Hi folks, I've been making a list of all the graphic novels and comics I've read to date, as in my entire life, and adding to that list as I go. When I read them, I'm looking out for a few things a) did I enjoy it? b) was it easy to follow / consume or did I have to figure things out c) did I learn anything from it that can apply to my own graphic novel writing practice?
I traded a set of Don't Tell My Wife I'm a Cult Leader for the trade publication of Gatorman Kills by Nick Edwards and Scott Beecher. I met Scott at Zeus Comics in Dallas as he was slinging books himself during a Free Comic Book Day event last Saturday.
Like me, the two creators are the makers, distributors and promoters of their own work. I've seen lots of independently made books and comics over the years, with varying degree of artistic and storytelling sensibilities. With Gatorman Kills, if you told me this was made by a team of artists and writers at a major publishing house, I'd believe you, because everything about the elements was spot on. That is, it was free from glaring typos, amateurish art, bad writing, and layout problems such as stuff printing outside the margins, low res artwork, etc.
When I was selling my condo a number of years ago, our realtor made sure that all the lightbulbs were working, stains were cleared up and every nail hole was spackled. His philosophy was "your condo needs to be the bride, not the bridesmaid; it has to be perfect." That didn't mean that people wouldn't pass on the condo because it was too small, not their style, etc., but it meant that there shouldn't be any glaring problems that could be easily fixed.
That bride/bridesmaid philosophy can apply to indie comics too. Every indie comic is competing not only with every other indie comic, but every Marvel/DC/Image comic and every book ever written. Plus it's competing with every other form of entertainment out there from Netflix to concerts. Translation: it doesn't take much for someone to pass on your labor of love for something that has better polish or is more convenient.
So when I say "there's nothing wrong with XYZ Indie Comic" that's a huge compliment in my book, because it's too easy to make a bevy of mistakes that add up to an amateurish creation.
When I asked Scott what Gatorman Kills was about, he said it was "Con-Air meets Texas Chainsaw Massacre." And the fact that the word Gatorman was in the title, I assumed that there was a half-man / half beast villain in the story. And wouldn't you know it, I was right. 🐊+👨
Other than the cover, the inside pages were black and white, and they chose to print it on ivory stock, which is a great call (I did that for my own chapters to achieve a vintage feel even though it was full color artwork).
Suspense! Horror! Midriffs!
The premise of the story is baked into the title and pitch, I was looking out for an airplane full of criminals that somehow crashed into an environment where Gatorman might appear. The setup was good, the writer did a nice job of using a radio announcement to build up the overarching narrative. The artist did a good job of using black and white art to portray a gritty, claustrophobic and chaotic narrative that never gave up, even at the end.
I'm not an expert comic book reader, so I had to pay special attention to the characters because there were many portrayed and with it being black and white, you had to pay attention to the visual and story cues to figure out who's talking and to whom. With the varying shadows, angles and flying objects in he environment, it's easy to lose track of the progression of the dialogue.
Guns, Melee Weapons, Hand-to-Hand
My main quibble was having to decide who the main protagonist was going to be. I had an idea, but it wasn't that clear to me until towards the end who the main protagonist would be. The other difficulty I had was trying to figure out exactly what action was happening in a few specific frames. I had an idea in the abstract and I could readily see the effect, but I sometimes asked myself how the thing happened exactly.
The resolution was satisfying and it set itself up nicely for a second series. I'd like to know more about the protagonist's background in the next chapter and eager to see what happens next given the character's circumstances of being both a criminal on the lam, but also hunted by a paranormal power. Those two competing conflicts would mesh well as the story progresses. Overall, well organized, well executed, and a well done indie comic production. You can pick up individual chapters or the trade publication on their website or at Zeus Comics.