Hey gang, been awhile. I know I need to get myself posting more frequently and keep up with Jeff and give you guys some damn content to browse through with your sweaty..little...eyes? I dunno, that got away from me a bit. Anyway, I'm here for something specific today, something near and dear to my heart, and that's comics. Particularly, the comics of Joe Casey.
For those that don't know, Casey is one fourth of the Man of Action creative collective and animation/comicbook studio. They're responsible for a slew of material, including the Ben 10 mini-empire, Generator Rex, Avengers Assemble, and the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoons, those first two for Cartoon Network and the latter two for Disney XD. The other members are Joe Kelly, Steven T. Seagle, and Duncan Rouleau, all of them possessing a body of work that is absolutely worth digging in to. But that's not about these guys, though I will try to do separate features on these fine gents sometime in the near future. For the sake of expediency, though, I'll go ahead and list some of their works worth checking out to get you prepared for the future: I Kill Giants, Kafka, Metal Men (2007-2008), and Soul Kiss.
Now on to Joe Casey. This isn't exactly going to be a review of his works, truth be told. I just want to talk about why I love him so damn much, and through that introduction get you ready for a series of reviews on his works that I've read.
To me, the most important factor is that he writes what he loves. It seems like a painfully obvious/idiotic statement at first, but there's more than that here. Joe Casey doesn't need comics. He has enough work at Man of Action Studios to keep himself busy until the sun burns out, but he still writes comicbooks. Why? Because he loves this medium. He makes absolutely no bones about it, either. In various interviews around the web, he's upfront about being a massive fan of comics. I know it sounds like I'm just talking in circles here or being willfully dense, but I do feel like it's important to establish the fact that you can see with your own eyes that the dude isn't just taking whatever project is handed to him with no regard for his own creative goals or needs. He has a deep and abiding love of comics, and he only does work that he feels is worth doing, not just stuff to make ends meet. Not that creators working for paychecks are less worthwhile, I don't mean that at all. Like I said, Casey's a singular instance here that gives him a unique edge, is what I'm saying.
And with that in mind, I think a solid case can be made that in spite of his long running history of being a fan of the medium, none of his work is designed or intended to sell itself or tell his stories purely through any kind of nostalgic filter. In the backmatter of Sex and Butcher Baker the Righteous Maker (winner of Sam's Best Name for a Work of Fiction Award, all years running past, present and future) you'll see him extolling the virtues of the unbound creativity of the likes of Jack Kirby or how much fun he remembered reading old comics as a kid. And one of his most vital creator-owned works, Godland, done with co-creator Tom Scioli, is itself a phenomenal book that, in addition to being a great action series, is presented to us with the core of its conceit being simply: Kirby as genre, rather than influence. However, the work itself is not beholden to Kirby for something as base as his ideas or characters, but much more so for his pure, unfiltered creative spirit. It's almost a nice piece of metafiction, possibly saying "hey, we found this book from an alternate universe where Kirby is more than just a man, he's a style, and we're publishing it here."
His other works don't follow that path, though. The aforementioned Butcher Baker is, on it's surface, some sort of deconstruction of heroes that may carry a patriotic or national motif, but is instead just him and collaborator Mike Huddleston creating something badass: a retired hero is betrayed by his handlers so he gets revenge by ramping his 18-wheeler cab over shit. It's pretty awesome, and it's done purely for the hell of seeing Mike Huddleston go crazy on fight scenes.
I could keep going and start doing reviews piece by piece in this thing, but I think I've kept you long enough. And all of the previous paragraphs, really, were just fancy, elaborate ways of me telling you that Joe Casey writes stuff that will delight, thrill, astonish, etc.. fans of just about any stripe. He's done superhero work, he's done intimate, realistic work; hell, I think he's even done some Borges style magical realism. But regardless of genre, he does work that matters to him and his co-creators, and comics like that always stand out from the pack. They are works that will open a hardcore DC or Marvel fan's eyes to a broader range of options, or just remind a jaded fan why comicbooks can be so much damn fun in ways not seen often in other media.
Has everything he's written been a masterpiece? God no. His run on Uncanny X-Men, concurrent with Grant Morrison's own work on New X-men, isn't the flashbang hotbed of mutant creativity you might expect me to tell you it is. It's not bad, really, but just read Morrison's work if you have a craving for some early aught X-books. Krash Bastards is something else I can't really tell people to run out and buy immediately. It's not even available on comixology, so don't try and hunt it down via amazon or anything. Again, it's not terrible, just not worth the time and effort that you could spend on finding a copy of Nixon's Pals or Officer Downe. So don't worry, I'm not going to demand you drink the Kool-Aid and buybuyBUY everything he's done. When I start going over his body of work, I'm going to give objectivity primary consideration.
With that in mind, though, I want anyone reading to remember that, to me, Casey is a pulsating quasar of pure, kinetic fun. He's a vital creator in an industry that, for now, has far too many people getting far too little money or far too much corporate oversight to really let their freak flags fly and just do what they want. But if more people supported creators like Casey, that could change. I hope it will change. I hope comicbook fandom doesn't waste the valuable resource and agent of change that we have in Joe Casey. More than anything, I hope that I can convince others to pick his stuff up, and using Casey as a starting point, explore some of the varied genres and styles that comicbooks have to offer all of us.
So I'll catch ya soon, we'll talk about Butcher Baker or Codeflesh first, maybe.