Conor’s Mini Indie Round-Up!

In addition to the comic books that I buy every Wednesday and the trade paperbacks and collections that I pick up, there are also a lot of comics that end up on my desk through other means — they are submitted by companies or creators hoping for exposure, or from my fellow iFanboys who feel that I really need to be reading something that I’m not.

Today I thought I’d talk about a few comics from my big ol’ stack of books. And I’m going to focus my spotlight on some indies.

THE CLOCKWORK GIRL #1 (OF 4) is from the Arcana Kids division of Arcana Studios and writers Kevin Hanna & Sean O’Reilly and artists Grant Bond & Kevin Hanna.

With all the talk about getting kids back into comics — and I know there are members of the iFanbase who read some of their comics with their kids — it’s always nice to find more books for the younger set. The Clockwork Girl is set in a fantastical world of almost magical science. We find that there are two schools of science — those who deal with the natural realm and those whose genius is put to use building fantastic machines and robots. Both factions come together every year for The Haraway Fair, where the mad (but not evil… so far) scientists can show off their newest creations in hopes of winning the grand prize trophy for the greatest creation. There are scientists who have bio-engineered new animals, scientists who have made new kinds of rocks, scientists who have made growth potions for crops, and there is Wilhelm the Tinkerer who regards any scientist who works on anything but robots to be beneath him. His entry into the fair might yet be his greatest creation of all — he has created The Clockwork Girl, a living robot.

This is a book aimed at kids so you’re not getting Watchmen, but you’re not getting Tiny Titans, either. It’s a fun little story that I can see younger kids enjoying if they’re into fantastic realms and cute robots. I can see that we might be heading towards a love story with The Clockwork Girl and the “mutant boy” named Huxley who was the creation of one of the naturalist scientists. Think of it was a variation on Romeo and Juliet, but with robots and monsters, neither of which are scary. The art is quite good. It’s cartoony and clean and the panels are big, most of the pages featuring just three wide panels. With a layout that centers on such big panels, the book flies by pretty fast but for a 99 cent cover price you can’t really complain too much (subsequent issues seem to be $1.99). One of the best things that I can say about this book is that the story is engaging enough that if an adult read it to a younger kid they wouldn’t have to internally roll their eyes and they might actually find themselves enjoying it. I know I want to know what happens next, but then my inner child is strong.

SPEED RACER: CHRONICLES OF THE RACER #1 is from IDW Publishing and writer Arie Kaplan and artists Robby Musso & German Torres.

I should probably start by saying that I don’t know crap about Speed Racer. I’ve never seen the show or read any Speed Racer comics — until now. The only thing I knew before opening this comic book was the theme song from the cartoon and even that I’m a little iffy on.

Here we meet Speed Racer, the best race car driver around. We also meet his mother, father and the mysterious Racer X who is, apparently, Speed’s brother, and keeps his identity a secret for reasons unknown to me. Someone is threatening the lives of race car drivers and after some remotely activates Speed’s ejector seat in the middle of a race, his parents decide to let him in on the family secret — Speed is not just the best race car driver around, he is but the latest in a long line if super fast people put on this Earth to fight evil. Not being familiar with the Speed Racer mythos I have no idea if this is a new twist on the character or if this is revelation is something that has always been a part of the story. Armed with this new sense of identity and the knowledge he gains from The Book of Speed, Speed Racer decides to investigate the attempt on his life. This was probably the most interesting aspect of the book because after Speed learns of his special heritage he becomes kind of a dick. He’s arrogant and full of himself and is a jerk to his girlfriend. I thought that this was a very interesting choice to make (he will come around, I’m sure) and, again, I don’t know if this is true to the character or if it’s a new twist. If it’s new, I commend Arie Kaplan on his choice.

Concurrent to the Speed Racer story we flash back to one of Speed’s ancestors in ancient Rome who was the best chariot racer of his time. He comes up against a dude with a magical amulet that keeps him forever young and also renders him invisible. This part of the story didn’t do anything for me and I found myself wanting to get back to Speed’s story. Even though it seems as if the events in ancient Rome are going to tie into Speed’s mystery I still wasn’t really into it.

My feelings on this book are mixed. I feel like this is aimed squarely at Speed Racer fans and thus it’s really not for me. I hesitate to say it was bad, because it wasn’t, it’s just not really in my area of interest. The art is kind of a mix of Todd Nauck and manga and it didn’t really do it for me. If you’re a Speed Racer fan and you are anxiously awaiting the movie this might be the book for you. Oddly, I’m looking forward to the movie more after having read this for reasons I can’t explain.

DAEMON PROCESS is from Demon Press and writer/artist James Burns.

The truest indie book of the three, it is entirely produced and self-published by James Burns. James came by our live show recording at HeroesCon last year and gave us a copy of his first work, a mini-comic called Detached about his experiences with being an artist with a detached retina. It was raw, and full of honest emotion and it was an excellent example of what comic books have over other mediums. The singular ability to take a painful life experience and pour it out onto the page for others to experience is something that’s much harder to do with such immediacy than with, say, film. It’s one of the great things about comics.

Switching from autobiography to fiction we have Daemon Process, a 48 page horror story that, to me, recalled the sensibility and mood of The Outer Limits or The Twilight Zone. A young couple new to an apartment building accidentally accept delivery of a package meant for their eccentric, retired professor next door neighbor. The young video game developer husband is suffering from a supreme lack of inspiration and a looming deadline when he accidentally opens the package to reveal an ancient book with an ornate demon face on the cover. Finding the answer to his developer’s block in the demonic text and imagery inside the book, he conceals the package from his wife and begins scanning pages into his computer. As one might imagine, this sort of thing is not without consequence.

This is, as far as I can tell, James Burns’ second comic book and he has a little something. There is sort of a throwback charm to this story that reminds me of classic televised cautionary horror stories. It’s by no means perfect. The dialogue could use some work and the recently dead mother element was developed enough to give it the emotional punch it needed when it comes around again in the climax. My biggest complaint is probably that the ending happens too quickly, and the way that the demon is finally defeated occurs with no explanation.

I really like the art. James Burns is a graphic designer by trade and you can see that eye for design in a few of the panels in which he chooses a very interesting angle or close up. The art style itself is rough and scratchy and recalls, vaguely, almost an indie Jack Kirby (Kirby Dots can be found in both of his works). That’s not to say that his art is groundbreaking like Kirby’s or that he has Kirby’s flair for dynamic characters and layouts, but the there are many instances in which the blockiness of the hands and faces recall the spirit of Kirby. The characters might be a bit stiff but the storytelling in the art is strong. I’ll be interested in seeing what he comes up with next.


  1. Oh god that Speed Racer story sounds horrible.  I like Speed Racer and have read some comics, watched both some of the old show and the newer one in the 90s.

    I would not read that comic if someone paid me from what you talked about it.  Damn I didn’t think it was hard to screw up Speed Racer.  He hops in a fast car and zoom zoom.

    Daemon Process sounds kinda cool though. 

  2. Also Conor do you ever sleep?  It seems like I see you online on the forums till all hours of the night and then see you post these at 7 in the morning.

  3. I picked up both CLockwork Girl and Spped Racer….i thought they both were very good. BUt then again, i’m a big Speed Racer fan and am just glad to see Speed getting all this love and attention. THe Clockwork girl is great! I think the whole mini is now being solicited in TPB form, so pick it up!

  4. love to see the indie cred maintained. hope we get more entries like this!

  5. Got to say I am a Speed Racer fanboy from way back. Can’t believe there is anyone who does not know Speed. I grieve for your loss for not having Speed in your childhood. He rocked mine. As a Speed Racer lover I grabbed this book with great hope. I loved the first issue but the second left me pretty blah. I hope three picks it back up. Can not wait for the movie. Every thing I have heard sounds like it is going to be crazy.

  6. i’m one of those parent’s that look for stuff to read with thier kid’s. i found Clockwork Girl when it first came out , saw the price, and bought it, sight unseen. it’s a great little book with the three main ingredients for a good book, story-4 (out of 5), art-4 and price-5. more child aimed books should take notice.