Book of the Month

The One Trick Rip-Off & Deep Cuts
Story by Paul Pope
Art by Paul Pope
Cover by Paul Pope

Size: 288 pages
Price: 29.99

Send up the white smoke. The new Pope is arrived.

Well, not exactly.We’ll have to wait a spell for the long-awaited Battling Boy to get our hands on the fresh stuff. This here’s vintage Pope. But as with our belated view of heavenly constellations, these deep cuts sparkle with all the luster of the brightest young things. The vantage helps. Bound in a slick, gleaming hide and printed on pages thicker than most monthly comic covers, these stories maintain all the energy of their underground, ashcan roots, merely gussied to the nines for proud collectors everywhere. Jim Pascoe, also credited with designing the elegant Mad Men dvd packaging, outdid himself on this one.

The title track sees two young lovers, sharp featured androgynous Gelflings both, plotting one last lethal hurrah in LaLa Land. Vin and Tubby dream of fleeing the streets, even for the dull Dakotas. There’s mounds of cash for the taking in a gangland safe, enough to fuel their getaway, but more than a sensitive combination stands between the lovers and their freedom. Tubby’s a member of the One Tricks, lowlifes with a supernatural knack for suggestion. Their single eponymous trick is of the Jedi mind variety, allowing them to convince other bangers they’ve got snakes around their throats or even the classic “these are not the droids you’re looking for” stealth gambit (if not precisely in those words). The mad scramble for the big payoff sees multiple betrayals and a thrumming escalation of gunplay and psionic fury. The pace appropriately quickens as the layouts and visual flourishes grow more and more feral, as if Pop himself was transforming into a werewolf at the drafting table. If there’s any loss in precision, it never mars the intense beauty of this visceral, deeply romantic caper.

From "One Trick Rip Off"

From “The One Trick Rip-Off”

A series of flash fictions, travelogues and visual poetry constitute the latter half of the book. Some of these will be familiar to the diehards, but all of it bristles with new life here. Divided into sections designated by wherever Pope hung his hat at the time, these short comics vary from full-issue length down to a single page. We follow Pope from Columbus in 1993 through to Toronto then Tokyo and finally to New York at the turn of the millennium. While there’s no real narrative or personal remarks to carry us through this international tour, the collection reads like an informal notebook than a true journal, more an emotional and gestural survey than an expository chronicle.

Early on, Pope lends visual splendor to poetry. He assists the mind’s eye in Francis Richardson’s ode the “The Armadillo” (“Dust-pig turtle, with your elegant  silver feet and paternal mustache”). With “The Triumph of Hunger” he finds fellowship in the young libertine Arthur Rimbaud, a 19th century poet who penned his entire catalog before the age of 20. Together, they spin a vision of feast and famine and heartache (“In the heart of the furrow/I look for spring lettuce and violets/Hunger, hunger, Sister Anne. Leave me if you can”).

In “The Visible Man” Pope relates a traumatic dream. Disfigured in a car accident, the artist himself is ostracized by strangers in the street. His friends struggle to find words of comfort, but Pope becomes a recluse (“I reduce myself to a voice across a telephone wire…”). Only his girlfriend Lorie remains to help him shave his head, envelop his face in bandages like a fashionable mummy (“Lorie comforts me. Everyone she knows is missing something.”)

From "One Trick Rip-Off"

From “The One Trick Rip-Off”

The strongest pieces might be conveniently linked as snapshots of ships passing in the night. In “Yes” and “The Scarf” Pope experiments with wordless storytelling at its purest. By chance, a young man spies a beautiful girl in a crowd and does his best not to lose her in the maddening shuffle. “Yes” is particularly sumptuous to behold, featuring an encounter between our titular hero and an alluring bike-rider. The girl is just one of an impossible number of cyclists, but her blue blouse stands out in a sea of orange and black dynamism. Our man races to catch up with her amidst a chaotic flurry of bicycles, only to lose her in the futurist rush. Between Pope’s furious depiction of motion and colorist Dominic Regan’s warm tangerine tones, it’s one of the most engagingly pretty sequences in the collection.

During this period, Pope also adapted his style to an even more feverish pitch with some melting pot manga. Reprinted in their original black and white, “Super Trouble” and “Night Job” almost read like light pastiche of Japanese tropes, from the heightened level of expression, the tell-tale formal exposition, and the playful commiseration of school girls and robots. Though they’re definitely amusing and more than welcome in this completist collection of Pope’s formative work, this material never feels as personal as the other pieces, even the artist’s depictions of poetry by other writers. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, but the manga has that impersonal feel of a typed missive in a bundle of hand-crafted love notes.

Visually, Pope never skips a beat. He employs all the ink in India, milking countless squids to saturate each page in tar-black urban shadow. He dabs the night sky with globby white stars and tucks the most glorious patches of light into the windows and signage of the darkest alleys. Shadow doesn’t exist without intense light, without blistering midday suns that pass into dusk and twilight. Wherever his travels took him, Pope found poetry or made it, scribbled ballads to the hopes and lusts and fever dreams that trickle only out of gutters.

Paul Montgomery
If he had a gang, it’d be called Monty’s Red Beards.


  1. Got this a few weeks ago, and it’s in my “to read” pile on my nightstand. It’s a gorgeous looking book. I’m looking forward to reading it in the next few days.

  2. Great pick, Paul. I recently got through it. I don’t know if I found the Kodansha pages quite as impersonal as you did but I agree they’re very different from what is surrounding them. They do play a little like studio recordings surrounded by home-recorded demos but I think they’re infused with the same drive and ambition, if not outright emotion, of the rest of the ‘Deep Cuts.’

  3. Whoa!! Way to debut on BOM, a fantastic pick and review.

    I love this work, its an artistic bridge from his earlier self-published work to the more tightly-wound brushwork that starts to emerge in “Heavy Liquid” and “Escapo”. It’s also interesting to see how he could always tell a tight little story when he wants to and keeps that spirit alive today only with larger scale in works like “Batman: Year 100”

    I still haven’t received mine yet, but are there any essays. Did they keep the original collection’s intro? Damn, can’t wait for this to show up. Once again, great pick!

    • Avatar photo Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

      There is a lengthy introduction by Charles Brownstein of the CBLDF.

    • This is a more beautiful production and way more content than I could have imagined!

      Plus, it’s another great hardcover that bypasses the unnecessary dust jacket and actually prints what would’ve been there on the cover. It’s a small thing to point out when the product itself is so stellar, but when Marvel & DC have most of their stuff designed and manufactured no better than a shabby high school yearbook it is something to rave about (I mean, at least Marvel does foil stamping compared to the blank matte with embossed logos/credits standard at DC)!

  4. Never read much Paul Pope other than Batman Year 100. In an interview with Image he name dropped Nick Cave a half dozen times. Now I’m thinking this is a man after my own heart.

  5. Great review, Paul. This is definitely one of the early releases of 2013 I’m most excited to get my hands on. With this, you’ve pushed it even higher on my need-to-buy list.

    … and I’ve never get tired of that “send up the white smoke” joke for Paul Pope releases.

  6. I liked it, but not as much as 100 Percent and Heavy Liquid. I hope there is a complete THB collection in the works.