Hot Ham n’ Cheese Hoagie of Death
Not to be outdone by my fellow Ghost, Rob “The Stewbrewer” Stewart aka NotBAMF, it’s time to get back in the trenches and blog out a good one for all you fans itching for a glitching. The only problem is I really don’t have a great topic to write about.
I thought about doing another read pile entry, but I really wanted to save my next good one for a review of the first TPB of the Image series “God Country” by Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw, which should be arriving in the mail later today.
The story seems interesting enough. Described as a cross between American Gods and Southern Bastards, it hooked me with visuals of Celestial type beings and it’s touted mix of religion, small town struggles, and supernatural kickassery. A lot of the things I can relate to being at heart just a small town farm boy from the back hills of Pennsylvania. But once in a while, an indy series grabs me with the type of excitement that I can only describe as that feeling I had in those heady days in 9th grade when I waited with baited breath for the first of my Mike Allred’s Madman issues to come from Kitchen Sink Press.
I thought I was such a rebel back then, ordering a book from Kitchen Sink, unlike my friends woefully stuck in the same old Marvel/DC rut. I mean this publishing company had comic books with naked boobies in them, what a beardless hipster I was!
Indeed, from a young age, I had looked up to my older brother, Dave, and remembered those early days of my youth when my brother too bucked the system and started reading books from the independents like Flaming Carrot, Mike Rude’s Nexus, and Judge Dread. I can still remember the thrill of seeing that Madman series in that Kitchen Sink catalog and saying “Yes, now I’m a real comic man. I’m taking my first step into a larger world”.
Sure technically at the time I was reading Valiant’s “Eternal Warrior” and the god awful Now Publishing’s “Green Hornet” so I was indeed already reading what could be considered independents, but nothing to his scale. Madman was like sawdust and black dirt, the real substance of comic bedrock, so below the surface that it was hard to find without a shovel and some time. And this was long before the internet was mainstream enough for you to be able to find information on obscure series like this, so the odds that I found it were, well, it makes you think like it was all meant to happen.
And I was happy it did. Madman was one of the defining books of my late teenage years, a book that spoke to me in so many ways. It was pop culture sci-fi kitsch and a real Gen-X vibe (as opposed to the stuff being sold as “Gen-X”…i.e. Trenchcoats and lots of 90s ‘tude!). And most importantly it was wrapped up with a shy awkward hero that my nerdy 15 year old self could really relate to. I hate to say it, but given the Spiderman comics that were being written about this same time, Madman was much more “Peter Parker” than Spiderman was in terms of his overall vulnerability and sense of wonder about the universe.
So rabid of a fan did I become of Madman, that I bought a glow in the dark Madman shirt for Kitchen Sink soon after finishing the first 6 issues of the series. I wore that thing proudly to school at a time when comic t shirts weren’t at all popular especially one that had some obscure character like Madman.
I still wish I had that shirt. I don’t know what happened to it. I want to say a younger early 20s me gave it to Goodwill like the dumb ass I was, but it still might be up in my parent’s attic. I’ll have to go look because I’d wear that thing proudly now as well.
I also made myself a Madman costume out of an old white turtleneck and a XL t shirt sleeve that I pulled over my face. I even went as far as to cut out red fabric to make the signature “Mr. Excitement” exclamation point which my Grandma lovingly sewed onto the turtleneck. I did have some help from my cousin, JA, who I had made a fan of the book out of too, with that costume.
Since all that, Madman and Mike Allred has gone mainstream. Soon after the Kitchen Sink days, Madman was picked up by Dark Horse and went from being a small indie book, to a…well…larger indie book. Some 25 years later, Mike now works with Marvel drawing most recently the Adam Warlock Oneshot book in his unmistakable retro style. A lasting testament that there’s a curse and a blessing with being an indie artist or book or whatever that has crossover appeal. Try as you will, you’re never going to be small forever, for good and for worse.
Do I think “God Country” will have the same lightning in bottle effect on me that Madman did? Not in a million years. It was the right time with the right book, both age wise, time wise, everything. I don’t doubt though that I’ll probably really enjoy God Country, enough to start buying it regularly. But it will be just like Black Hammer or Saga or any other of the indy books I’ve bought over the past years, something not mainstream yet not out of the ordinary. Sad really, but that’s the nature of the beast. I remember the last time I had that feeling even close to Madman levels was with the 5 Ghosts series.
Oh, and for those of you playing at home wondering why this post was called Hot Ham and Cheese Hoagie of Death, when it had nothing to do with that, there’s a simple explanation. It’s what I had for lunch. And as my wife points out, it I keep eating those damnable things I’m gonna die sooner or later.