I read The Bulletproof Coffin twice and then had to Google its creators—David Hine and Shaky Kane—to make sure they were real people and not just fictions. (It turns out Shaky Kane is a pseudonym, but one used by a real person.)
See, in its postscript The Bulletproof Coffin claims to be the collaboration of a David Hine and Shaky Kane who wrote horror and “twisted hero” comics for an independent publisher in the early 1950s, which would put them in their 80s today. When their independent was bought out by “Big 2 Publishing,” fictional Hine went to work on “blatantly commercial superhero stories including the mediocre but high-selling Z-Men: Final Meltdown.” Kane went underground, calling Hine a sellout. Later they reunited to produce many more comics that were never distributed. The Bulletproof Coffin supposedly tells the story of what they’ve been doing all these years.
Yet neither Hine nor Kane appears in issue #1. Instead we follow Steve Newman, who has the job of cleaning out dead people’s homes for the city. On the assignment that opens the story he finds a trove of Hine & Kane collectibles and comics, including many his buying guide tells him shouldn’t exist. He brings them home and reads one—and so do we, as its pages are interpolated into ours. He also brings home a coin-operated TV, and when he feeds it a quarter, he sees the house’s owner murdered right after hiding something under the floorboards. He returns to the house, pries up the floor, and finds the costume of one of Hine & Kane’s superheroes, Coffin Fly.
Also some sinister men follow him around, and at the end we see an unexplained, menacing pair of monster toddlers brandishing weapons.
These mysteries in the story itself pale in comparison, though, with the bigger one of why the real Hine and Kane have chose to dislocate their comic’s authorship and make its narrative status so uncertain. A character inside this story by “Hine” and “Kane” is going to discover something about “Hine” and “Kane.” But why come at it from that angle? Why are the fictional writers named after the real ones? I’m intrigued enough to stick through the six-issue run to find out.
The art and overall feel of the book remind me of Daniel Clowes’s first multi-issue story in Eightball, “Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron.” There’s a sequence I particularly like where Newman comes home to what is presented like a dystopic future family life. It’s only when you look at the details of the scene that you realize none of this dystopia is extrapolation, it’s all made of real elements of 21st-century daily experience.
Preview below the fold.