April 9, 2011

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Magic Bullet 1 and 2

Written and Illustrated by Various Artists, including Carolyn Belefski, Joe Carabeo, Matt Dembecki, Rafer Roberts, and Jim Rugg
Self-Published (DC Conspiracy)

[Disclosure: I know and speak to several of the DC Conspiracy folks often enough that I might have just a bit of bias towards them. I don't think it changes how I look at their creative output, but feel it's only fair to mention it. I was also a financial contributor to the second issue.]

Long-time Panel Patter readers know that I love anthologies, so it's no surprise that I was excited to hear about the Magic Bullet project last year just a little bit before SPX. The idea of creating a tabloid of alternative comics and handing it out to random strangers all over the Washington, DC area is really cool. Speaking as a person who used to work in a more urban setting for many years, I was accosted by strangers on the corner all the time with strange pamphlets in tow. Because I like such things, I always accepted them.

None of them by far were ever as cool as Magic Bullet. I'd have loved to get an oversized set of comics to enjoy on my bus ride home, but more often than not, it was just another plea to make myself right with the Lord or to stop some new commercial enterprise or participate in a poorly planned anarchist protest. So before we even get to the comics themselves, you have to give the DC Conspiracy a lot of credit just for raising the bar for random street corner handouts.

There's no need to stop there, however, because for an anthology without a lot name-dropping, this is a pretty strong showing. Jim Rugg, appearing in the second issue, is probably the only name a casual comics fan might already be familiar with if they aren't part of the east coast mini-comics reading/reviewing circle. I was impressed by the fact that the overall quality of the anthologies is solid. Even the weaker entries are visually interesting at the very least, which is more than I can say for other books I've read.

Magic Bullet 1 has 10 comic entries, highlighted by Rafer Roberts' demented Mickey Mouse parody, Nightmare the Rat. Drawn in Roberts' signature scratchy style, he's modeled this one to look rather like an early newspaper strip, complete with captions at the bottom of every panel. This rat wants nothing more than to steal your teeth, but given the terrible shape of mine, I think I'm okay.

Other notables in this issue are Andrew Cohen's Dr. W and Michael Brace's Fairy Meadow, both of which play with the concept of the comics page to good effect, though in very different ways. One of the neat things about this first issue that the creators often don't worry about creating a traditional comic. They use the page however they feel is most appropriate, which is why even when a story doesn't exactly wow me, I could appreciate the use of space.

Issue two continues the trend of playing with space, as three of the first four stories seem focused more on playing with the space allotted rather than telling a short story. Given that each contributor only has only one page sized about 11 by 17 to work with, I think it's a good tactic. There's nothing wrong with trying to tell a story, however, especially when it deals with cyborg Marion Barry in the far future. That's the unusual tale from Matt Dembicki that highlights the most recent edition of the tabloid.

No matter how good Rafer Roberts' Nightmare Rat continued to be or how the verbal wordplay of Cowboys and Idioms (from Jeff McClelland and Jeff McComsey) made me laugh out loud, nothing I read in Magic Bullet 2 was going to top cyborg Marion Barry.

Other interesting stories from the second issue include Sarah Palin as Elmer Fudd, Jim Rugg's odd but extremely well drawn story, and Steve Becker's warning to all space travelers. I thought Eric Gordon's play on the anthology's title (involving an incompetent genie) was also quite good. Overall, Magic Bullet 2 nearly doubled the contributors but, if anything, only increased in quality, which is no mean feat.

The Magic Bullet series has a lot going for it, and if you are a fan of mini-comics, definitely try to score a copy of this at a local comic shop or show on the East Coast. You'll definitely get your money's worth and then some, as this is definitely top-level quality despite it being a giveaway. I'm definitely looking forward to the third issue whenever it arrives. This is one conspiracy I'm happy to believe in and support!