Jack Purcell is a talented artist/inker who has worked at the big houses, so I was happy to run into him as a featured guest at Rhode Island ComicCon. Jack is not merely a creator but a fan as well. His table was catty-corner to Roy Thomas’s table. He was somewhat stunned by where his life had taken him, from fan to featured guest sitting next to the legendary Rascally Roy himself.
As usual with me, the conversation turned to creativity and the growth of the independent and self-published comics. While the big houses pay, you are playing in someone else’s playground with their toys. Many creators want to stretch their wings and try something new and daring.
In the 1990’s the adventurous creator would need to locate funding, maybe get an investor, mortgage his house or see if the bank would float a loan. Now, we have Kickstarter. Jack and his partner in this endeavor, Nathan Graham Davis, used Kickstarter to fund the initial run of Malice and Mistletoe.
This is one offbeat comic. Imagine if Quentin Tarantino decided to do a Christmas tale. No bright lights, nor any goodwill towards all men. Nope, an epic battle between Santa and Krampus. Krampus, in German tradition is the anti-Santa Claus who punishes bad children rather than rewarding them.
Read Gary’s review of ‘Combat Jacks’
The hero, or more appropriately, anti-hero, Eldon is an assassin who only kills bad guys and never innocents. He’s recruited by Santa to kill his counterpart. Evidently, Santa has gone corporate as a better way to deliver the product. But, Krampus is killing Santa’s business partners. To Save Christmas, Krampus must die. Follow? Eldon, a la James Bond, must infiltrate Krampus’ secret bad-guy lair to complete the contract.
Since Anita Blake and Harry Dresden burst onto the fictional scene, urban fantasy has caught fire. The genre imagines the fantastical sharing the world with the mundane. Both Blake and Dresden come also from the pulp fiction private eye genre as well. The modern day knight fighting for justice in a fallen world. While Malice could be seen as urban fantasy, Eldon is no Sam Spade. He has more in common with that later creation Mike Hammer. In I, Jury, the book opens with Hammer vowing to gutshot the person who gutshot his friend. And the book ends with Hammer fulfilling his promise.
Like Hammer, Eldon is a brutal man, but also with a sense of justice. Where Mickey Spillane horrified people with Hammer’s savage sense of justice, Eldon probably wouldn’t bat an eye. He’s from the same mold.
Davis’ story is smart, fast paced, and did I mention bloody? I won’t ruin it by recapping the plot beyond the set up.
Jack’s art at first turned me off. It is totally different from his other work, but as I got more into the story, I realized how phenomenal the art is. The beauty of graphic novels is that artists can play with imagery to achieve a vision of the written word not contemplated by the reader. In this instance Jack takes some big risks and succeeds. This is an off, twisted and violent world. And so Jack’s art needs to convey that in a manner that photorealism or the superhero style never would. Great use is made of black and white panels, interspersed with monochromatic panels of red or black.
Malice and Mistletoe is a work of artistic originality and not your typical Christmas Eve reading. Although after reading it, you might want to spike Santa’s milk with cyanide just to be on the safe side.