Thee Comic Column #122: Big Man Plans

BigManPlans-cov-01_web02A few months ago on Drinking with Comics my co-host Mike Wellman became absolutely aghast when he learned I had never read Eric Powell’s The Goon. Admittedly, since starting the show there have been quite a few books that I haven’t read that Mike has trouble understanding: Hellboy, Elephantmen (remedied now) and The Goon were big sticking points right off the bat. My defense is what it always is – you can’t read everything. There’s plenty of stuff we overlap on and probably an equal amount he’s not read that I feel is essential. It takes work to keep up, and in the interest of trying to read everything good sometimes you need a friend to point you in a particular direction you may have missed. So it was in that spirit after the shoot that night that I took Mike’s advice on where to begin The Goon and picked up the second volume of the trades.

I loved it.

Around the same time Mr. Powell began collaborating with John Carpenter and Brian Churilla on a Big Trouble in Little China sequel in comic form and being the massive Big Trouble fan that I am I began reading this right away. It’s fantastic and what’s more, it even further cemented Eric Powell as a creator I wanted to follow. I’ve still got a ways to go on catching up with The Goon so when I walked into The Comic Bug this past Wednesday and Mike handed me a copy of Mr. Powell’s new collaboration with Tim Wiesch, Big Man Plans I was psyched. In on the ground floor of a new Eric Powell project? A new 4-issue mini series that you only had to flip through a few pages of to realize that Mr. Powell’s art had – impossibly – reached a new level of awesome I heretofore had no idea was possible.

Big Man Plans is a revenge book that, just one issue in, swells with potential for leagues and leagues of people to visit that revenge upon. Our lead has had one f*&ked up life and as such, he’s sick of just taking it. Sick of everything and everyone that has sold him short (pun intended – hope this doesn’t get me on his list). There’s definitely a grindhouse, 70s drive-in vibe here, like what that first trailer for Hobo with A Shotgun promised (which, although I did like the movie, didn’t quite come through in the end). Blood splatters, grain, ‘Nam, marginalization. ALL the ingredients for an exploitation flick – done in comic form. That’s becoming an increasingly common thing, and maybe it’s the fact that the creators don’t play that angle up in the press for it that it really comes through naturally and not forced, like it does in some books/movies. Mr. Wiesch’s talked about the book on Image Comics’ website recently; tell me if this doesn’t seal the exploitation comparison:

When we were coming up with the story, we were looking for a way to embody a truly marginalized version of a man without just playing with worn-out tropes and comic clichés. Someone that would never be even remotely considered tough, let alone as the violent specter of revenge and death that we were looking for. No super powers, no crazy martial arts. Just a man driven beyond his own limitations by rage.”

The first issue of Big Man Plans is great, and despite being a largely introductory issue in which we meet our protagonist – not sure if that’s the correct word to use here – and learn the events in his life that have brought him to the point at which our story begins, is a stand alone book that really hits the ground running. Both Powell and Wiesch have promised this will be a very dark story, and yet there is a certain amount of humor the material is handled with. Dark humor – among the darkest by the time this is finished is what I’m thinking – and that’s cool, because that’s something that is not easy to pull off. When you look at the tone of The Goon though you get it; Powell’s the guy for the job. This is creepy, violent and disturbing, but all delivered in a manner that, well… a hand grenade as a much-deserved tip at the bar is the kind of thing that you have to smile at, even while the corpses are still smoking.

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Can’t find a comic shop? You can always use old reliable Comic Shop Locator at 1-800-COMIC-BOOK. Or you can take some of my recommendations. If you live in the greater Chicagoland area I recommend any of the wonderful four locations of Amazing Fantasy Books. In Los Angeles it’s The Comic Bug. Las Vegas it’s Alternate Reality Comics. San Francisco? Try the Isotope Comic Lounge and if you happen to venture a little further North I’d say you have to visit The Escapist Comic Book Store in Berkley (with the wonderful Dark Carnival Books next door and owned by the same folks). Read on!!!

Shawn C Baker

Shawn C Baker

Shawn lives in Los Angeles where he co-hosts Drinking w/ Comics, writes screenplays and fiction and has been known to drink quite a bit of beer. Good beer.

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