Cold Cut Distribution's Feature Spotlight #9 - August 1995
Hilly Rose's Space Adventures
Publisher: Astro Comics
Story & Art: B.C. Boyer
Cvr Price: $2.95
As a teenage girl growing up on one of the outer planets
of the human colonies, Hilly Rose is inquisitive and fiercely independent -
so naturally, she becomes an investigative reporter for the outworld's
number one newspaper. But as the daughter of the millionaire publisher of
the paper, she feels life is a bit too boring and easy.
So when a rival paper from Earth comes out and wants to hire Hilly away from
her father, Hilly seriously considers it - until a string of spectacular
crimes and disasters proves to her that her "little outback world" isn't as
humdrum as she thought. No indeed. Especially not when her investigation
turns up evidence that implicates a certain millionaire publisher as the
mastermind behind the crimes...
B.C.'s writing remains as whimsical and as
suspenseful as his work on Eclipse's lamented "Masked Man" series from the
80's. Simultaneously capturing the innocence of sheltered youth with the
downright cutthroat aspects of the business world, B.C. manages to spin a
tale at once light and airy (with "ray pistols" and fashion statements
straight out of Buck Rogers) and melancholy (as Hilly deals with the
possibility that her father is creating crime - is he? Is it an extreme
effort to keep her nearby? Or something more sinister?).
A local retailer characterizes this series as "Dave Stevens and Carl Barks,
doing Will Eisner." I can't get much more succinct than that - the clean,
feminine-flattering lines of Stevens meet the offbeat adventure and humorous
villains of Barks, and the cityscapes and film noir of Eisner. I'd throw in
Al Capp for good measure, as the "hillbilly" aspect suggested by the title
also evinces itself in the "outback world" setting, and the weirdly-alien
and cuddly-Shmoo-like aliens add a needed balance of comic relief.
Hilly Rose is more popular than you probably thought - check your stock, and
you may be surprised. It's a steady seller, as its pleasant retro-50's
covers grab readers' eyes. This will sell to all fans of Boyer's earlier
work (Masked Man), as well as those into retro-sci-fi (Buck Rogers, Flash
Gordon, Strange Attractors). Also try it with Dave Stevens fans (Hilly
could pass for a teenage Betty in a pinch...)
If you like Hilly Rose, take a look at:
Adventure Strip Digest
Publisher: WCG Comics
Story & Art: Randy Reynaldo
Cover Price: $2.50 (only $2.00 for #1)
Frequency: Every four months.
Rob Hanes is a private investigator working for the huge worldwide
investigation company, Justice International. Although nominally in charge
of the office in Koman, a middle-eastern city, Rob follows his cases
throughout the world on a regular basis - chasing spies, hunting foreign
agents, and tracking missing guns or other shipments.
Rob prefers to work alone, though he often ends up teaming with someone
who's on his side - or at least, who he thinks is on his side. And now that
Rob has angered a global crime cartel, who knows where his fate will lead?
Although it's called "Adventure Strip Digest", this is neither a digest
(it's full comic-book size) nor a strip (it's full-page comics). But it
sure is adventure. Just like the best pulps and strips of yesteryear.
Randy makes it a point to have every issue feature self-contained stories,
which is good - it's about time there was a comic book you could just pick
up and read without having to know old continuity. Unfortunately, some of
the stories "wrap up neatly" in an awfully quick fashion. A great setup
will be settled in three pages, and there's very little time for detailed
characterization. Luckily, Rob's character is fairly easy to determine - a
young buck searching for adventure, who tries to plan ahead, but can still
leap before he looks on occasion and get caught by his own impatience.
Randy has a good feel for a straightforward espionage story, and his
hardboiled PI stuff has more of a realistic ring than straight genre "film
noir" stuff. Once we start getting recurring villains (due to begin next
issue, he tells us), we may have more time for deep intrigue.
Randy was nominated for the Russ Manning Award for most promising newcomer
at this year's Eisner Awards, and you can see why in his work - it's a
wonderful homage to the greats of the adventure serial strips from the 40's
- "Terry and the Pirates", "Steve Canyon".
Randy's people are spare of line and realistic-looking (not overly muscular
or curvaceous). He draws a great trenchcoat (thank goodness!) and his
backgrounds are simply wonderful! Rob is a globe-hopping PI, and when he's
in Hong Kong, the house he visits looks like Hong Kong. In Koman, the
office looks middle-eastern, with open arches instead of doors. Randy does
his homework, and the payoff is a lot of fun to look at - it's almost as
good as a round-the-world vacation, and a heck of a lot cheaper!
Try this with fans buying the reprint collections of Terry & the Pirates (or
reading the current revival), or those who love Steve Canyon. Also, any
fans of "realistic" action/adventure who are tired of the angst - give this
to fans of Deathstroke, or Green Arrow. James Bond enthusiasts will relate
to Rob's secret-agent-style adventures, as well. But mostly, you'll have to
figure out who will buy this yourself, since there hasn't been a book like
this on the market for years - straightforward action/adventure in the style
of the classic strips of yore. You'll probably get a kick out of it
If you like Adventure Strip Digest, take a look at:
Publisher: Known Associates Press
Story: Joe Zabel & Gary Dumm
Art: Joe Zabel & Gary Dumm
Cover Price: $3.95 (64 pages)
Frequency: One-shot, but other stories from same
folks are coming out on an occasional basis.
When two security guards get frustrated at their hospital's continued
refusal to allow the guards to carry firearms, they devise a plan to force
the hospital to reconsider - stage a violent shooting and proclaim that
having a gun would have stopped it. This is the story of their plan and
what happened next as the police, the hospital staff, and the guards' fellow
workers all react to the news. Based on a true story!
Zabel and Dumm have been working with Harvey Pekar
for a long time on his American Splendor series, as well as doing other
critically-acclaimed series and one-shots, including "Dancing With Your Eyes
Closed" (Caliber, 1993). For their first self-published story, they struck
for that same brand of "realism" found in Harvey's tales, but with a bit
more punch. Based on a true story from a newspaper, Joe Zabel concocted a
full tale of two security guards, and why they set up an elaborate scheme
where one of them shoots the other.
For those looking for action or adventure, they'll have to look elsewhere -
this story is more of a suspense yarn, but it's the suspense of "what's
going to happen to them?" and "will the plan work?" rather than the sort of
"will the murderer kill them" suspense found in regular suspense novels.
The story, unfortunately, doesn't so much end as stop, leaving our
characters muddling through with what's left of their lives after their
scheme is over - realistic to be sure, but somewhat unsatisfying. The
details are telling, though, and add levels of realism to the entire tale -
the police's methodical methods, the careful preparation made by all
parties. In short, it's a well-thought-out, fully-realized plot. I could
complain about it not being as "wrapped up" at the end as a Batman story
would be, but then, that's not the point, is it?
Zabel and Dumm's art is as good as their work in American Splendor, if not
better. Straightforward panel layout keeps the presentation from
distracting the reader from the straightforward story being told. But, as
always in a human-interaction story like this, the first thing one notices
is the faces. And, as you might expect, Zabel & Dumm capture the variety of
human emotion and the cavalcade of human variety quite well - everyone is
distinct and expressive.
This will be an easy sell to American Splendor readers, but that's no
surprise. Also give it a shot with true crime lovers (who bought the True
Crime Trading Cards from a few years back? They should like this type of
story). For that matter, fans of stories where real people deal with real
problems in sometimes overzealous ways should enjoy this - hand it to fans
of Strangers in Paradise, or Hepcats and see what they say. 64 pages for
$3.95 is a bargain in the alternative comics world, and many will jump at
the opportunity. And don't forget about the new Known Associates mystery,
Wolf Run, just released!
If you like Bulletproof, take a look at:
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