A Year of Cool Comics – Day 20
Here is the latest in our year-long look at one cool comic (whether it be a self-contained work, an ongoing comic or a run on a long-running title that featured multiple creative teams on it over the years) a day (in no particular order whatsoever)! Here‘s the archive of the moments posted so far!
Today we look at the first issue of Grant Morrison and Sean Murphy’s Joe the Barbarian…
I’ve written a lot about Sean Murphy in the past, as I feel he is an extremely talented artist. In fact, when I did A Month of Art Stars, with other professional comic artists picking a different comic artist to spotlight, the great Skottie Young picked Sean (and Skottie was not the only one to pick Sean). Here is the spotlight I did on Sean at that point. I also did a spotlight on Sean back in June of 2005 on the old blog.
So suffice it to say, I’m a big Sean Murphy fan.
And wow, for a Sean Murphy fan, Joe the Barbarian is an absolutely stunning piece of work!
Grant Morrison creates an intriguing character in Joe, a young teen who suddenly sees his fantasy world brought to life. As you might recall from growing up, when you were a kid, your house was basically your “dream world.” It was literally home to all your various make believe adventures you would do with your various dolls (you can call them action figures if you’d like, but come on, they’re dolls). In Joe the Barbarian #1, Joe and his widowed mother are in danger of LOSING their home, and it is in this state of distress that Joe begins to see his fantasy world, as his house becomes the ACTUAL dream world of his imagination!
So with the house being so important to the story, Morrison allowed Murphy a great deal of leeway in designing it (Murphy discusses this in the text box in the issue), and the unveiling of the house is dealt with over a number of absolutely beautiful pages by Murphy.
Here is the sequence where we “meet” Joe’s house…
Note in the last page where Joe specifically points out how important the house is, followed by a sequence on the next page, right before we see his dream world manifest, where he repeats “This is MY house. My house.”
When Joe’s dreams manifest, they do in the form of basically bringing his action figures to life, so pretty much every popular “action figure” shows up in a cute sequence of “hey, who is that non-DC character that we’re not allowed to use the real name for,” like “Ultimus Alpha” instead of “Optimus Prime.”
In any event, this is a charming opening chapter to what promises to be an engaging eight-chapter adventure (I think the issue holds well on its own, but it’ll work even better once collected as the introductory chapter to the longer story). Joe is an endearing character from what we’ve seen of him so far, and Murphy’s art is, as you can see above, simply stellar.
And as commenter thok mentions, it is an interesting look at the idea of a kid “accessing” a dream world, like Alice or Dorothy, as here it appears that Joe is hallucinating the whole experience due to the stress in his life mixed with his diabetes. It’s a clever approach by Morrison.
When you toss in the fact that DC priced it for just a BUCK, then it’s even more of a cool comic!