[Interview] Ben McCool – Whippin’ Up Comics!

If you’re a regular passenger on Spaceship OL, chances’re pretty good that your a bit of a comics fan. And if that’s the case, you’ve probably seen the name Ben McCool poppin’ up over the last few years. Unless, of course, you’re a genuine turkey. But let’s assume that this is a turkey-free zone, shall we?

The writer of MEMOIR and CHOKER (amongst others), Ben McCool has quickly established himself as a burgeoning force of nature in the sequential art ecosystem. Yes, it’s true that a viscous oil of staid storytelling may pump through the veins of the comic medium. But McCool takes a stab at narrative resuscitation by mainlining a cocktail of novelty, originality, daring, and genuine entertainment directly into the heart.

Yes, I am a fan of Ben McCool.

In fact, I recently found myself sending the British-born scribe a set of questions that I’d conjured up during a moment of half-inebriated super-confidence. To my delight, McCool pleasantly responded! What a gentleman! Hit the jump to check an exchange which includes an exploration of the comic book career path, some insight into what inspires creativity, the sharing of a truly filthy haiku, and plenty more!

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Buy These F**king Comics – May 2, 2012: 1990s Reboot Makes My Boner Dance

I just ate an entire Domino’s deep dish pizza. I’m covered in crumbs. My asshole is already writhing in hate, preparing to shotgun out waste across a porcelain tomb. My girlfriend and I aren’t seeing eye to eye on serious life issues. My bank account shrinks with the same rapidity my doughy ass’d waist expands. If this isn’t the perfect time to escape through some funnies, I don’t know when will be. Comic books, please deliver me from mortality, ideological stances, caloric repercussions, dependence on foreign oil, the problematic desire to respect women’s issues and also rub seed on their butts, and other complicated things. Just fucking do it, okay?

This is Buy These Fucking Comics, the column where we chat about what you’re procuring this week in the world of sequential art and female objectification. If I don’t drop something you dig, for the love of Thanatos speak up. That’s the entire point of this fucking enterprise.

Don’t know what’s coming out? Check right hurr.

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Variant Covers: Hot Soccer Moms and School Girls.

Thank goodness it’s almost Wednesday. The weekly grind demands a brief respite, and on that third day of every week comic books come to the fucking rescue. This is Variant Covers. Inside you’ll find the comic books dropping tomorrow that I’m interested in.

Opinionated? You’re on the internet so you fucking must be. Hit the comments section with the funnies you plan on snagging this week.


Jennifer Blood #1.
Jenny Blood is a new comic dropping tomorrow by Garth Ennis and Adriano Batista. The premise? Something fittingly Ennis. Blood is a suburban housewife by day. She feeds the kids, takes them to soccer, cooks them dinner. But by night! Oh you knew this was coming. But by night, she’s a totally elite assassin. In a latex get-up, which is always, always, always a good thing to me.

There was a time when Garth Ennis was my fucking idol. Between Preacher, Hitman, and his take on the Punisher, the good man owned my soul. Over time, I’ve grown less and less enthused with his efforts. While some people may find it heretical to say, I got tired of The Boys. I get it, I get it. A vulgar deconstruction of superhero motifs. Like I said, I probably just pissed a good amount of people off. I’m hoping that Jennifer Blood can rekindle my love affair.

If it’s nothing more than a female twist on the Punisher, I’d be fine with that. Perhaps my time away from the Ennis bag of tricks has been enough to recuperate my love for him.


S.H.I.E.L.D. #6.
The first volume of Marvel’s most mindrapingly fantastic title concludes tomorrow. It is, without doubt, going to be my title of the week. Hickman and Weaver’s panel-smashing, contemporary narrative structure-defying, philosophically curious title has been nothing less than the fucking belle of my pull list ball since it started.  This week we get the epic battle between Leonard Da Vinci and his free spirits versus Isaac Newton and his Hobbesian belief that mankind must be  corralled. I think these motherfuckers are going to come to blows.

Hickman has been nothing short of brilliant to me in everything that I read of his. His killing of a member of the Fantastic Four? Had this guy in tears. His exploration of ideologies and the fictionalization of historical figures in S.H.I.E.L.D. has been something special. It isn’t a question of whether or not the sixth issue will be fantastic, but if the second volume can possibly top this first arc.


Morning Glories Trade #1.
I have not read Morning Glories yet. However, I have only heard wondrous things regarding the title written by Nick Spencer and drawn by Joe Eisma. In fact, the buzz was so good that it drove me to pick up Spencer’s newest title, Infinite Vacation. Conclusion from reading that title? Spencer can fucking pen, yo! I’m not certain what Morning Glories is about. There’s been a concerted effort made by myself to stay away from any plot synopses, because I’ve read there’s a mystery afoot in the title.

Basic plot summary from various sites is, “Morning Glory Academy is one of the most prestigious prep schools in the country, but something sinister and deadly lurks behind its walls.” It doesn’t sound amazing, does it? Probably why I passed on it the first time. Do these copywriters realize people make financial decisions based on their bland fucking description of something that could be fantastic? Doesn’t seem that way.

I’m there.


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Variant Covers: Wolverine Is A Pedophile, Right?

Welcome to Variant Covers. I like comic books. Sometimes I really like them. And every week, I write in this column about the comic books that are dropping this week that I’m interested in. If you’re so inclined, hit up the comments section with what you’re throwing down some ducets on. My ears. They’re open.


Northlanders #36.
Those who follow this column know that I have an unapologetic butt-crush on Brian Wood. His work hits me on a variety of levels, from fucking awesome! to fucking inspirational. The second and final issue of “The Girl in The Issue” drops this week, and I’m expecting the latter. The storyline follows a weathered old man trying to solve the murder of a girl he found frozen in time. The first issue garnered serious love here, and I’m expecting the same from the finale. Its a quiet, almost Hemingway-esque march through the final tolling of a man’s life, cognizant of his small and dwindling station in the world.

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that Becky Cloonan’s artwork is stunning, and issue #35 provided three of the most gorgeous panels (its three panels, right?) I can recall in recent time.


Also Dropping: Wood’s DMZ #61. I’m waiting on the sixth trade to arrive in my mail, for I desperately need to catch up before it ends.


Scarlet #4.
Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev’s post-modern metatextual affair continues this week. Still featuring a sexy redhead with guns. Still featuring her directly engaging the reader every issue. Still getting me very, very excited every time it drops. The last issue ended (if I recall, the long breaks between issues is killing me) with her capping a cop, and I imagine the title is only going to get more violent. I mean, fuck, she’s trying to encourage the reader to join her in a cultural uprising.

Not exactly for the faint of heart.

I don’t think the title gets as much love from others as I give but, I can understand why. The tropes themselves aren’t new: V for Vendetta with a vixen, mix in some teenage uproar, et cetera. But it’s done well, and Maleev’s artwork is stunning. Some of the stuff he’s doing with paneling is fresh to a guy like me. Bearing in mind that I mean a guy who doesn’t have much in the way of technical knowledge when it comes to art. I’m a lit dork, leave me alone.

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Images & Words – Choker #3

Choker 3

[images & words is the comic book pick-of-the-week at OL. equal parts review and diatribe, the post highlights the most memorable/infuriating/entertaining book released that wednesday]

Spoilers Ahead. Forreal.

Images & Words is once again taking a stroll through the streets of Shotgun City. It’s a futuristic slum, a place where even impressive technological advances cannot push against the tide of mediocrity known as the human condition. A diseased corpse wrapped in LED lights. It is a sociological ecotone, a convergence of possibility and failure that is bound to bewilder any visitor.

And it couldn’t be any more beautiful.

This is might be why I love Choker so much. It seems to be that the stories I become most invested incorporate the setting as an integral component of the narrative structure, as opposed to arbitrarily settling for any location. Sometimes the setting is so important that it becomes the crux of the story, such as with the island in LOST or the eponymous ship of Battlestar Galactica. Other times, settings make subtle suggestions that readers pick up on without even knowing it; the barren dunes of Tattooine reflect Luke Skywalker’s inexperience, whereas Death Star 2 represents the chipping away at Darth Vader’s once impenetrable heart of darkness.

So as I walk through Shotgun City, my visitor’s map is pissed on from a fourth-story fire escape, I just laugh. “Wow, that old lady’s got great aim!” And then I notice that her impeccable shot can be chalked up to night vision goggles and a laser-guided rocket-catheter. What a fucking world this is!

To be fair, maybe it’s inappropriate of me to pass off my hallucinations, my romps through fictional elseworlds, as a comic book review. But once you’ve consumed enough caffeine to reach Omega Level, reality and fiction become interchangeable terms, travel guides and reviews become synonymous, and definitive concepts are forfeited in favor of the indefinite but undeniable. And so, I pour more Rockstar Recovery into my system, gaze up at toppling skyscrapers of Shotgun City, and continue my trek.

Making my way through the dense concrete jungle, I learn all sorts of tidbits about its inhabitants. For instance, it turns out that some employees of the Shotgun City Police Department are eligible for Man Plus, a procedure that endows participants with superhuman strength. That is, of course, when it goes according to plan.

Unfortunately, Detective Johnny Jackson’s operation did not go quite so smoothly. As he was informed after awaking from surgery,

Those impervious to the enhancement properties have instead cultivated some very undesirable results. Manifestations of pre-existing conditions I’ve seen before, though not to this extent…But then I’ve never before encountered a genuine case of alien hand syndrome, let alone a transmutation of it.

Ah, so I see…that’s why Jackson’s left hand occasionally tries to shoot him in his sleep or choke him to death. It’s all making sense!

My daytrip also finds me overhearing explanations for the misandry of Flynn Walker, Jackson’s surly partner. Jackson’s associate Royce Davies provides some gory details;

I mean, you heard about her husband, right? Catching him in bed with her sister and best pal…? There’s even rumors that her mother was in on it. Pretty fucked up, huh?

With that being said, Walker’s rage comes in handy from time to time. Combined with her Man Plus, this unadulterated aggression helps her fend off a bunch of Marilyn Manson-looking teenage attackers…who can fly. I see her take out these gothic avengers, these outsiders who declare that “It’s all different now: the bullied have become the bullies. And we’re really, really in the mood to hurt people.”

Right before I board my bus outta Shotgun City, I see a fucking freakazoid tearing people limb from limb at the police department. Hell, even Walker and her aforementioned abilities can’t lay the fucker out. I suppose Johnny Jackson might have to step up to plate, so hopefully I can see him do something wonderful during my next visit.

Choker #3 is entitled Down These Mean Streets a Bastard Must Go. I agree. If you like comic books and have yet to visit Shotgun City, consider yourself at a disadvantage. Go buy this goddamn comic.

Images & Words – Choker #2

Choker 2

[images & words is the comic book pick-of-the-week at OL. equal parts review and diatribe, the post highlights the most memorable/infuriating/entertaining book released that wednesday]

Spoilers Ahead. Forreal.

The second issue of Choker has hit stands and my nerd-tummy is churning and bubbling… With excitement! The first issue pushed the reader right into Shotgun City, the neo-slum that makes Blade Runner’s Los Angeles step back and say, “Hrm…Maybe I’m not so ugly. Let’s go buy jeans so the boys notice our butts!” Alongside, Detective Johnny Jackson, the reader is thrust into a search for Hunt Cassidy, the sociopathic drug dealer referred to as a prince among bastards.

As one would expect, the narrative continue to develop in this new installment. Jackson is still down on his luck, the bad guy is still at large, and Shotgun City is still a shithole. But we’re starting to get glimpses into the reality of the terror at hand, realizing just how worse for the wear the cast of characters are.

For instance…the black glove on Jackson’s left hand? It slips off while he’s sleeping to reveal a mangled, disgusting mess. A mangled, disgusting mess that grabs a gun and tries to shoot the hero until he can stab it with a sedative. Shit’s bizarre/I fucking loves it.

This second issue of the McCool/Templesmith collaboration also introduces a saucy female partner for Johnny Jackson. Her name is Kara Thrace. Whoops, my bad! I mean to say that her name is Walker. But really, if you’re familiar with BSG’s resident lady-badass, then you certainly know Walker. When we first meet Starbuck, she’s drinking space-booze and trading insults with the boys. When we meet Walker, she’s smoking a butt and telling another officer that she’d “rather be molested by clowns” than sleep with him. Starbuck asserts herself, punching Tigh in the mouth and proving that a man can’t keep her down. In place of fuzzy dice, Walker hangs her ex-husband’s nutsack from her rearview mirror. Oh, and they both have short blond hair, personality-defying good looks, and a sick jacket.

But don’t think I’m complaining. Because the fact is that sometimes using tried-and-true archetypes works. Walker is the tough-as-nails woman that Johnny Jackson is going to have to deal with. And, in a not uncommon twist, Walker is working for the slimeball that hired Jackson back in the first place. So we have to spend some time trying to figure out who exactly this femme fatale is going to play — her new partner, her corrupt boss, both of them? Again, standard crime story fare, but it’s working!

Once again, Templesmith’s art is the absolute fucking balls. His line art is top-notch, but it’s his work with tones and colors that elevate Choker to the plateau of visual ecstasy. As I read the comic, I find myself feeling as though I’m lost in some sort of bleak neon nightmare. There is a general gloominess afoot, and the occasional splashes of light are only used to sparingly highlight an impending horror. Take, as an example, the first splash, in which a pack of hillbilly cannibals reveal themselves from the shadows — only their ravenous, drooling faces receive full color.

In terms of visual structure, it’s worth noting that dark gray ink clouds often stretch themselves across the page. Effectively, this helps to blur the otherwise rigid divisions between panels. So while the paneled sequence remains clear to the reader, a subtle sense of narrative obfuscation is presented. Which is useful, considering that Choker is a crime-mystery, slowly revealing itself over the course of six issues.

I’m not exactly sure where Choker is leading. But I’m going to follow.


Warren Ellis — I want you to read this shit and look at the sexy art. And then I want you to take your beautiful, fish’n’chips snatching fingers and put them to a keyboard. And then, I want you to finish Fell.

Images & Words – Choker #1


[images & words is the comic book pick-of-the-week at OL. equal parts review and diatribe, the post highlights the most memorable/infuriating/entertaining book released that wednesday]

Sometimes impulse purchases work out for the best. Other times, they don’t. This week, I’d like to share a story in which tossing down four bucks for an unfamiliar product ended up being a good idea.

A damn good idea.

Just like every Wednesday, I walked into the comic book store looking forward to snagging all sorts of goofy shit. Again, I know how ludicrous these books can be, but anticipating their release helps get me through the week. Reading them, on the other hand, helps me forget about the week altogether. Clearly, it’s a marriage made in Escapist Heaven. So it goes without saying, I picked up all of my favorite books that feature body builders with super powers, mind-numbing exposition and overly-sexualized women.

In addition to this mindrot, I also snagged Choker #1. Originally slated for release two weeks ago, the first issue of this six-part series comes out swinging. What we find out in this first issue is that over-the-hill private investigator Johnny Jackson is finally being offered a chance to regain his position on the city’s police force. Of course, this means he must appease the insidious chief of police by tracking down Hunt Cassidy, the man he locked up years ago.

Does this seem like another Crime Story Paint by Numbers? Sure. But Choker pulls it off, setting the story in the quasi-dystopian Shotgun City. Perhaps taking a page out of Spider Jerusalem’s playbook, Jackson has these kind words to say about his city:

Jesus. This place stinks worse than my office.

Devo-fucking-lution, how we’ve embrace you.

We’re living in one big melting pot of futility and folly, and somehow it continues to flourish.

There’s not a thing I can do about it.

Not anymore.

Mutiny has ravaged the ship and we’re slowly sinking. Not even the sharks will want to eat us.

Maybe I’m a sucker for a pessimistic, pissed-at-the-world detective. Maybe I think it’s an archetype I’ll always fall for. Maybe I just wish I could be one myself (a detective that is).


And while writer Ben McCool’s script certainly places Choker within the world of interesting narrative, it’s artist Ben Templesmith that cannon-launches it onto Mount Bad Ass Comic Book. This guy has done a ton of sick shit, such as 30 Days of Night and Warren Ellis’ (unfortunately delayed) Fell. However, I really think that Templesmith is upping the ante with his new series, and the readers are going to reap all the benefits.

Thus far, the artwork of Choker is nothing short of inspiring. Templesmith’s neat & tidy approach to panel layout keeps the story moving without the necessity of pausing to ask What the fuck is going on? With that being said, the contents of these panels are quite atmospheric in nature, creating a dark world that always seems to be clouded over. Templesmith then creates a balance, as he paints Shotgun City with vibrant neon colors. As a result, he generates a sharp urban contrast between progression and regression that harkens back to Bladerunner.

Choker #1 has proven to be the best four-dollar investment I have blindly made this week (and yes, I’ve made a few). Even without any text, this book would be worth your cash money. In a way, the fact that the story McCool has begun to unveil is actually rad, well that’s just icing on the cake.