is not only a damn fine breakout E.P. by TV ON THE RADIO but also a balls to the wall, smoke ‘em if you got ‘em monthly comic book written by Mr. David Lapham. If you are not reading it, you should be. Here’s why.
If you’re not familiar with Mr. Lapham’s work let me take you back to one of the true greats to have come out of the 90’s – STRAY BULLETS. Stray Bullets began right about the same time PREACHER did and like Mr. Ennis’ aforementioned masterpiece was responsible for snapping me out of the X-induced coma of crap I’d been stuck in via buyer’s inertia for several years at that point. These are two of the books that initially opened my eyes to the true potential of the comic book medium. However, Preacher was monthly, Mr. Lapham’s book was not.
This was of course frustrating as the initial story wound up, gaining the nasty, violent momentum I’ve come to associate with Mr. Lapham’s work: the book often played out like a short film, David’s integrated writing/drawing/inking working in an amazing symbiosis that delivered the pages in big, thick bursts that blew the back of your mind out and often twisted at the end, so as to tie your guts in a knot and keep them there until maybe the next issue let them down.
Or maybe not.
One thing that frustrated me monthly with the book but now in hindsight is an amazing piece of it’s charm is the fact that it jumped ALL over the fucking place within a strange little late 70’s/early 80’s world of sex, drugs and crime the author had created.
And the characters who inhabited this world – to quote Joey Lawrence circa 1984, ‘Whoah’. Hoodlums, whores, plotters, schemers, murderers and innocents on the precipice, a fine cast indeed, even if most of them didn’t stick around too long. Still, even short-termers had something that made you feel for them, no matter if it was hate or love, fear or awe. One character, often the object of the reader’s concern and unease was little Virginia Applejack – one of the most intriguing female characters I’ve ever met on the illustrated page.
Stray Bullets was Virginia’s story really. Bad home, violent encounters, always on the run – Stray Bullets put this girl through so many amazingly disturbing scenarios, usually having something to do with an East Coast crime guru and his wonderfully brutal henchman (Monster and Spanish Scott belong in the thug* hall of fame if you ask me). Later there was Beth, another amazing character who takes on a dimension far beyond the two she occupies in print, and if SB was Virginia’s story then Beth essentially became her guide, a fucked up parental figure with more than a few misdeeds to make up for…
Alas though, Stray Bullets disappeared a little over two years ago. Mr. Lapham swears it is not done, that the increasing demand for stability in his family life led him away from his own title, which he and his wife published under his own company, EL CAPITAN, and into work for the majors. He has vowed to his fans that he will return to it and that makes me happy. But what about the in the meantime? Well, we’re getting to that.
Since moving on David has written a number of mini’s and arcs for the big companies and some of their best loved (and most overused) characters**, but as good as these stories might be, they aren’t Stray Bullets and thus not the pure emotionally charged shotgun blast of Mr. Lapham’s imagination.
This brings us current, where about nine months ago DC’s VERTIGO line began publishing a new creation by David Lapham. YOUNG LIARS.
I don’t know what exactly the deal is with this book yet, same as I didn’t quite know what the fuck was going on in the first couple issues of SB. However, he’s writing it, he’s drawing it, and it’s more sex drugs and crime, this time saturated with that famous old missing ingredient, Rock n Roll. Every issue starts with a mixtape labeled with what tunes the book is set to or influenced by and every one drapes white hot indie sensibilities. Not Indie like horn-rimmed glasses, purposefully messy hair or I wear a white belt and can’t help but go around telling people I ‘work at a studio’. No, Indie like broken cigarettes, Rhinelander beer drank from bottles that might later be used to fuck someone or something up and a five dollar door charge to see a band toured and tired because this is their eleventh show in twelve days and their label is too small to really procure for them accommodations but they don’t really care because they’re in this to kick ass***. Every month I open Young Liars and a cigarette butt falls out. I swear this book makes me smell taste and hear my favorite club, Chicago’s EMPTY BOTTLE – the toilets that won’t flush, the cigarette butts and the sound of bottles hitting other bottles as they’re tossed into the trash in between deafening guitar feedback and Wurlitzer organ.
If Stray Bullets had Virginia and Beth, this book has Sadie L. Browning, a girl with a bullet lodged in her head and absolutely no fear of death. Sadie is a character so volatile and charming that I am convinced she is actually SB’s Beth, who has found a way out of Mr. Lapham’s head even while her book remains consigned to hiatus. Each issue Sadie kicks me in the face, drinks all my beer (well, not the ones I stash in the bathroom) and then throws herself out my window.
Embellishment? Obviously. But Young Liars has it all – Midgets, Pinkertons, girls kicking the shit out of mobsters, castrations, axes, anorexics and a gasoline and matches undertone that is no doubt headed for some place awesome.
Thank You again Mr. Lapham – now hurry up and sell the fucking movie rights, acquire great wealth and please promptly return to Stray Bullets!!!
* thug as in Bullet Tooth Tony, not Tupac.
** his take last year on the formerly ridiculous character Terror, Inc. for Marvel was particularly gruesome and awesome.
** see The MC5, Zen Guerrilla, The Jesus Lizard or maybe more recently King Khan and the Shrines or These Arms are Snakes.