Friday, April 24

Mostly, I'm silent.

It must sound like I'm full of shit when I talk about the few trivial things that I'm interested in, but it surprises even me just how much I''m motivated, inspired and sometimes even moved by films, comic books and music.

A fresh new student loan came in this week and against my better judgement I hopped on the good foot and did the bad thing and splashed out on a couple trades.

Mike Allred's Madman is pretty much one of the best comic book series I've ever read. It's basically about this guy whose dead body is found and brought back to life by two kooky scientists. He has no memory of who he was before he died, but it's discovered that he has latent psychic abilities that are activated when he touches certain people, and he's also inhumanly strong, fast and agile.

As a result of this he learns things at a very advanced rate, and the scientists who gave him life primarily as an experiment grow closer and closer to him, becoming his best (and at first only) friends and father figures. They name him Frank Einstein after their two personal heroes, Frank Sinatra and Albert Einstein and they promise to help him uncover the true nature of his death and who he was before he died in exchange for his help with various scientific experiments and endeavours.

Before any of this can be done however, one of the scientists is killed by some secret shady organisation and thus begins the adventures of The Madman of Snap City. Along the way, he falls in love with a girl called Joe Lombard who works in the office next door to his. Lots of insane, absolutely balls out crazy shit happens to Frank as the series progresses and the best thing about it all is how the writer and artist Mike Allred manages to take existentialism, romance, science fiction and adventure and present it all as this light hearted, yet incredibly esoteric adventure story.

Part of its charm lies in the art, which is heavily influenced by Lichtenstein, Jack Kirby and Pop Art and the 60s in general; Mike inks the whole thing whilst his wife Laura does the colours and she really does compliment his style so well with her use of bold, stand out colours which get more and more intricate, psychedelic and all together breath taking as the series goes on.

Not just that but the writing and the stories themselves really are something incredible; Allred somehow manages to delve in to some pretty insane realms of story telling and narrative, all the while maintaining this incredibly hip and sassy 60s-silverage-beatnik vibe to it. There's intrigue, mystery, drama and a whole lot of questions about existence that we all find ourselves asking, but its all done in this incredibly easy to digest format. The creation of story arcs is so subtle that you're almost fooled in to thinking that each story is self contained.

The romance element is also pretty amazing too, in the sense that you can tell it comes from a really genuine and loving place in the writer's heart. Generally comic book romances can seem a little tacked on, and for the most part they really are. It's very rare that you get two believably in love characters in a super hero comic espescially.

There was one issue I was reading yesterday night actually where Madman/Frank is accused of murder and as he's in the middle of some weird fight with a circus freak he has an internal monolgoue where he starts questioning the nature of good and evil, whether such a thing as a God could exist in a world where atrocities happen every day, and if there would be any point existing in a world where we didn't have evil, because then we wouldn't able to appreciate what was good in the world.

Obviously he doesn't really reach a conclusion on that matter in particular but he reconciles it within himself by ultimately deciding that, if he did live forever in a world without good, or better yet a world without evil, so long as he was with Joe, forever wouldn't really be long enough...Corny as hell, but cute none the less.

There's also an incident where Frank finds himself lost in a bunch of weird false realities he's created and has to find his way back to the real world, and back to Joe. He and his robot clone Astroman (I know, right?) are struggling to find their way back home, talking even more philosophical psychobable and talking about the history of his existence. The best thing about this story was that, in each individual panel Allred would draw in a completely different style and each style was a homage to a different artist or era in comic book history.

The guy manages to pay homages to Popeye, Richey Rich and Casper the friendly ghost, Where the wild things are, Jack Kirby's fourth world and a whole bunch of other shit I didn't get in the space of a page or two. It was pretty much a crash course in philosophy and the history of illustration done in less than ten pages. Pretty incredible if you're in to that sort of thing.

So yeah, head out and buy everything you can find by Mike Allred, or anything featuring Madman. It all sounds dumb as hell but some how it just fucking works. What's best is that pretty much every big name in comics loves this fucking guy.

Hundreds of neck beareded geeks can't be wrong, can they?

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