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365 Reasons to Love Comics #241

Hey. Remember these?

Lo, many years ago, in the forgotten year of 2007 A.D., this blog had a daily column called “365 Reasons to Love Comics,” in which I expounded on the wonder of many creators, characters, concepts, and other bits and bobs that made comics great. Unfortunately, I came up short. By the end of the year, due to various life-y things getting in the way, that 365 was more like 349 or so. At last, the day has come to finish off the list. (Don’t expect a regular schedule. To look back on previous episodes of this column, check out the archive!)

First up: the sensational character find of 2010! He’ll chop your head off.

3/10/10

241. Axe Cop

Ask Axe Cop 10

Axe Cop might just be the most perfect comic ever made, and I’ll tell you why: it’s written by a six-year-old boy. Last year, Malachai Nicolle was your average imaginiative, exuberant five-year-old kid, but when his 29-year-old cartoonist brother, Ethan (creator of Chumble Spuzz), found Malachai playing a game of “Axe Cop,” a legend was born. Transforming his kid brother’s ideas into a comic book narrative, Ethan took Axe Cop to the wilds of the internet, where it quickly exploded in popularity. Having debuted in January, it’s already become a darling of the webcomics world, and it’s easy to see why. I’m calling it right now– move aside, Atomic Robo! Axe Cop is the raddest comic of 2010!

So what’s Axe Cop about? It’s about the titular character (birth name: Axey Smartist) and his never-ending mission to kill all the bad guys. Along the way, he encounters a host of bizarre allies and enemies, including: his long-lost brother, Flute Cop (birth name: Flute Cop), who later transforms into Dinosaur Soldier, and even later an anthropomorphic avocado named Avocado Soldier with a magical wish-granting unicorn horn; his pet T-Rex, Wexter; Sockarang, a superhero with socks for arms; Uni-Man, an old fella with a unicorn horn, and Uni-Baby; a pair of vampire ninja wizard brothers from the moon (one of whom is also a werewolf); evil snowmen; Telescope Gun Cop; Bad Santa (not Billy Bob Thornton); Baby Man, a man in a baby suit; The Best Fairy Ever, who can go in your nose and punch your brain out; a half vampire man, half vampire baby, half vampire kid in the middle; and a whole bunch more, including Pretzel Head, the man who can turn his head into a pretzel!

Axe Cop and Wexter

Axe Cop Vampire Ninjas

The writing process generally involves Ethan quizzing Malachai as to the various characters and events that occur within Axe Cop’s world, and smoothing everything down into a narrative. You can watch an example of an Axe Cop creative conference here. Also, separate from the regular ongoing episodes is the Ask Axe Cop feature, in which readers send in questions to the character, answered by Malachai, and drawn up by Ethan. My favorite one’s at the top of this post, but this one’s pretty good, too:

Ask Axe Cop 13

From the various episodes and answered questions, the Nicolles’ audience has learned a lot about Axe Cop. For instance: at night he dresses like a cat and punches bad guys to death in their sleep; his favorite food is birthday cake with a candle of himself on it; he became a cop at a free sign-up; he can determine if someone is good or evil by watching their front kick technique; he has defeated Chuck Norris in combat; and, if something bites you, you turn into that thing, no matter what it is– it’s science.

Axe Cop blade gun

Axe Cop Fire Dumptruck

The reason Axe Cop might be a perfect comic is because of the unbridled imagination on display. There’s no pretension, no subtext, no irony, grim, or grit, just pure ideas and excitement. The plot follows dreamlike child logic, dependent on what one boy thinks is totally awesome. Who knows “awesome” better than a kid? The story is absurd and often hilarious, but the strip plays it completely straight. Ethan’s brilliant cartooning gives the comic all the energy of the six-year-old spinning the tale, and that’s what makes it truly great. This is comics, my friends, at their purest and most magical. Axe Cop is some kind of Platonic ideal, somehow made real. From a child’s brain to your screen.

Axe Cop and Uni-Baby

One doesn’t just read Axe Cop– one experiences it, and maybe, just maybe, transports back to those bygone days when one was a child and comics were magical. With each comic I read, I hope to recapture the sense of wonder I had as a boy. With Axe Cop, I’ve managed to do just that. There’s a delightful earnestness to it, and for Malachai to have someone in his life developing and rewarding his creativity, well… he’s the luckiest six-year-old in the world.

I brought back 365 Reasons specifically to sing the glories of Axe Cop, and I think it’s totally worth it. Go, hit up the website, read the comic, buy a shirt, donate to Malachai’s college fund, and mourn for the day this kid discovers girls. Meanwhile, though, let’s all enjoy the ride.

37 Comments

That may be the greatest thing in the history of things.

Eh. I could do the same thing with my four-year-old, if I could draw. Just because kids have unbridled imagination doesn’t mean what they say is worth reading about. I know I’m your mortal enemy and so you don’t care what I think, but there’s just so much wacky crap that you can deal with. I love kids’ imaginations, but there’s not a lot of variety. It’s strange methods of killing, bombs, weird names, and all sorts of pop culture junk thrown in for no reason. It lacks the narrative wonder of Atomic Robo, for instance, even as Clevinger throws wacky stuff in there. He never lets it overwhelm the story.

Axe Cop is one of those rare internet sensations that is actually awesome. Big Bro’s artistic style is smooth and his storytelling chops are pretty great. To me, I’ll take this over something like Atomic Robo any day. Atomic Robo feels like a grown up trying to be clever and wacky. This is just honest creativity.

Geez, Greg…that’s like saying I could play pro basketball if only I could dunk over Shaq. Just reading what stuff was in the column truly brought back all that was simple and pure and violent. Taking a 5 year old’s prattling and weaving a story out it that is cohesive yet still is as stream-of-consciouslike as a child would make it is very much an artform.

This guy certainly has as much imagination as his little brother….good on him!

Greg,

I always read your articles, even if I don’t always agree with them, I still love reading you’re thoughts and think they are worth a look……but are you serious here? You can’t be. Your comment is like someone who takes themselves WAAAAYYYYY to serious dissecting a joke, “how could a horse and a duck walk into a bar and order a drink? That’s stupid!”

Get a sense of humor.

I dont know if Greg is joking or not, but I sorta agree with his statement anyway.

This is one of the reasons I stopped going to Chris Sims’ website. The pictures of bears with jetpacks kicking Cyborg-Zombie Hitler in the face were funny and cool,but the guy only had that and he recycled those jokes week after week after week(probably still does).

When Chad Nevett reviewed an issue of Blackest Night he said that instead of just making the comic cool, Geoff Johns should’ve first worried about making it good and I completely agree. This type of high concept is really good but you at the end of the day, you need a story(Dr McNinja comes to mind as an example of this done right).

Dude: Thanks for backing me up. And yes, I’m serious. I don’t hate Axe Cop, and I would call it a reason to love comics, because comics are a wonderful place for this to flourish, but this is what kids do. Just setting it to art doesn’t make it brilliant. I expect the same reaction when I post my daughter’s stream-of-consciousness stuff about making Playmobil figures fight and kill each other, teaching her stuffed horse to swim, and telling her Little People that it’s not nice to tease each other. It’s adorable, but should it be in a story? Beats me. And I agree with The Dude again – I love reading Chris Sims, but it seems like if Gorilla Grodd had killed Lian with a Banana Gun in Cry For Justice #7, he would have loved it.

Sorry if my soul is dead. You should have already known that when I didn’t like Owly.

I don’t think my imagination was quite so violent when I was that young.
This does sound really cool, but I wonder if it might get really boring if you read too much of it at once.

Dag, The Dude beat me to it, that’ll learn me to try and write an analytical thesis-type dealy when only a couple of sentences will do! Chalk me up as another who’s left cold by a lot of these kinds of comics. At best you get something like Street Angel, which has genuine heart and brains amongst the ninjas, pirates, and skateboards, but more often than not you get something that reads like a game of Madlibs using tired memes, pop culture references, and really forced and calculated awesomeness trying to pass for non sequitur surreality (Ever see The Kids in the Hall skit ‘Premise Beach’? It’s sorta like that). Not to pick on Sims, but his new webcomic Awesome Hospital is the epitome of this sort of strip (Hell, it’s got awesome in the damn title! And stars a dirtbike-riding surgeon!). I don’t begrudge anyone who makes or enjoys these strips – and you can’t really slam a six-year old’s storytelling abilities – but I can’t help but see these strips as the comic equivalent of empty-calorie junk food. Junk food’s great if you like it, but there are enough good books out there that taste great AND feature intelligence and storytelling that I just can’t get excited by a bowl of fritos sprinkled with pixie sticks served by a monkey in a Nixon mask (Figuratively, at least. A literal monkey waiter in a Nixon mask would be pretty cool. Say, this gives me an idea for a webcomic…).

Greg, you didn’t like Owly???

I think this stuff is great. Problem is, my guess is Malachai is going to want to move on pretty soon :( . Hopefully, Ethan can continue to direct his creativity into something equally awesome.

Disagree with Burgas. I’ve only read the samples on this page, but even from these it’s clear that there is indeed storytelling craft involved. This artist obviously isn’t just putting down on the page all of the random shit his brother says. He’s obviously editing it and forming it into something that is more coherent and funny.

Also, is this guy even trying to tell a story? It looks more like a gag strip to me. Maybe I’m wrong and the creator really is trying to edit all of these together into a story that make sense, but if not, is it really fair to criticize a guy for not telling a story when he wasn’t trying to tell a story in the first place?

So just because other children can do the same thing, you can’t enjoy this webcomic? What the fuck is wrong with you people?

Thank you for this mr author (too lazy to scroll up to see who wrote it) because this comic is pure awesome and the art is great. I think I’ll buy the graphic novel that he has on the site, it said something about a pig being posessed by Satan. Sounds awesome.

and while I will say that Greg has a small point, can’t you just enjoy it for what it is? It’s a five year old Writing for christ sakes.

ok I know it’s super lame to comment on an article about your own comic, but I wanted to chime in on this for a couple reasons…

First, wow, thanks for such an awesome write up. This is one of, if not thee best write ups on Axe Cop I have seen and I love it.

Second… as the guy who draws Axe Cop, I have to say that the ironic thing about Axe Cop is that people are comparing it to all these comics I am not really into. I am not entertained by nonsense for the sake of nonsense, or absurdity for absurdity’s sake. When a 32 year old draws a ninja werewolf, we all get it, he’s crossing genres, being quirky, trying to make a cool t-shirt design. It’s generally not my style but I can smile at it, though I did enjoy Street Angel as someone above mentioned, but for the most part these nonsense comics get old fast.

The fun of Axe Cop for me is that there IS a logic to it and the main point is not to be absurd, and that is what is fascinating to me about it, because sure, we all know kids who weave wild stories… but who sits there and asks “and then what happened?” and really digs into that world? Not that it is a genius world or a magical world, but it is just this sort of excavating of ideas where ninja werewolves are produced, but not to sell a t-shirt, not to be ironic… it’s just my 5 year old brother taking what is awesome in his mind and piling it on, and combining it with what is logical in his mind. It becomes this interesting peak into a world most of us only have a vague recollection of, because most of us, when we were 5, did not have our imaginations chronicled. Most of us, when we started telling our stories, got ignored… which is fine. This is art based on a thing people often ignore… and to that extent I argue it is good art, because good art makes you notice what you grew used to not noticing. Maybe it doesn’t do it for every one, but it does for many, and it does for me, and to that extent I am proud of it.

I’m not going to sit here and try to toot my own horn about how more than simply drawing pictures goes into making this comic… I’ve had some great defense in here and I really appreciate it. I was more surprised than anyone when this comic became as popular as it did, so it’s fine if you aren’t into it. But to dismiss it as absurdity for the sake of absurdity is missing the point. Malachai rarely sets out to just be absurd. To him, he is just thinking “what would be awesome?” Axe Cop is a study in 5 year old concepts of awesome and it tries to take that short attention span and limited sense of logic and force it into a world that takes itself seriously. I am not claiming it to be profound, but I am claiming to be making more than just a quirky, absurd comic that depends solely on non-sequiter. If that was all I was doing, I would not need to involve Malachai… I have my own ass to pull stuff out of. I don’t think all comics should be this way, and I don’t think it should go on forever… but it’s a damn fun project and I’m thrilled so many people are enjoying it as much as I am.

Thanks again for the great article.

Ethan Nicolle

Ethan and the author of this piece are among the fortunate who have not been cursed with the disease of cynicism. And those of us who are similarly blessed can gleefully revel in “Axe Cop” and what it represents.

You can call me cynical all you want, but if you’ve ever read anything I’ve written about my daughters, you know that’s bullshit. As a gag strip, Axe Cop works fine in small doses. After that, it becomes repetitive, and there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just not my thing. I hope that Ethan continues to do it (and I don’t think it’s “super-lame” of him to comment here – we’re all friends!) and encourage Malachai, I just don’t think it’s the most awesome thing ever. Pointing out that all kids do this doesn’t mean Malachai isn’t a cool dude, just that he’s a kid. Is the fact that my daughter just said, while I’m sitting here, that “You [speaking of her mother] told me that I’m underpants!”* make it awesome? Beats me.

* Actual quote!

There are a lot of great, more well written comics out there. No doubt. But every once in a while you want something different. Nobody is saying all comics should be like Axe Cop. But when something so different comes along, it’s a breath of fresh air. As the father of a 5 year old, as soon as I read it, I got it. I enjoy it all the more. It doesn’t play as a serious comic, but it’s not supposed to. I go into every episode knowing I’m going to get a good dose of awesomeness a la a six year old’s imagination. Greatest comic ever? Maybe not. Most fun ever? Oh yeah.

Axe Cop finally proves a five-year-old could make a comic that makes as much sense as anything DC or Marvel puts out.

I still say Axe Cop is better than anything Bendis ever wrote.

But the whole “If I could draw I could totally do this because my daughter that has silly ideas too”… that just makes you look like a bitter asshole that’s failed at life. If it’s so easy a Faulknerian man child can do it, than do it, Mongo. Otherwise, shut up. That’s just my suggestion, because you sound like an asshole when you talk.

While Greg’s comments are in some measure valid (as to the idea that anyone could do it), the fact that Ethan Nicolle actually did it merits something. The whole concept is great, the absurdity has yet to get old, and it has more or less daily content- unless, obviously, a kid’s ramblings don’t strike you as entertaining (and I can’t imagine why), in which case, who cares? There’s a T-Rex with cop glasses and robot machine gun arms. It’s like Dr. McNinja on steroids.

I’m just sad that my Robo’s not “the raddest” comic in the Universe anymore. Why do you hate me and everything I love, Bill?

=)

Axe Cop is what it is, guys. Relax. Jeez!

Personally, what works about Axe Cop for me is not the comic itself.

You can get rainbow ninjas with gatling guns for heads anywhere on the Internet. Usually made by some pretentious fuck trying their damnedest to be ironic and funny. What you rarely find on the Web is a guy who says, “I’ve got this talent, let me use it to create a thing that no one else might like, but will create something that lasts forever between me and my kid brother.”

I can believe Ethan when he says that he is surprised by the strip’s popularity. But that’s generally what happens when you set out to make something that you yourself like. Your first priority is to please yourself, not some vague idea of what an unknown fan-base might be into. And as a result, regardless of the specific content, genre, whatever, you end up making something that’s just plain good.

JoeRice- in point of fact, Brian and I actually are quite clever and wacky. We don’t have to try at all. =P

(ZING!)

Axe Cop is a study in 5 year old concepts of awesome and it tries to take that short attention span and limited sense of logic and force it into a world that takes itself seriously. I am not claiming it to be profound, but I am claiming to be making more than just a quirky, absurd comic that depends solely on non-sequiter.

That’s a really good point, Ethan. Thanks for the thoughtful response and all the best to you and Malachai!

you sound like an asshole when you talk

Oh no, this is going to turn into OwlyRuckus 2: Electric Burgasaloo, isn’t it?

Hi! Just chiming in, here. I’m an aunt of two exuberant boys, and I’m guilty of not seeing the awesome in their play sometimes. Axe Cop not only makes me smile, every time I read it, but it makes me want to go hug Malachai, hug my nephews, and play. Axe Cop is an homage to how awesome little kids – all little kids, not just Malachai – are; I’m sorry that some people don’t see it every day in the children they love. I count myself among those people who “miss the point” of a child’s ramblings occasionally, but by taking very seriously the crazy things a kid says I think Ethan highlights what some adults have misplaced: a sense of fun. It’s not a cohesive narrative; it’s also not some guy saying “How can I make this wackier?!”; it is, in fact, some very ordinary things a kid would say. The difference is, Ethan didn’t do what I, and many others, do: close his eyes, take a deep breath, and try to ignore it.

Well, I guess I’m done. I forgot that if someone has a contrary opinion on the Internet, they must change it immediately to fit the majority. So I’m done. However, Jerkface, if you think I’m bitter, you obviously know nothing about me, as I have plenty of reasons to be bitter. All I pointed out was that I can’t draw. If that makes one bitter, I guess a lot of people in this world are bitter.

You know what makes me appreciate the creative genius of children? My own daughter, who today wrote five songs in the car on the way home from the mall. She even incorporated a Foo Fighters song she knows into the grand narrative she was singing about. Every day she cracks me up with her play, and I love the fact that I get to share it with her. I share it with people on my blog, Ethan shares it with people through Axe Cop. If people told me my daughter was being repetitive, I’d say, “Sure she is – she’s four!” I wouldn’t call that person bitter and evil, because who cares if it makes them happy? It makes me happy. Axe Cop is the same way. If it makes Ethan and Malachai happy, great. Who cares what I say? For that matter, who cares what any of you say?

Axe Cop controversy? What have I wrouuughhhtttt!?!?

Ethan: Thanks for stopping by! Your eloquence, it puts me to shame.

Scott: I… uh… It’s not what it looks like! I swear!

Though I understand where Greg is coming from, it’s worth noting that anything of consequence can be said to be doable if you’re “good” enough.

It’s all well and good to say “oh, I could’ve done that, if I was good enough,” but Ethan clearly is good enough and have done that (with excellent execution). That’s the point. Nobody else has really done it. It’s something new. Ethan clearly does not just take Malachai’s words and puts it on paper. Ethan compiles Malachai’s thoughts and narrative, tries to make it coherent and makes it as close to being logical while still mantaining the sense of childish ‘awesomeness.’

Yes, it isn’t the best comic ever. But it’s probably the most “awesome” to everyone who read it and fell in love with it, in the sense the word “awesome” would mean to a child (or an adult brought back to childhood).

Bill – I’m keeping my ocular sensors on you, sir. Be warned!!!

=D

Greg- nah man, your view/opinion is valid. I think you initial comment came off as “Pfft! this comic sucks,” but your later comments better expressed what you were aiming at. Also, you’re absolutely right about one thing; in the great echo chamber that is the Internet you better be ready for a shit storm if you take the opposing view in any conversation. Discourse and varied opinions are not welcome on the world wide web of Tubes.

But I’ll support you, if not exactly agree with you.

As for comments like Jerkface’s -somebody needs to make the Internet dumber. There’s like a quota or something. He’s just doing his part. (And I think I just did too.) Acknowledging it only validates it.

Jay- If there was a nail in all of this, you just hit it on the head with a giant hammer in your last paragraph.

Agree with Scott:
Greg, it sounds like you softened your stance to the point where it’s now understandable. ;)

This comic reminds me that anyone who wants their superheroes with strong morals and codes against killing must be middle-aged or older.

When it comes to ultra-violence, guys like Mark Millar and Garth Ennis just can’t compete with a 6-year old boy…

Uni-Electric Guitar Cop

March 12, 2010 at 7:42 am

Greg, to be honest, all I hear in your comments are “somebody else’s kid is getting attention! Hey! I have a daughter too, she’s awesome too, what about her? Me me me me me not him!!!!”

Grow up.

To ME and the people who showed me Axe Cop and everybody I’ve shown it to, this is far from the greatest web-comic of all time, this is THE greatest comic of all time period. When I read a comic, which I rarely do, I want humor and action, if I want something stimulating to the parts of my brain that a few people here are suggesting that comics should stimulate, I read Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, Kerouac, Burroughs, Orwell etc. This truly unique exercise of Ethan nearly animating Malachai’s free flowing imagination is, to me, something almost obvious, in being what every grown-up since and before Stan Lee was really trying to do within themselves schizophrenically, and I believe that some of the most obvious things are the utmost brilliant. An idea like this should have been obvious for fifty years now, so there really is something special about the people who step out of the box to see it, or even stumble upon it. And beyond the humor and the action, beyond the extreme notions and laws of Malachai’s wonderful universe and beyond the decent, (and at times peculiarly beautiful,) very complimentary artwork of Ethan’s, my favorite thing about the strip is how much it warms my heart. Ethan, you are the best big brother a kid could have, and if there IS anything profound about Axe Cop, it’s the example you are setting for the world. That’s the “awesome” that trumps everything else for me.

Guys, the point of saying, “My kid can do that too!” is not jealousy, not, “I’m so pissed I didn’t do that with my kid, and now someone else is getting all the glory.”

It is: because my kid can do that, and all of our kids can do that, it’s not something terribly impressive when someone else’s kid does it as well.

Axe Kid is kind of fun, I will admit, but I’ve found it has rapidly diminishing returns. I was getting tired of the breathless, “And then…And then…And then…” But I hate it when kids do it, so I might be biased. For me, most of the fun from the comic comes from the illustrations (The “Chop” adaptation of Obama’s “Change” ad in the first piece is inspired, and having “Wound” be the sound effect of someone getting chopped in half made me laugh out loud).

It is: because my kid can do that, and all of our kids can do that, it’s not something terribly impressive when someone else’s kid does it as well.

I think most people on here (who are not namecalling) get that, but that’s besides the point imo. Greg may be right when he says kids often come up with these off the wall ideas but that’s not what makes Axe Cop great exclusively. What makes it great is the combination of Malachai’s ideas and Ethan’s straight-faced art. Here are the schoolyard ideas we had as little kids drawn by a talented visual storyteller. It makes me smile every time I read it and the unbridled joy both brothers seem to have in creating it just bounces of the screen. I hope they’ll keep enjoying it for a long time to come, I know I will.

this comic brings back memories of the old flash video ‘How to Kill a Mockingbird’. I wish I had a much younger sibling I could interact with like this. I lost my imagination a long time ago

Baby Pear Wizard Soldier

March 17, 2010 at 12:40 pm

Honestly, I think Axe Cop is probably one of the best comics I’ve ever read. Maybe not the most powerful and moving, maybe not the most well-written, and maybe not the most amazingly drawn (sorry Ethan :) ), but that’s part of what makes it great. It’s not some tired artist trying to wring some awesome out onto paper, it’s pure awesome flowing from a 5 (6?) year old’s mind, interpreted for us by his older brother. And it’s not just some kid spazzing out his ideas onto the internet either; that’s been done before, and it comes out terribly. The great thing about Axe Cop is that it’s a kid telling his brother about all the awesome things Axe Cop did today, and having his brother take that and make a cohesive narrative from it. It’s not purely random, it just uses randomness to create this awesome world where the characters don’t care about “Why?”s and “How?”s, they just care about “Shark teeth aren’t strong enough– I need a chainsaw!” It’s almost like following dream logic, in a way. Malachai will assume you know things without telling you, and they may or may not be things anyone knows- like all mermaids being good, or that blood splashing on you turns you into that creature. It’s not like other webcomics, or any other comics at all, for that matter; it’s kind of a throwback to when we used to think like this. And deep down, I think most of us still think these things are awesome and wish our imaginations were still able to pull this stuff out at will. So yeah, maybe it can be done by someone else. And yeah, maybe all kids have wild imaginations. But the difference here is that Ethan is fostering that creativity and giving Malachai a way to develop it into an awesome story that he can read every day. That’s my take on it, at least.

PS- Greg, your view wasn’t why people started attacking you. The Dude and Layne both disagreed with it being awesome, but the difference was that they didn’t outright attack the comic. You came right in, guns blazing, ranting about the comic being boring and blase. The whole time you were here, you just kept talking about how your four year old could do it better. If your four year old can do it, then good for both of you! You should do it, if for no other reason than to develop her creativity and teach her that sharing your ideas is healthy and a good habit to form. Even if you can’t draw, that’s no reason not to at least write stories based on her ideas. That being said, I seriously doubt you can look at Axe Cop and not be amused for at least a few minutes. I mean, most of their content is purely new and original, even if you’re not a fan of the comic’s style.

@Greg Burgas
“I could do the same thing with my four-year-old…”
But you didn’t.

who ever said if he did that to his 4-year-old

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