September 12, 2013

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SPX Spotlight 2013: Rafer Roberts and Plastic Farm 23

Welcome to another entry in the 2013 SPX Spotlight series!  For the next month, I'll be highlighting creators and publishers who will be at the best convention, the Small Press Expo.  You can check out all of my spotlights for SPX from both this year and prior years here.

I can't believe I read the first Plastic Farm trade just shy of four years ago (review here), but it's true. Over the years since, I've watched Roberts hone his art, like so many of the others who I've spotlighted this year or who make frequent appearances in the pages of Panel Patter. Given that Rafer has been working his magnum opus, Plastic Farm, for such a long time, it's even easier to spot his artistic refinements.

I talked a lot about that in last year's spotlight (see it here), so I won't repeat myself. What I will say is that as Roberts goes along, his ability to do more interesting things with backgrounds or show the fever dreams of his characters in new and interesting ways improves by leaps and bounds.

This year at SPX, Roberts debuts the 23rd issue of Plastic Farm, which includes plans to ramp up production of the series and get it back on a quarterly schedule. I'm very much in favor of this, as long as it doesn't lead to a downgrade in the intricate nature of his artwork.

A short primer: Chester, the main character of Plastic Farm, is either one unique guy or completely insane--or probably both. He's telling his story to a group who sometimes interact, sometimes not. As we move along, things get weirder and creepier as Roberts ramps up the psychological humor and strangeness.

In the current issue, which Rafer was kind enough to give me in advance of release, Chester and his "guide" discuss the nature of religion. It's an interesting interlude that treats the nature of faith with more respect that you might expect, there's a definite message Roberts is conveying, even among the madness and confusion. The line that sticks with me is the idea of religion being fingers pointing at the moon. Sadly, he's completely right at most concentrate on the fingers, not what they're stretched out to reach.

As a breather, there's also an interlude of sorts that shows the audience wondering about Chester and giving a tease into the future of his story. His set-up for this is a lot of fun, showing Rafer's irreverent nature, but the end point is chilling, as it all feels like Chester planned it all along--and perhaps he did.

Plastic Farm is trucking along nicely, and if you want to get the complete picture, you can pick up all three trades so far at SPX this year. I'm normally not one to take a chance on a larger work without seeing a sample first, but Plastic Farm is an exception--if you like psychological horror with a tinge of Kirby and a lot of intricate linework, you can't go wrong buying an entire trade.

In addition to Plastic Farm work, Roberts should have copies of the reprinted Dope Fields of the Zombie Cafe (review here) and its sequel, Wild Women of the Kitty-Kat Galaxy. He's also in the new issue of Magic Bullet, which is a free comics tabloid filled with creators who will be at SPX this year. Not content to stop there, he's also got a back-up in one of R.M. Rhodes' new books (Who Watches the Watcher) and did a pin-up for a comic called Henry and Glenn Forever and Ever #3.

Rafer Roberts is a great cartoonist and a good friend, and I hope you'll stop by to see him at SPX this year.

Stuck in an airport bar, regaled by stories and can't make SPX? Rafer might ask you for story ideas but while you go slowly mad, why not head to his website for more info and a way to buy his comics?