O Say Can You See: The Greatest Patriotic Super Heroes of All-Time
The epic conclusion to Ellis Week! What’s your favorite fictional comics imprint? (Archive.)
So one day, Warren Ellis decided to create his own fictional line of comics, an Apparat Singles Group. Its purpose: see what would’ve happened if the superheroes never existed. See what kind of comics the pulps would’ve evolved into. Write an issue of a book with one of those concepts. Avatar Press was kind enough to indulge him.
Four titles emerged: Simon Spector (art by Jacen Burrows), a modern-day Doc Savage with a strange drug problem; Angel Stomp Future (art by Juan Jose Ryp), a sci-fi/bodymod world; Quit City (art by Lauren McCubbin), an aviation adventure; and Frank Ironwine (art by Carla Speed McNeil), a detective story. Only one issue of each was ever released; ’twas as if our world briefly coincided with a parallel universe and we got some of their comics instead.
Frank Ironwine was definitely my favorite: the story of a shabby detective with none-too-shabby detecting skills, a return to the detectives of old who solved crimes with their heads and understood how people worked. Detective Ironwine looks and acts like a mess, but he gets people. He also knows that cities are built on bodies. It leads us to some great moments, and allows Ellis to write one of his favorite kinds of scenes: the interrogation scene.
The script’s sharp and witty, as always. The art by McNeil is lovely, as well– every character’s drawn as rounded as they’re written (if that makes any sense). Fantastic linework and figure drawing in this. Heck, I even love the lettering. And that shading on Frank’s suit– yeah!
I would buy every issue of a Frank Ironwine ongoing.
Apparat was a really clever idea, playing with both genre and form– two things I love to see messed with, especially in comics. But, you know, it was this one-shot deal. Or was it? Ellis is still using the “Apparat” title, this time for standalone graphic novella experiments– comics with spines made for the comic shop, not the bookstore. I believe “Crecy” is the first of these. I’ve gotta track that one down.
The Apparat singles are available in a collected edition from Avatar, if you haven’t tracked them down in their original form. Which one was your favorite?
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