Bakerville U.S.A., JoeDon Comics
writer: Mike "Muffin" Adam
penciller: Nik Caesar
inker: Philip Vaughan
For the folks that live in San Francisco, this Sunday is undoubtedly like any other, but to me, an exhibitor at the little Alternative Press Expo in an odd corner of town, and essentially a tourist, this morning the city stands in some strange air of defiance, having effortlessly survived the weekend's rainstorms and now basking in the glow of an Earth Day sun. San Francisco has survived much worse, as we all know, but to behold its architecture in this fresh morning light is really something. In Orange County, everything tends to look the same, from track homes to apartment complexes to strip malls to Starbucks; I've observed very little preservation in Los Angeles, and, although the city of angels boasts many older buildings, I doubt they'd withstand an argument from some city council determined to attract new revenue with a movie theater multiplex shopping center and a parking garage. So, pardon me if I enjoy these few minutes before APE to take it all in.
Back to the subject of comic books, actually, APE attendees may suffer from the same visual phenomenon. Mainstream comics usually offer much ado about nothing, in that their escapist fantasies (of which I'm a big fan, mind) are often repetitious if not completing regurgitating the same conflicts and character paradigms. Even the mainstream independent scene is little more than autobiographical comics or homages to trends of old, all of which can be good, but still notably the same. APE is the San Francisco to comics' Los Angeles, although indie comix aren't on an island and can in fact expand exponentially, if we let it. I'm going to write a review of APE at my LiveJournal and maybe for Geek in the City (Aaron!), but this context will explain my approach to this final review, the target of which is another of my exhibiting neighbors, like yesterday's Metro Gnome.
Bakerville U.S.A. is a zombie comic. Now, I already know what you're thinking: zombies are everywhere in comics right now. What makes this book so different? Well, this book is about zombies and corndogs. See? Actually, for the most part, that's the pitch these guys from JoeDon Comics dish out to passers-by, and it certainly attracts attention. Who wouldn't like a comic book about a kid that drives an ice cream truck that tries to find shelter from a zombie army in an old amusement part only to survive yet hallucinate due to old corndogs thereby finding the delusional strength to fend off the undead with an immobile army of lawn gnomes? Tell me you'd find that at your local comic book store. Well, hopefully someday you will, because the JoeDon fellows are talented, friendly, and deserving of a little props.
Honestly, as I alluded in Metro Gnome, the art in this issue leaves a little something to be desired, not that it doesn't tell the story well, and in fact some of the panels absolutely pop with a raw, violent energy sure to attract fans of those goth comics I've reviewed in the past, but in comparison to the other zombie books you might find in the marketplace, this issue doesn't have the solidarity. Hey, it's independent. These guys, like many of the folks at APE, are the proverbial garage bands of comics, self-producing material that is certainly rough around the edges but definitely capable of holding their own. I'll tell you this -- compared to some of the zombie books I've read, which are just as dead as their subject matter in their delivery, this one has been one of the most entertaining. While the back-up tale, "I, Scott, the Sheriff," is essentially just a shoot 'em up B-story, JoeDon's crew is obviously trying to utilize the medium to its complete potential. Trying to breathe some life into this struggling genre with the undead: deliciously ironic -- but not as delicious as human flesh.
I'd be remiss not to link to their site, since I say they should be out there in the commonplace and I have some means of helping, in my own little circle here. We small-pressers need to stick together!
Look at me. Holiday nut that I am, and I don't even mention it's Earth Day. Further, in my digression about urban development, I betray a penchant for old architecture rather than the beloved green, which is surely the trend du joir for a day like today. You know what? Humans live on Earth, too, and for all of the harm we've apparently afflicted on the planet, we're capable of some beautiful things, as well. If you could see the city from this cafe window right now, you'd feel the same way. If you could stroll the aisles of APE today, you'd feel the same way. This element is what makes zombie tales so timelessly compelling -- they always star that one "hero" that refuses to buy in, that does his own thing to preserve his old way of life (namely, living). How easy would it be, in a world full of the undead, in the human mind that just wants to be accepted, to take that fateful bite and join the others? Some folks don't want to be like the others.
Those folks are at the Alternative Press Expo.