Continuing with checking out my recent pile of cut-price NZ comic acquisitions, here's a couple more glossy-covered A5 format Minicomics that seem to have found there way into my "To Be Read" pile. Both books are given a (superficial at least) appearance of professionalism by the clean binding and full-color printed sleeve. Both feature black and white art inside. Further more, both were released by their creators as small works in advance of a larger project.
At that point the similarities end, as we shall see.
With a story named "Caffeinated Intestines", it's hard to know exactly what to expect. Something quirky, surreal and curiously introspective perhaps? Our maybe outrageous and provocative? Or maybe... nothing at all. Yeah, it's option three. The "comic" is already short at 20 pages. But by the time you've taken out the intro page, a "thanks" page, a two-page centerfold "poster", a page of advertisements, a page asking you to submit cover art for issue #1, and a five page "character portfolio art gallery"... well, there's actually only eight minicomic pages of story in here.
Well, eight pages isn't a lot. But a good comic creator can still do a lot with that. The Origin of Spider-Man story in Amazing Fantasy #15 is only roughly that size - so let's not get judgmental prematurely.
So, the story: "Jax" is a slutty young girl in a short skirt who provides running commentary for tourists on a tour-bus in New Zealand. Jax's friend Milla is a slutty Japanese girl in a short skirt who drives the bus. They drop off the tourists at a cafe and Jax lies down on the ground in despair. When she does that, she can see right up Milla's skirt. Jax needs coffee. Then they drive the tour bus down the road (having somehow apparently abandoned their load of paying tourists). A giant demonic mouth opens up in front of them. Oh no!
And... that's it. Two girls who work on a bus and drink coffee, and who drive into what is either a giant Satanic throat, or on second examination perhaps it's an inter-dimensional portal... presumably to the 23rd century. End of story.
Pah! I've read more substantial comics stuck to the label of peanut butter jars! No, seriously - the Peter Pan Peanut Butter comics contain basically as much plot as this "tale". There's no substance in this. The paucity of the page count is perfectly matched by the scant content and the non-existent plot. Don't bother reading this - just read the ingredients label on the back of a tin of baked beans... you'll find it just as gratifying.
Equally, the four "Character Portraits" included add very little. We meet Gippa the Genetically Engineered Pet, and Arkitur - an insane military man. Presumably both are characters we will meet in "the future" issues. We also learn that Jax is a former drill sergeant, and that Milla keeps a spare pair of panties under her hat. If that is an attempt to titillate my sexuality, I'm sorry to report that it failed. Just like this comic.
In the intro, writer V. L. Dreyer explains that he is releasing #0 as an early teaser for an ongoing series. However, releasing a part-story for #1 because you don't have the stamina to complete the whole issue really does not bode very well for issues #2 and following! If your initial inspiration and motivation won't last you through the first comic, it's hard to see how you're going to stick on schedule for years on end. However, truth be told this is probably a good thing. It's unclear to me how Tour Girls in the 23rd Century #1 would (if it were ever created) make the world a better place.
Comma Cut #1 has a marginally higher page count - 24 compared to the 20 for Tour Girls #0. But oh, what a difference. Again the introduction explains that Comma Cut is a bit of a side-project for writer Mile Loder, allowing him to enjoy the satisfaction of shipping something out of the door as he toils on his 150-page graphic novel "The Jessica Project".
But Comma Cut is much more than a teaser or a throwaway pot boiler. It's as good a comic as New Zealand produces. Certainly the plot is fairly linear, but there is a plot worthy of the name. Paula is a wheelchair-bound murderess. She kills people. "But only for money. Nothing weird."
In issue #1, Paula lies in wait at the home of a rapist who avoided conviction. Paid by the victim's family, she drugs, tortures and interrogates the man, before the fatal conclusion. The conversation is naturally rather one-sided, but that's the whole point. This isn't a tale of conflict, it's simply a voyage of discovery.
It's hard not to instantly develop a fondness for Paula, our young, wavy-haired, deadly protagonist. She is a killer without mercy, and a breath of fresh air to the New Zealand comics scene. Welcome to the collective culture, Paula. I hope we see you again soon.
The closing page promises us a "Comma Cut #2", and I'll certainly be buying it if and when I come across it. Despite the story itself being black and white, the glossy pages, full-color cover and full-cover insert and high production quality make this a top-notch comic. Steven Malley's art is a simple but effective match for Loder's clear-cut story-telling. With an NZ $6 cover tag, this book is good value for money.
Thanks Mike, for restoring my confidence. I had begun to wonder if the NZ comic industry was dead. But I think I just found a pulse.