Some of the best and brightest Australian comic book talent get grim and gritty in this new quarterly anthology that mixes horror, politics and a decent dose of humour.
The anthology has a long tradition on the local scene, the birthplace of many underground comix and superstar artists alike, going at least as far back as Fox Comics. There’s been something of a revival lately, certainly from the good folks at Blood and Thunder, Gestalt Comics and the Milk Shadows Books re-issues, and Home Brew Vampire Bullets seeks to bring back the irreverent edge of EC Comics, Tales from the Crypt, or even the long-running 2000AD to the Australian market. Who are we to stop them? This one hit the virtual shelves about a month or so ago, but with Halloween looming its jack-o’-lantern head, it’s a great time to take a chug from this particular beverage.
The tone is set by Christian Read‘s “RS-Hell!”, in which an RSL (that’s Returned and Services League for you non-Australian types) club is possessed by a demon resembling Bruce Ruxton, the former president of the Victorian RSL. The outspoken fellow chews on limbs and decries the erosion of the country he loves, before he’s exorcised by very Readian fellow named Marco, who is as adept with the magic lingo as he is with a cricket bat. Aly’s art captures the bloody spirit of the anthology, with a direct to panel narrator, a splattering of the red stuff and a truly rabid Ruxton.
Mark Selan and artist Nathan Soehardi continue to satirise at the xenophobic mainstream in the misadventures of “Gusty Smythe”, in which a visiting British man is mistaken for an African-American amidst a slang-filled exchange. It could be a companion piece with not only Read’s entry but Nick Lewis’s “2013 Australian English Test For Foreigners”, requiring applicants to the Department for Testing People For See How Good They Knows English to state everything from their favourite Neighbours character to the true meaning of having a “rack like a a couple of spanked chicken fillets”. They are all things to help us establish a perimeter (or “Abbott-proof fence”) to survive what Neil Blanch calls the “assault on the nation by [Tony] Abbott and co.” Truer words have never been spoken.
Yet it is Ryan K. Lindsay and Louie Joyce’s “The Many Harold Holts of Space and Time” that has become the poster child for the book, a splendiferous piece that posits the idea of a fractured time/space event that saw all theories about missing Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt exist at once. The presumed drowned Holt is an Atlantean conqueror, Russian spy and galactic wanderer. In Lindsay’s own words, it’s a “bold beginning” starting with the last story, and at a mere 8-pages, it has us hooked for more. Joyce’s art is gorgeous, Using a striking colour palette that sits somewhere between Jeff Lemire and Daniel Clowes, Joyce summons multiple realities made real on the digital screen. It turns out Australia’s greatest superhero is Liberal Party PM.
If Home Brew Vampire Bullets #0 is just a massive tease for Home Brew Vampire Bullets #1, due out next month, then the future of the Australian anthology is looking bright. If the “rum-occult goings on” of everyone’s favourite metal band Töxxik Shökk facing Jack Parsons and the “legally and ethically dicey L. Ron Hubbard” (by Read and HBVB art director/talent wrangler Garth Jones) don’t tickle your fancy (they should), then the promise of something like Jean Breach and Douglas Holgate’s “Maralinga” and a host of others should have you cracking out some coin for the official first issue. Like Dark Horse Presents, it’s a hot bed for current and future talent, and a must-buy for any self-respecting comics aficionado.