Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Bulletproof Coffin

The Bulletproof Coffin is a whole bunch of things in one package, including a critical commentary on the comics industry and how it treats its creators, a recapitulation of classic Marvel bullpen personae, a nostalgic look at Golden and Silver Age comic books, and a piece of good old fashioned science fiction paranoia. The story stars Steve Newman, a voids contractor whose job is to clean out dead people's houses and take their unwanted belongings to the local landfill.
He and his partner Joey Spinoza often go to each house the night before to select any choice bits, and consequently Steve has amassed quite a collection of collector's items like old comic books, toys, and store displays. He keeps all these treasures in his attic sanctuary, away from his wife and children.
The plot thickens when Steve finds an old television, some (he thought) unpublished comic books, and a Coffin Bug costume. Suddenly he finds himself compelled to wear the suit, which fits like a glove, and he is transported to all kinds of adventures with comics heroes The Red Wraith, The Shield of Justice, The Unforgiving Eye, and Ramona Queen of the Stone Age. They fight mysterious shadow men and a dimension-traveling zombie horde at the end of time, but they learn that their dire fates could be averted if they find their creators David Hine and Shaky Kane.
The proceedings are very meta-textual, with all sorts of jabs at industry conventions and also some satirical yet creepy recreations of comic book features like advertisements, letters to the editor, and fan art. This book contains some very elaborate packaging and commentary, and it seems to be a real labor of love as well as a lot of fun. All of these details do not weigh down the proceedings, and I feel that the adventure stands on its own merits as a piece of superhero action/science fiction.

What drew me to this book in the first place was the art by Shaky Kane. Kane has been drawing various comics since the mid-1980s and his style is influenced heavily by "Ed ‘Big Daddy’ Roth, Savage Pencil, Jack Kirby, Brett Ewins and Brendan McCarthy" (per his bio). His Kirby riff is prevalent in this book, but his art straddles classic and contemporary comics styles. It is both raw and polished, and it reminds me a lot of Bob Burden's. The story is by David Hine, who has written a multitude of comics for many different companies. Both creators speak about their work in this interview.

Reviews I have read have praised this book that is simultaneously in love with and highly critical of comic books.  Ryan K. Lindsay called it "a smart comic that is also insanely enjoyable." Alex Carr called it "entirely original" and added that "it's worth seeking out for any true culture vulture."

The Bulletproof Coffin was published by Image Comics. The entire first issue is available as a preview here. For those interested, there is a sequel, The Bulletproof Coffin: Disinterred.  I recommend this book for mature readers, as it contains some adult language, bloody violence, and nudity.
Trick or treat!

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