Free Comic Book Day 2013 Results, Part 3 of 3: Worlds Beyond Marvel and DC

Atomic Robo, Red 5 Comics

Atomic Robo: an essential part of every Free Comic Book Day.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

As previously recounted, my wife and I had a ball on Free Comic Book Day 2013 two weeks ago. Readers flocked to our local stores and had the opportunity to enjoy samplers from all the major comic companies and many of the indies.

How did the finished works do? Did they present an enjoyable, self-contained experience? Were they welcoming to new readers? Did they adhere to the old adage that every comic is someone’s first?

And now the conclusion, focusing on smaller publishers that demand and/or deserve equal attention:

Marble Season (Drawn & Quarterly) — Celebrated Love and Rockets co-creator Gilbert Hernandez, sallies forth into all-ages territory with slice-of-life vignettes of a ’60s childhood in which marbles were a game option before “gaming” was a common verb, kids routinely spoke in benign non sequitur, secret clubs didn’t involve violent hazing, and super-hero role-playing required neither rulebooks nor electricity. Each scene free-flows into the next without need for an overall “story arc” driving the narrative — it’s just the life of kids bouncing each off each other and drifting from one activity to the next. If Peanuts had been less punchline-driven and maybe a tad edgier (we sure never saw Linus and Lucy trying to understand a celebrity suicide) but with the same skewed innocence and underlying heart, the result would’ve looked a lot like this. One of the year’s best FCBD offerings.

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Jamal Igle’s “Molly Danger” Aims to Remind: Comics Aren’t Just for Adult Males

Jamal Igle's "Molly Danger"Older collectors can recall a time when fans of all ages could find comic books skillfully produced as entertainment and inspiration for any and all comers. In ye olden times of my own childhood, kids like me were more than welcome to read the adventures of the Marvel and DC mainstream universes, to participate in the stories that “mattered” in the lives of their favorite heroes.

Today, not so much. In recent decades, creators have taken considerable pains in expanding the boundaries of the medium, crafting ostensibly sophisticated stories for a self-described “mature” audience, and convincing themselves that the one true path to literary respectability requires copious bleeding and nonstop pandering to the hormones. Some comics from the Big Two comic are a few steps removed from the average issue of Maxim. In the prevailing sales theory of our times, adult males are the only audience that matters, and this is obviously what all adult males need. Kids who naively or accidentally wander into a comic shop are discouraged from roaming the store freely, instead shepherded over to one designated rack filled with tons of cartoon-based comics, Archie Comics that the regular shoppers have learned to ignore, and thirty-year-old back issues — in short, not much for their generation to call their own. (If your child is lucky and your retailer is magnanimous enough, you might see a lone shelf copy of Strawberry Shortcake. Big if.)

Jamal Igle has something different in mind. After two decades of working for Marvel, DC, and several major independents, Igle is working outside the corporate scene on his own creation, a four-part graphic novel series called Molly Danger, taking full advantage of the shocking truth that some girls like action, adventure, super-heroes, and sci-fi, but should have at least one viable option beyond androcentric pabulum. Several years in the making, Igle described the premise in a recent interview like so:

Molly Danger is the world’s most powerful 10 year old Superhero. The catch is, she’s been 10 years old for almost 20 years. The public and Molly herself believe she’s an immortal, superhumanly strong alien being form a planet called Gamma 7, a world on the edge of the Galactic rim. She protects her hometown from the Supermechs, a collection of cybernetically enhanced villains. She lives in her own museum, lovingly referred to as the Mollydome. She’s respected and loved by everyone.

Unfortunately, Molly is a bird in a gilded cage. She doesn’t have any friends or family, she doesn’t have a secret identity or a life outside of being Molly. She’s kept sequestered from the public because she’s a target for her enemies and a danger to others because of her strength. She longs for a normal life.

Molly Danger should address a few lamentable shortcomings in today’s field: the lack of reading options for young but literate fans; the preponderance of sex toys pretending to be actual characters; and the derivative nature of so many heroines who are basically sidekicks or female versions of preexisting male heroes. (The underlying message therein: the best ways for a woman to succeed are to work for a great man, or to copy him Single White Female style. Plan C, of course, would be to settle for marrying a great man, leaving your five-year plan at that, and hoping really hard not to meet the same grisly fate as countless other wives and girlfriends in comics.)

Igle has a Kickstarter campaign in progress as of this writing, with three days and several dollars to go. The publishing plan is a four-issue miniseries of oversized hardcovers to be released by Action Lab Entertainment, purveyors of the excellent, award-nominated Princeless (fit for the same audience and pretty high-quality, judging by the first issue I read). Setting aside the mild language in the Maya Angelou quote that prefaces the Kickstarter video, this looks to be a winner on an all-ages level, in the sense of Pixar “quality for all fans at all levels” instead of the sense of “innocuous twaddle for ages four and under”. Igle has drawn comparisons to the likes of Astro Boy or The Powerpuff Girls in that sense.

The Kickstarter page offers plenty more art samples, typically top-notch from the artist whose favorite work of mine was an underrated run on Firestorm some years ago. Igle’s own blog also contains a recent press release with more details about supporting characters and other assorted tidbits.

For the jaded comic readers among you, consider the competitive advantages of Molly Danger for your reading dollar:

* Guaranteed not to be just one long, soulless ad for a corporate cartoon!
* Guaranteed not to be ruined by short-sighted editorial meddling halfway through!
* Guaranteed not to be wrested from Igle’s control and assigned to some hack writer who’s unclear on the concept, decides the series needs to be more “modern”, and has half the cast butchered!
* Guaranteed not to be interrupted ten pages from the end by a three-month-long crossover that requires you to buy twelve other Action Lab series!

I would like to say “fun” is also guaranteed, but fun is in the eye of the beholder and may vary by user. If Molly Danger isn’t fun after all, then Igle totally misrepresented and we should all sue him to death. But I’m betting fun will win out.

* * * * *

Department of Full Disclosure:

1. I’ve been an official Supporter of Molly Danger for a few weeks now. I’m not a paid shill here, just a happy reader who likes seeing nifty things published.

2. My only experience with Igle in person was watching him at a 2011 fan-awards presentation at C2E2, where he had the privilege of accepting several different awards. They were mostly accepted on behalf of other no-show winners, but still, I’m sure there’s a certain prestige to being Award Acceptor Jamal Igle, even if all our photos of that presentation turned out dismal beyond belief.

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