Asylum released a collection of Mannion’s work under the title The Bomb last year, and it was something of a revelation. Along the lines of, Wait, this guy is fantastic, why have I never heard of him before?! The new Fearless Dawn series looks like it will be somewhat different—it’s in color and it’s focused on a single character rather than an anthology’s worth of characters and premises, for example—but as long as Mannion’s drawing it and his storytelling remains focused on lighthearted but two-fisted adventure, it should definitely be worth a looksee from fans of things that are awesome.
Because The Bomb? That was awesome. Since Fearless Dawn is still four months off, and all I’ve seen so far is this four-page preview at fearlessdawn.com, let’s talk about The Bomb, shall we?
The bulk of the story (and accompanying pin-up pages) are devoted to the story of Fearless Dawn. She’s the girl on the cover wearing some sort of black rubber batwing/antler things on her head.
Who is she, and how did she get her start?
Prissy Jones was just your average bobbysoxer growing up in a quiet small town, in love with comics and often bullied by this girl at school named Betty, who looks an awful lot like Bettie Page. Then Prissy ordered the Joe Jeeder Miracle Strength Kit from a comic book ad, and, after a little bit of training, a strange dream and a fortuitous encounter with a suitcase full of fetish gear for costume play, she becomes Fearless Dawn.
Yeah, I don’t get the name, either. Maybe that will be covered in the new miniseries.
Anyway, in her first adventure she busts up a ring of Nazis operating out of the old sauerkraut factory in town, who are well underway in their plan to build an army of zombie robots, with the help of Betty, who is also a superhero, although her costume is really just a pair of roller skates she wears while fighting.
Mannion breaks up the make-it-up-as-he-goes-along Fearless Dawn storyline with a couple of other features, including the adventures of pirate Sea-Goin’ Lil and her captain/sometimes boyfriend Brownhole Jones, and Jungle Chick, a blank-eyed mute blonde in a leopard skin bikini who is menaced by a dinosaur that always ends up getting badly hurt before he can get his claws on her.
The main feature reminded me a lot of Tank Girl, in spirit if not style—like the original Tank Girl comics, it seemed like a large part of the creative process was the artist just kinda drawing whatever the hell he wanted, telling some jokes along the way, and letting the story go wherever it naturally headed, no matter how silly.
Mannion’s drawing style has a lot more to do with Wally Wood than it does with Jamie Hewlett, however.
The Dawn and Lil passages in particular scream of 1950s influences, particularly EC’s Mad and the stable of artists it eventually cultivated. From the pin-up girl poses and proportions of the heroines, to the Will Elder-like level of “chicken fat” detail in the backgrounds, to the lovingly rendered monsters and the occasional horror host characters that appears and disappears, there’s a bit of post-war comics boom on almost every page of the book.
Mannion doesn’t seem to stick to the same style or process for very long either. For example, his Jungle Chick scripts are pantomime gag strips of the Spy vs. Spy tradition—dinosaur tries to eat jungle girl, something happens to prevent it, often involving blunt trauma—and Mannion seems to lean towards a Sergio Aragones look in them (His Jungle Chick character designs is particularly Aragones-like).
Some of the fight scenes in the Dawn stories—like one in which she and the Nazi general named The General trade blows with different meats—take on the loose movements of Harvey Kurtzman drawings at their cartooniest.
The net effect is a trade paperback that looks like a graphic novel, but reads like a sketchbook. Considering the amount of joy in each of Mannion’s pages—no matter what the subject he tackles, the style he’s working in or the influence he’s channeling—that’s not a bad thing at all.
So you can see why news of more to come is pretty exciting. In announcing the new mini, Asylum mentions Wood, Elder, Robert Crumb and “old Archie comics” as influences, and compares it to Eric Powell’s The Goon. That doesn’t sound too far off, actually: The stories in The Bomb read like a 1950’s Tank Girl stuck in a first draft of a Mike Mignola plot and rendered in a Powell-like pictures to me.
Note: The bulk of this post appearead in a slightly different version at my home blog EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com, but I’m recycling it here. Because I care about the environment and our children’s future. And also I am lazy.