Monday, November 20, 2006

A Double Dose of Reviews!

In my continuing quest to get word out about my comic Action Figure; From the Journals of Richard Marzelak to the masses, here's not one, but two more online reviews!

Both are from an excellent online Comic Site, Comics Should Be Good!:

The first was Posted by Greg Burgas, Thursday, October 26th, 2006

I got this in the mail last week, which was a bit surprising, considering it was supposed to be out in January.  (Marcej has had some personal issues, so I’m not bashing the lateness of the book, just commenting on the fact that it’s a long time to wait, so much so that I had forgotten about it.)  I’m not sure when it arrives in stores, but it’s something to look out for.  Or you could just order it at the web site above.

The issue itself is pretty good, with a nice conceit - a guy works at a big toy company designing various things, has issues at his job, but it also dreaming of striking out on his own.  It’s certainly not the most original idea, but Marcej does a good job with a few things - his character, Richard Marzelak, daydreams a lot, and the black-and-white of the book gets red highlights, which is a nice touch.  The daydreams themselves are nice - they’re relatively mundane things, like when he wishes a hot woman would actually talk to him - but the way Marcej sets them off from the rest of the actual mundane world is well done.  Marzelak himself is a good character - he whines and he’s pathetic at spots, but he also does his job even though his boss keeps putting him on crappy assignments and he loves to work deep into the night on his own comic strip.  It’s a subject matter - the lousy office - that could easily devolve into either cruel parody (like Office Space, which I love, by the way) or pathos, but Marcej keeps it whimsical enough so that even though it’s not as savagely funny as Office Space, it’s still wryly amusing.

Marcej does a nice job on the art, too.  The framing story is that a couple finds Marzelak’s journal at an estate sale in 2053, and we’re reading the journals with them.  The art from the future is a bit hazy and muted, which gives it an unreal quality to it, while the art describing what’s going on in the journals is much sharper and well-defined.  Marcej isn’t going to set the world on fire with the art, but he does a fine job making sure the large cast is distinguishable from each other and he manages to keep things lively in a pretty static environment, even when Marzelak isn’t daydreaming.

The biggest problem I had with the book is the exposition.  Marcej does almost too good a job trying to introduce everyone and allowing us to get into Marzelak’s head.  It’s clunky at some points, which is the mark of a neophyte comics writer, at least from what I’ve read.  As they’re working in a visual medium, not everything needs to be written out.  We can infer a lot from drawings and from simply understanding the characters.

Other than that, this is a fun little book.  It gives us a nice look at what goes on behind the scenes at a big toy company (Marcej worked at Hasbro, so it’s based on that) and all the politics involved, which are similar but subtly different from other companies.  It’s a chaming comic, and it will be interesting to see if Marcej simply gets Marzelak to quit his job and draw his comic strip full-time, which would be uplifting but possibly dull, or if there will be something more meaty down the line.
Why this issue of Action Figure is the greatest issue ever!!!!  Two words: Samurai Pandas.  You read that correctly!

The second was Posted by Brad Curran, Monday, October 30th

• Action Figure #1- This is the first issue of Richard Marcej’s semi-autobio comic about his time working for a toy company. I don’t read a whole lot of autobio comics, but this seems like a pretty novel premise to me. I’m not sure I can say much more about this than the prolific Mr. Burgas didn’t say in his review column last week, but I’ll give it a shot anyway. I liked the use of red in the fantasy sequences. Marcej is a good, solid story teller. I don’t think he’d be out of place doing a Harvey Pekar story. He knows how to use exagerration without overdoing it, which is important in a story that’s taking place in an office. Marcej says that the series is “part humor (but not overly funny)”, which is pretty accurate. It isn’t uproariously funny, but there is some humor to be found here. It’s not the Office or Office Space or anything, but that’s not the tone Marcej is going for (although I do think a cameo from Dwight or Bill Lumberg would make this book better. Of course, that would make a lot of books better. That could have totally saved Infinite Crisis).
• The thing that impressed me most about this comic, though, was the production value, especially for a publisher I’d never heard of before Marcej sent me some promotional material for this book some months back. It’s comparable to single issues of Love and Rockets in that regard (at least the recent ones I’ve picked up), with a nice cardstock cover and quality paper, which is pretty impressive, especially since, from what I can tell from their website and my copy of issue #1, Marcej is basically self publishing.
• It’s $3.50, but between the quality of the package and the fact that that isn’t much of a disparity from your average mainstream comic anymore, I certainly can’t hold that against it. You’re getting a good chunk of story, solidly written and drawn, that isn’t printed on toilet paper for only .50 more than an issue of Batman runs for these days (my ignorance of indie comics is showing, isn’t it?). Don’t let the price scare you away, is what I’m saying.
• If you’re a fan of of autobio/slice of life comics and looking for something with a different premise, you might want to give this a look. You can find out more about it at the Baboon Books website. And for yet another review, if mine and Greg’s aren’t enough to satisfy you, you can check out Jog’s. And you should. Because it’s better than mine and Greg’s. Combined. It has the added bonus of not being as exhaustive as a lot of his stuff can be. Give it a look.

And as always, for those interested, you can see preview pages click here
and buy it click here.

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