Tag: Golly

The Best Comics of 2011

by on Dec.13, 2011, under Comics

The annual exercise. Please to begin the arguing.

#7 Amir, Zahra’s Paradise

Zahra’s Paradise begins on June 16, 2009, the day after one of the earliest and largest election protests in Freedom Square. Mehdi, a nineteen-year-old university student, was at that protest and hasn’t come home. His mother Zahra and his brother, the unnamed narrator, are worried about him and try to find out what’s happened. That’s it, but that basic motivation allows Amir and his artist collaborator Khalil to create a full portrait of the horror of daily life in Tehran during the repression that followed the protests.

#6 Fred Van Lente, Comic Book Comics

For a comic book buff it’s fascinating to read tidbits like the series of events that led from the Frankfurt School, to Fredric Wertham’s testimony before Congress, to the creation of the Comics Code Authority, to the death of EC Comics, to the birth of Mad magazine. Or how the increasing crackdown on drug paraphernalia in the early 1970s put head shops out of business and thereby killed the distribution network for underground comix artists like Robert Crumb. Issue #5 even manages to make interesting reading out of nothing but the many intellectual property ripoffs and lawsuits that have plagued the medium since its birth.

#5 Ted McKeever, Meta 4

I think (and this was never my strong-suit philosopher so I’m not sure, but I think) that Ted McKeever has written a Heideggerian allegory in comic-book form. Now available in a trade collection.

#4 Phil Hester, Golly vol. 1: Catching Hell

Golly feels as if someone took Garth Ennis’s Preacher and drained out all the meanspiritedness, sadistic jokes, and sexism. Golly Munhollen grabs the circus strongwoman’s ass one day, she knocks him out, and he’s visited by an angel who informs him that the Apocalypse has been postponed indefinitely due to lack of interest, and in the meanwhile he’s been appointed the clean-up squad for all those demons left running around the world. When Golly asks the logical question—why me and not someone smarter—the angel tells him that from a heavenly perspective the difference between him and a genius is negligible. “It would be like asking you to look into a puddle and select the smartest amoeba,” it says. “You will do.”

#3 Charles Soule, 27 (Twenty-Seven)

Will Garland has a repetitive stress injury in his playing hand, and in trying to cure himself accidentally makes a Faustian bargain that leaves him with a console implanted in his chest. Every time he activates it he gains a miraculous ability for three hours, but after the 27th time he does so, he will die. The ending is unexpected yet perfect. Now available in a trade paperback.

#2 Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá, Daytripper

Every issue of Daytripper tells an episode in the life of the protagonist, Brás, at a different age. Brás starts his working life as an obituary writer, then becomes a novelist in his thirties; at the end of each issue he dies and we read the opening lines of his obituary. Though the episodes are told out of order, we realize very quickly that we are to read each one as if none of the preceding deaths happened, but everything else we’ve read about did. Brás has many loves in his life—a girlfriend, a wife, a best friend, a father, a mother, a son, a dog—and there are episodes touching on each of them. Brás is built up as the sum of these many loves and remembered in relation to them in each of his obituaries, in an extended meditation on loving in the face of death.

 

#1 Anders Nilsen, Big Questions

If Chris Ware is the comic book medium’s James Joyce, Anders Nilsen is its Samuel Beckett. Think Beckett meets Beatrix Potter, adorable little creatures on a bleak, featureless plain, staring into the abyss—but hopeful nonetheless, in its own way. “We can’t ever really know the outcome of our actions,” one of them concludes, “but if we act earnestly, and do our best, everything will turn out right in the end.” Of course the bird saying that happens to be responsible for the deaths of many others. And dead herself. Now available in collected form.

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Golly TPB Vol. 1: Catching Hell

by on Jun.13, 2011, under Comics

I’m not sure what spurred me to buy this first Golly trade paperback. Possibly a dim memory associated with author Phil Hester, who I had an idea that I liked. (It turns out I do like him. He wrote The Atheist and The Coffin, both of which I loved though they disappeared from print far too fast.) In any case I bought it and got one of those rare and overwhelmingly welcome surprises that keep me taking chances on unknown comics even though, you know, Sturgeon’s Law.

Because Golly is really fun. It feels as if someone took Garth Ennis’s Preacher and drained out all the meanspiritedness, sadistic jokes, and sexism.

Golly Munhollen is a carnie. He grabs the circus strongwoman’s ass one day, she knocks him out, and he’s visited by an angel who informs him that the Apocalypse has been postponed indefinitely due to lack of interest, and in the meanwhile he’s been appointed the clean-up squad for all those demons left running around the world. When Golly asks the logical question—why me and not someone smarter—the angel tells him that from a heavenly perspective the difference between him and a genius is negligible.

“It would be like asking you to look into a puddle and select the smartest amoeba,” it says. “You will do.”

Now, as a way of bypassing the usual pitfalls of origin stories, this is simply brilliant. It provides an inarguable logic for choosing our hero and gets it out of the way fast. It also sets up a recurring gag in which the angel is much more interested in mundane elements of Earthly existence than it is in Golly.

“I have fulfilled my mission with you, but I have more important tasks at hand,” the angel tells him. “I am currently engaged in a complex and taxing endeavor on another part of your planet… I am bringing an earthworm into existence in Australia.”

The pace is brisk, with two demonic forces vanquished in the five issues collected here. Golly’s carnie friends are an easygoing, entertaining band of demon-hunters and Hester never overindulges in flashy action sequences, preferring to linger in dialogue in the moments before and after them. Think trailer-park Buffy, perhaps.

No long-term arcs have kicked in yet, and presumably if Golly ever manages to put out more issues Hester will have to come up with some eventually. These five issues came out between August 2008 and May 2010, though, which is a) very slow and b) not terribly encouraging for future installments. For now, I’ll just recommend that everybody pick up the trade and maybe Image will pay Hester to write us some more.

Preview here.

PS: It occurs to me that this would be a great candidate for Josh K-Sky’s quest to turn superhero comics into TV shows. Granted, it’s not a commercial success as a comic so I’m not sure who would want to option it, but Josh, get on that.

PPS: It further occurs to me that such a show would be pretty similar to Reaper, with the added benefit of being set in a circus rather than a big-box store. Reaper should have been a better show than it was. Spotty writing is partly to blame, but there was enough good writing that I think it’s fairer to blame much more Bret Harrison’s complete lack of charisma and actually negative chemistry with Missy Peregrym. Ray Wise and Rick Gonzalez made me smile every time they were onscreen. Give me Golly with Rick Gonzalez as Golly Munhollen and Ray Wise as the voice of his sidekick friend’s ashes in the PBR can. Make it happen, Hollywood!

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