Tiny Pages Made of Ashes is Comics Bulletin's small press review column
Recently with my esteemed colleague Keith Silva I had the chance to read and discuss a graphic novel called Leeroy and Pepo. This book stood out for a few reasons: it contained lovely art, a compelling and unusual love story, and – most powerful of all – the creation of a full fictional world in the pages of its story.
What makes Box Brown's remarkable Number 1 so powerful is the same thing that makes Leeroy and Pepo so compelling: in this slim story, Brown creates a full world. It's a world all Brown's own. It's a world that seems simple, brief and shallow when you first glance at it but that has remarkable depth, complexity and power the more you think about it.
There's a concept in professional wrestling called kayfabe, which means the art of making fake actions look real. That idea gives viewers the main basis for the whole idea of heroes and heels in wrestling, that whole familiar and comfortable concept that makes all those formulas seem so familiar and wonderful. It's also a central concept in Box Brown's extraordinary comic Number 1.
In fact, from the second page of this comic, the idea of reality versus fiction hangs over everything. A cute young boy meets a professional wrestler: "Hey Diamond Dick! Diamond Dick Corduroy! You're my idol!!" "Listen Kid," Dick replies. "Here's ten bucks worth of some free advice. There's a layer of bullshit over everything you see. Everything." As the kid grows up, he becomes more obsessed by all the lies that are driven by society: on TV, in families, in video game avatars.
And as the kid grows up, he starts a magazine called Kayfabe Quarterly, or KF, one of those free weeklies that used to populate every major American city, and KF becomes a huge success. Virgil becomes extremely successful with his newspaper/magazine that sometimes goes against its name by being brutally honest about the real world.
Drawn in a loose, almost abstract and geometric style that seems improvised and unreal itself, Number 1 is about so much: the transience of relationships, the way that success can sometimes come from complete dumb luck, the question of whether the world is filled with bullshit. But more than anything, Number 1 is about the fragile line between reality and artifice, between the place we see with our eyes and the world that really is out there. It's about the power of faking it. It's about kayfabe.
– Jason Sacks
Order Number 1 from the Birdcage Bottom Books shop.
Vreckless Vrestlers #0
Rating: ALL THE STARS EVER
Vreackless Vrestlers is a cathartic explosive shit-storm of crazy-ass gibberish wah-hoolery that satisfies the lizard brain in a way that defies easy explanation. It's like you suddenly stumbled into Wrestlemania after ingesting a sandwich bag full of blotter acid and somebody asks if you remember Chris Benoit's contributions to the American Heart Foundation while a mash-up of Hulk Hogan and Dave Batista's titan tron themes play at ear bleeding decibels and yet somehow the whole thing catapults you into a tag-team match against Heath Slater and Damien Sandow and your partner is RVD.
No wait… it's not like that at all. It's more like if that Ultimate Muscle cartoon was drawn by Alex Chiu and written by my 98 year old grandma when she was drunk on Manischewitz. It's as ugly as it is awesome and so worth your time.
According to the inside front cover scrawl, Vreckless Vrestlers is about a “professional interdimensional wrestling league with a single obliging rule – NO RULES APPLY.” Especially if those rules include narrative coherence – because that certainly doesn't apply. Which is AS IT SHOULD BE!
Then it gets all meta-texual and declares that: “It's also a comic series presenting fight coverages in strips – broadcasted both in print and digitally. Basically without dialogues – vrestlers fight not chat!”
As far as I can tell, this #0 issue is one of those “get the team together” sort of issues. This pimp-looking dude with a sweet Fu-Manchu stace and leopard-skin accessories travels through time and dimensions gathering fighters to compete in the 59th championship bout. The Manager zaps up vrestlers with beautiful names like the Flatwoods Monster, Spike Lee, Crimean Crab, Barbarica, Sergeant Reptilion, Vegan Cat, The Original Hippie Killer, and The Eye to do battle to satisfy the bloodlust of the universe. It's the interdimensional WWE Network and it's as bat-shit crazy as it is nutso-bongo.
And it's awesome in the way that ECW was awesome in the way that Prison Pit is awesome and that's plenty fucking awesome so Vreckless Vrestlers is awesome and if you want to be awesome then you should get on board with this awesome comic as it will infuse all of your shit with pure awesomeness.
Which is pretty awesome.
You just have to get into the right frame of mind to appreciate it. If you have trouble with goofy nutzo humor or entertainment, if you think Tyler Breeze isn't the greatest wrestler ever to climb into the ring, if you just don't see the entertainment in Sports Entertainment, then Vreckless Vrestlers probably isn't for you (some may say “it's not for everyone”). But if you understand what makes Professional Wrestling one of the true entertainment spectacles for our modern age, then this book's is yours, brother.
– Daniel Elkin
Get your copy here.