Monday, October 24, 2005

Rock yer socks off.

I was in the middle of this post when my pc decided that Word should shut down. Lovely. Here it is in “remembered” format and about a month after I wrote it. I figured since Volume 2 started hitting the shelves last week this may be of interest to a few of you who haven't bought the trade. Feel shame.

At the end of July and beginning of August my girlfriend and I went on vacation to London and Paris. For the trip over I decided to pick up two books to read so I chose the first trade paperbacks of Y the Last Man and The Amazing Joy Buzzards. I’ll post about Y the Last Man some other time. And with the second volume of The Amazing Joy Buzzards recently on the shelves I figured I’ll post on them.

How I heard about The Amazing Joy Buzzards was completely the internet’s doing. It seems every single review I read was along the lines of “I came to this series late but wow is it ever good” or “Man-o-man am I glad I bought this trade.” That type of thing plus a mention of Scooby-Doo. Now I know why there is the Scooby-Doo comparison but I don’t really see it too much. Yes these are both groups of young people solving crimes or mysteries or whatever but I didn’t see the connection. For me I did love Scooby-Doo cartoons when they were on after my elementary school day but they just don’t hold up for me anymore. I love my memories of them more than the actual show itself. But that isn’t the point of this post. I guess there just aren’t a lot of young cartoony mystery solvers in the pop cultural conscience to compare this book to.

For me there were a few other connections that I thought were a bit more tangible. Now, I know I said I don’t like lists but I seem to be creating a lot these days so I guess my opinion is changing.

Fantastic Four – I mean c’mon pseudo-science, a group dynamic and a fantasticar/go-go jet.
Jem and the Holograms – Pop-stars leading a double life as do-gooders.
G.I. Joe – Didn’t the Dreadnoks love donuts?
Gorillaz – Uber-hip artwork. One band plagued by zombies and a spectral rapper that lives in one of their heads. The other band plagued by robots, evil-doers, Hollywood producers and a spectral Mexican wrestler that lives in their collective consciousness.

Then there were all the bands that this book brought to mind. Gorillaz obviously but I was also hearing The Beatles, especially Revolver. There was some Rolling Stones because of the whole rock rebellion mixed with pop poseur feel about both of them. The Buzzcocks because of the names and because both rock out loud. And I think Steve-o is really meant to be Stevie Ramone.

I know that it appears I’m creating a site that promotes Black and White comics but that really is unintentional. There is a bit of colour used in the first story of this book but I found it distracting. I think the idea with the pink was sound but it probably should have been saved for a later story. I know it was meant to be used like the splashes of colour in Frank Miller’s Sin City stories that use colour but it didn’t seem to be all that controlled here. I have a feeling that when these characters become second nature to the creators we’ll see the return of the pink robot with a brilliant “colour” story. I like to think that it was this story that has influenced the current hipness of pink as a colour for men. I mean Tony Blair has a pink tie now.

I like that this collection is a nuts and bolts approach with a few extras thrown in for good measure. You can either dismiss the introduction or appreciate the honesty of it. The creators decided not to pretty up their original work which I think lends it a lot of charm. I’m sure that will allow a few people to dismiss them as lazy but I like to see the work, flaws and all. There is something about this book that reminds of modern art. People look at it and think (sometimes say out loud) “I can do that.” This is rarely ever the case because if you could, you would. I like when artwork is deceptively easy. Good work always is. The Amazing Joy Buzzards has it in spades. It has a charming and simple look that makes anyone who sees it feel they too can become a funny book creator. The introduction saying that the work is presented bare bones helps keep that notion alive. Hey, I took the test, I’m a true punk. I can appreciate that keeping it real thing.

Like all good books this felt like it was over way too soon. I got immersed and was having a riot good time and it was over all too soon. Then, like comics of yore, there was a pin-up section at the back. I remember the days before rear-cover advertisements were essential for comics and this does a great job of bringing that good memory back. I only wish there was a Jamie Hewlitt piece in the collection.

The big question I keep asking myself is why do I keep thinking this book is “charming”? What the heck to I mean by that? Well, I sat back and had a coffee and that didn’t work. So I went home, had a few beers and that didn’t work. Then waited a few more months and finally mulled an answer out of myself. It isn’t the indie spirit that makes this book work. While that helps, a lot, it isn’t the driving force. I think this book is charming because there is way more to it than at first glance. There are depths there that are glossed over on purpose to make it lighter fare on first glance. I know that a lot of people, myself included, think that sometimes things get overanalyzed. I had a roommate who once said “sometimes yoghurt is just yoghurt” but I don’t think that’s the case here.

There is a love for the medium pure and simple. The way the Joy Buzzards interact is a clever homage to the Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four. They have human reactions to their situations. They are vain, shy, awkward and jealous but ultimately they love and respect each other. They understand that they work better together; that the sum of the whole is greater than the parts. While they are being duped on one level they are getting mounds of success through their deal with C.I.A. They aren’t as naïve as they appear. In a lot of ways this is a spiritual successor to the original Fantastic Four stories. It is an homage without being blatant about it just like Shakespeare’s Hamlet is pretty much Euripides' Electra (I think). It is a return to something familiar but presented in a new setting. While the details are different the feeling you get from both is really similar.

I find it extremely clever that a book about pop culture has that extra bit that makes it worth a second look. If the product was exactly what it comments upon this book would be more or less disposable after you read it. It isn’t. It has that extra layer that makes you want to go back to it and enjoy it again. It has that cleverness that made the first Matrix movie a pop culture phenomenon. If this book was only glossy entertainment it would be like the sequel Matrix movies. There is a little something under the surface of shiny indie polish that makes me want to keep coming back to these stories. There is something there beyond the fun-lite exterior it presents itself as. This band has chops. Enjoy what they do.

The Amazing Joy Buzzards Volume 2 #1 is on shelves as of last Wednesday. Do yourself a favour and pick it up. But only if you like fun hip comics with a flavour of super-heroes.

No comments: