th annual 30 Characters Challenge, the excellent event run by ComixTribe publisher Tyler James, where participants have to create a new comic character for every day of the whole month of November.  I participated in the first year, successfully completing the challenge with 30 badly-drawn characters of my own, but haven’t done it again since.  I won’t be participating this year either, but thought it might be fun to spend each day writing up a little showcase to celebrate a new comic character who showed up in comic pages for the first time this year.  Comics are one of the most highly inventive mediums around, and this has been a particularly strong year for pumping out exciting new stories packed with compelling new characters.  Let’s take a look at some of my favourites.

21. JON

SexCriminalsJonCreated by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky

Following on from yesterday’s focus on Suzie, today we switch over to the other star of Sex Criminals: her love interest, and fellow orgasmic timestopper, Jon.  While the first issue is all about Suzie’s sexual awakening, the second issue switches focus to Jon’s difficult teenage years.  And while the first issue is quite sensitive and clever in its comedy, the second is hilarity of the crudest, smuttiest order, perhaps reflective of their different personalities.  For example, while Suzie refers to the timeless limbo she inhabits while in her orgasmic state as “The Quiet”, Jon refers to it as “Cumworld.”

If Suzie’s story resonated with female readers, it is undeniable that Jon’s experience with puberty and beyond will strike a chord with the agonising awkwardness experienced by many boys growing up.  From stumbling across illicit concealed porn in the woods, to a mortified venture into the local sex store (the wordplay and sight gags packed into this sequence by Zdarsky made for one of the year’s most hilarious scenes), there’s so much about the hapless Jon’s formative years that are so bang-on.

As an adult, he’s presented as a great match for Suzie beyond just their similar talents.  Fraction has a great knack for writing them in a way that their respective senses of humor seem to play off each other naturally, and he’s just the right balance of doofy and cool to seem appealing.  Issue #3 adds some other interesting wrinkles to his character.  For example, we learn that among all the girls he dated, he had a brief relationship with a guy –  presented in a refreshingly matter-of-fact manner in this era of “we’re making a press release to let you know we have a gay character appearing in our book” – and that he may or may not like “butt stuff.”  Or perhaps that Suzie just wants him to like butt stuff, who knows?  Plus, he has a glowing penis!

I was going to include both Suzie and Jon as one entry, so seamlessly do they fit together in Sex Criminals, and so heavily is the focus on them as a pair.  But such a good job is done of making them both also feel distinct and like fully-realised characters in their own right that I had to give each one their due.

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30 Character Showcase #20: Suzie

This month marks the arrival of the 5th annual 30 Characters Challenge, the excellent event run by ComixTribe publisher Tyler James, where participants have to create a new comic character for every day of the whole month of November.  I participated in the first year, successfully completing the challenge with 30 badly-drawn characters of my own, but haven’t done it again since.  I won’t be participating this year either, but thought it might be fun to spend each day writing up a little showcase to celebrate a new comic character who showed up in comic pages for the first time this year.  Comics are one of the most highly inventive mediums around, and this has been a particularly strong year for pumping out exciting new stories packed with compelling new characters.  Let’s take a look at some of my favourites.

20. SUZIE

SexCriminalsSuzieCreated by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky

For evidence of the positive impact new characters can have on the comics landscape, one need look no further than the letters page of Sex Criminals #2.  In the reactions to the first issue of writer Matt Fraction and artist Chip Zdarsky’s stellar new series, we read the same testimonial over and over: that the story of Suzie’s sexual awakening was a breath of fresh air for so many female readers, that it resonated with so many of their own experiences, that female teenage sexuality is so rarely explored in comics, or indeed any medium of entertainment.

In the first issue of Sex Criminals, we get the tale of Suzie, as told to us by Suzie herself.  The whole idea of Suzie stepping out of the world of the comic to break the 4th wall and talk directly to us adds a sense of intimacy between reader and character, making her feel more fully-realised and helping her personality shine through all the more.  Through Suzie’s account, we learn about her very unusual gift: the ability to stop time when she orgasms.

Of course, in the flashforward at the beginning (and in the title) we see that Suzie gets involved in a scheme to use this most strange of superpowers to rob a bank, but the book is about so much more than the high concept.  Through that hook, we get insight into all the awkwardness and embarrassment Suzie feels in her formative years, unable to fully grasp the changes going on in her body and lacking any reliable source of information to turn to for guidance.  In one particular high-point in this first issue, the most “sexually experienced” girl in her year at high school shares a series of increasingly ridiculous scribblings on a bathroom stall depicting the sexual positions she must master.

Suzie’s experiences are mostly hilarious, but at times they’re also touching and even a little heartbreaking.  She feels like a very human character, and from the first issue we’re firmly invested in where the narrative will take her.  Issue #2 would require a filling in of the secon half of the equation… but we’ll get to that tomorrow!

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