Joe Corallo: Indie Comics Showdown!
So my last couple of columns have been a bit on the heavy side. This week I’m going back to telling all of you how I feel about specific comics. This week is a Kickstarter project, The Showdown Volume 2, by creator, writer and letterer Russ Lippitt, illustrator Ezequiel Pineda, colorist Nate Esteban, and editor Jessica Kubinec. Before I get into that though, I’d like to chat a little bit about the indie comics scene.
Indie comics and creator-owned comics are terms that are used pretty interchangeably. While The Walking Dead is one of the highest selling comics every single month and have two different TV series out, it’s not unheard of to see it mentioned as an indie comic. Often folks talk about the big two (Marvel and DC) finding indie talent to bring on board. Indie talent tends to refer to any comics put out by publishers that aren’t Marvel or DC. Image, Dark Horse, and IDW would all be considered comics publishers with indie talent more or less. The tier below that would be BOOM!, Dynamite, and Oni. From there would be Lion Forge, AfterShock and Titan. Then we get into Black Mask Studios, Scout and so forth. You get the idea. It’s kind of indie, but also not quite. Now self publishing comics, that’s where we get the real indie stuff!
Okay, full disclosure, I have self published some comics before so maybe I’m a little biased. Going to Zine Fests, MoCCA Fest, SPX, that’s where you see the real raw indie talent doing what they really want to do. Some of these books you see at those kind of shows are quick little stories, art books, playing around with the format, and so forth. Other self publishing indie type comics look more like what you’d find in any given comic shop like Unmasked or The Showdown Volume 2. Both of those examples are actually a bit more like comics collectives rather than straight up self publishing as The Showdown is part of Broken Icon Comics, but you get what I mean.
Speaking of The Showdown, I should get to talking about it. This volume is 110 fully colored page about a car race in hell. It’s a bit of Wacky Races meets Zenescope’s Grimm Tales of Terror. Basically, lots of bad dead people in vehicular abominations are racing around all the different levels of hell. We jump around following more than a few different groups of racers as they encounter zombies, Nazis, dragons, fire and ice. Some of the racers we follow are more likeable than others, which is the point.
I don’t want to give too much away, but it is filled with references to bands and songs, some of the jokes are teenage boy type jokes which is not a knock it’s just that’s the target demographic for some of it. There are also plenty of visual nods to things like Ridley Scott’s Legend and characters like Harley Quinn.
Where The Showdown excels is pacing. The story just keeps moving which helps make this 110 page graphic novel a real page turner. The setting is a familiar enough mash up that you don’t need a lot of explanation to jump right in. I haven’t read Volume 1 and it didn’t stop me from understanding the basic elements of the plot. Where The Showdown falls down is in the stakes. The story bounces around between a lot of different characters so it’s hard to build up a strong attachment to any one in particular. Add the lack of feeling like there are any real stakes and consequences with what happens to the winners and losers and what the ramifications of that will be makes for a bit of an aimless read. (In fairness, part of that may be because I have not read the first volume.)
The other sticking point for me was the artwork. I feel a stronger horror artist might be able to help carry the story better. Some of the elements in the story could have been more terrifying or grotesque and it would have elevated the story. By that same token, if Ezequil would have went harder in the other direction and made it more cartoony that would have changed the feel of the story and possibly enhanced it as well.
If you have an interest in Wacky Racers with a horror twist then you should check out Russ Lippitt’s Kickstarter. One of the best things about it is that the comics is already done, so once it’s funded it will definitely be coming out! That’s usually not the case when it comes to comics on Kickstarter, so no worrying about a creative team switch up or a book being a year or so late. If you’ve been pledging to comics on Kickstarter for years and years like I have you know what I’m talking about.
Thanks for reading my column this week and do me a favor and go support some indie comics. The self publishing kind of indie.