Funnybook Babylon

March 12, 2008

Pull List Review BONUS for March 12, 2008 – Screamland #1

Filed under: Reviews — Chris Eckert @ 11:00 pm

Deathmate Reborn by Jeph Loeb & Rob Liefeld, Coming 2009!Hey FBBArmy, remember Image? In recent years they seem to have transitioned from THE SPAWN PEOPLE into a publishing house that puts out a lot of smaller self-contained series that aren’t too far from the sort of thing post-Sandman Vertigo is known for, but with lesser-known creative teams. Books like Fell, Casanova, Pax Romana, Phonogram and a lot of other stuff that probably slips through the cracks for one reason or another. I know a lot of their books (Pax Romana for instance) never show up on my radar until someone points them out to me.

In that spirit, I’d like to point out one of those books that debuts this week, Screamland by Harold Sipe and Hector Casanova. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve known Harold for a couple of years; he’s a good guy, and he let me read a preview copy of the first issue.

Yeah, I think it looks a little like Zombie Hunter S. Thompson too.

If you’re like me, you’re sick to death of High Concept Mad-Lib pitches for comic stories: Vampires in Space! Cowboys and Aliens! Werewolf Cowboys! Zombies vs. Robots! Zombie Cowboys vs. Robot Vampires… on weed! As such, I understand how it’s easy to pass over something like Screamland, as at first blush it sounds kind of like one of these Mad-Libs, albeit a better one than you usually get: What if all the classic Hollywood Monsters were real, and are now washed-up ex-celebrities?

By itself that concept’s strong enough to probably lift it above your standard “_______ vs _______ that are actually _________!” schlock, and Sipe and Casanova treat the concept and characters as part of an actual story, not just a Loebian sequence of fanboy hot buttons to push. There are obviously parallels to the sad post-fame lives of actors like Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi who brought these monsters to life, and I don’t doubt that the similar narrative of comic pioneers like Siegel and Shuster, men responsible for American Icons living out their twilight years as virtual paupers, crossed their minds while putting together Screamland.

It’s an actual “funny” funnybook, but the concept isn’t played for gag-a-minute laffs; there’s an air of melancholy cast over the whole proceedings, and the situation is played remarkably straight, allowing the humor to come organically out of the juxtaposition of the Modern Celebrity Life tropes everyone loves and the old Universal Monsters. It reminds me more of some of the more pop-culture concerned short stories of George Saunders, or Jay Cantor’s Krazy Kat novel than any Robot Chicken sketch you may uncharitably compare it to.

I don’t mean to give short shrift to Casanova’s art, either. His style captures the mood, both morose and funny, effectively. Played too far either way, and the concept might have fallen flat, but a good balance is struck. It’s cartoony without being caricature, and often reminds me of a more grounded version of fellow monster-lover Scott Morse.

I don’t know, I’ve rambled on here and I hope I’m not overselling it. I think it’s a good book. I think a lot of people would enjoy it if they give it a chance. You can check out a preview over at Newsarama and decide for yourselves, or have a look at it in the stores.

Or if all else fails, just wait for the special second printing, with an Arthur Sudyam zombie variant cover. I swear, some of you people would buy multiple copies of Highlights if they put a Zombie Goofus cover on the goddamn thing.

2 Comments »

  1. […] Yep, I’m mentioning this book again. I got to read a preview of the second issue, and you can cross-apply everything I said about the first issue. Oh, except this one focuses on the […]

    Pingback by Funnybook Babylon » Blog Archive » Pull List Analysis for April 9, 2008 — April 9, 2008 @ 9:06 am

  2. […] volume 1 by Harold Sipe & Hector Casanova (Image Comics): I’ve touted this mini-series before, when it was coming out in singles. Everything I said about the first issue still applies; I look […]

    Pingback by Funnybook Babylon · Archives · Pull List Analysis for October 29, 2008 — October 28, 2008 @ 10:00 pm

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