I’m having a hard time making up my mind about something at the moment. I can’t decide if Tom Scioli’s American Barbarian the best thing ever, or merely the best comic book ever?
Granted, my critical faculties might still be a bit stunned from the red, white and blue uppercut of the reading experience. I did just mainline a 260-page dose of 100% pure comics into my eyeballs over the last hour or so, and I might not have quite come down from the high that accompanies the reading of the book.
Of course, the fact that Scioli’s American Barbarian can have such a powerful effect on even the toughest, most-jaded comics critic is a sort of review in and of itself. I rarely find myself tempted to gush, and I even more rarely find myself surprised by a comic book, yet here I am, knocked on my ass, my head blown and second-guessing myself for being this impressed as I struggle to find the right words to communicate the perfect power of this work, which distills the best parts of the many virtues of the trashiest, old-school American comic books into their very essences.
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a splurge item.
It’s a week of familiar faces for me this time around. If I had $15, it’d go on Action Comics #8 (DC, $3.99), which completes Grant Morrison’s first story arc on the title — even though we’ve already had the second one; thanks, fill-ins! — as well as Supreme #63 (Image, $2.99), with Erik Larsen illustrating the final Alan Moore script for Rob Liefeld’s Superman knock-off (I’d love to see a well-done collection of all of these issues one day, now that the Moore run is completed). Also on tap, the final issue of OMAC (#8, DC, $2.99) and the long-awaited return of Busiek, Ross and Herbert’s Kirby: Genesis (#6, Dynamite, $3.99), because a man needs as much well-done Jack Kirby-inspired comics as possible, goshdarnit.
If I had $30, I’d add Hulk #50 (Marvel, $3.99) to once again celebrate what Jeff Parker had managed to do with a book and concept that, by all rights, should’ve disappeared a long time ago. (In all honesty, I much prefer the Red Hulk to the classic version these days, and it’s all Parker’s doing, along with his various artistic compatriots on the title.) Everyone who isn’t reading it: This is a jumping-on point issue! Try it and see if you don’t love it, too. And, despite the unevenness of earlier issues, Matt Fraction’s Casanova: Avarita #3 (Marvel, $4.99) is also a must-read; I really didn’t like the first issue, but loved the second. We’ll see where the book goes next.
Should I be splurging, then this week the splurge is on Flex Mentallo: Man of Muscle Mystery Deluxe HC (DC/Vertigo, $22.99). One of my favorite comics of all time, I’m likely going to end up getting this over-sized, recolored reprint just because I genuinely can’t resist the optimistic, hopeful tone of the book and its love of superheroes.
Back in 2010, when Thomas Scioli started bolstering his online presence and entered the realm of webcomics with American Barbarian, I was curious to see how things would play out (as may or may not have been obvious in my June 2010 interview of him). I’ll be honest and admit that now, more than a year later (and with far more of the project online to read), American Barbarian far exceeds what I expected. As much as I have always enjoyed and respected his Kirby-influenced approach to visual storytelling, after reading this double post Apocalyptic tale, I am far more impressed with Scioli’s funky ear for dialogue. It’s like reading a 1970s comic written by a minimalist version of David Mamet. Doubting my quirky endorsement of the work? Then realize AdHouse is collecting the webcomic for a 256-page/6 ” x 9 ” /hardcover release early this year. If you don’t trust my tastes, then you should definitely trust AdHouse publisher Chris Pitzer. To mark the upcoming release, Scioli and I did another of our quick email interviews. Before diving into the interview, let me take a second to agree with JK Parkin’s sentiment in this post, back in June, that DC Comics should have considered Scioli for one of the New 52 titles that it launched back in September. So I was surprised to learn (as you can read in this interview) that DC did not contact Scioli when assembling the creative team for the new OMAC title. As I edited this interview I realized it was hard to find my favorite part of our discussion, but it may be the revelation that the look for Two-Tank Omen came to Scioli in a dream. A close second was learning a bit about his next webcomic, Final Frontier. Feel free to chime in with your favorite part of this interview and/or Scioli’s work in the comments section, please.
Tim O’Shea: As an independent creator, the job of marketing your work falls to you. Do you think over the years, you have gotten more comfortable marketing yourself? On a related note, how did you decide upon doing this one minute trailer for American Barbarian?
Thomas Scioli: Even the largest comics publishers don’t seem to have a budget for promotion, so I’d say any creator, independent or mainstream, can benefit from doing their own promotion. It’s something that I’ve never been comfortable with, but do out of necessity. I think I have gotten better about it, because in the beginning, it would give me crippling anxiety, now it’s just mild trepidation. The idea for doing a trailer came from having seen other people do it. AdHouse’s own Afrodisiac trailer and [Top Shelf's] Infinite Kung-Fu [trailer] are two that made an impression on me when they made the rounds. It got me excited about those two works, so I wanted to do the same. I’d been dabbling with animation, back when I started AmBarb so it was a natural outgrowth of that, too. Once you start doing a webcomic it isn’t long before you realize, hey, why not just do a cartoon?
Consider this my calling my own bluff. Awhile back, I opined that no-one online really spent enough time talking about independent books that were being solicited, meaning that when they were finally released three months later, your store might have missed out because you didn’t even know to pre-order. With the March Previews coming out a week tomorrow, I figured there was no better time for me to tell you what you should be pestering your retailer for from the February edition. Here’s my pick of the top five books you should be looking to pre-order. Continue Reading »
The hardcover collection will be 6″ x 9″, the same dimensions as the Afrodisiac hardcover they published last year. It ships in early 2012, according to the publisher’s website.
Both AdHouse and Scioli will have signed and numbered American Barbarian prints at SPX, free with any purchase from Scioli or AdHouse. Other AdHouse guests this weekend include Jim Rugg, Lamar Abrams, Ethan Rilly and Sterling Hundley.
I’ve been aware of Tom Scioli‘s work for a good long time–back to the early phase of his Myth of Opus-8 days. More recently, he and co-creator Joe Casey have been entertaining folks with their run on the creator-owned Gødland (Image). I’ve been aiming to do an email interview with Scioli since I got him to autograph an Incredibles (BOOM!) cover at HeroesCon 2009–but then the year got away from me. Once I ran into him again last weekend at HeroesCon 2010 I told myself another week could not go by without that interview happening. Fortunately for me, Scioli agreed and even better it was on the heels of his newest project, American Barbarian, starting its online presence on June 8. He also opted to start posting UnMortals: The Myth of 8-Opus online at the same time. We talk about all three projects. But first here’s Scioli’s description of American Barbarian: “A red-white-and-blue-haired hero must defend a post-post-apocalyptic world from the immortal Two-Tank Omen.” That’s right, “post-post”. Double the post. You bet we talked about that.
Tim O’Shea: The first I saw of American Barbarian was a piece that ran in the HeroesCon program, what kind of feedback did you get from folks at HeroesCon?
Tom Scioli: I’ve been working on American Barbarian as a little side project for the past two years. I recently started taking it to shows and it’s been getting a reaction. People seem very curious and interested in it. It seems to trigger a similar reaction in people, they start to wax nostalgic about He-Man or Thundarr or Conan or Blackstar or whoever their touchstone from that 70′s/80′s Barbarian period is.