Should’ve told you about this book months ago.

Received a nearly completed copy of Moonstone Books’ Cyclone Bill and The Tall Tales couple months back, and despite my very favorable response to the title, spotlighting it here somehow fell by the wayside. Not often that I buy a book off the stands and feel guilty about it, but everybody knows the mathematics of the independent title, and how dependent their ultimate success is on the concept of pre-orders. So, obviously, it’s really best to campaign for books like Cyclone Bill during that stretch of time before the initial orders are due in, because waiting until the official release date is almost too late. However, with Wednesday being the day that Cyclone Bill and The Tall Tales hits your neighborhood supplier, I’d feel somehow irresponsible if I didn’t finally devote some space here to bring it to your attention. Especially since I’ve gotten the final product a week earlier than most. So this week in Ambi, it’s Moonstone Books, it’s Cyclone Bill, and these are the reasons I should’ve mentioned this all before now.

The book itself is a bit hard to describe, because it’s really going to strike different chords depending on the reader, and this is the largest success of the book, whose production is handled top to bottom by series creator Dan Dougherty. Cyclone Bill could easily be classified as a mystery, the main plot thrust hinging upon the repercussions of an incredibly high profile murder, with thousands of witnesses and thousands of suspects. There’s also a very large facet of the story devoted to examining the effects of hero worship, and the incredible influence that a celebrity can elicit on the life of someone they’ve never even met. Then there’s talk of seances, deals with the devil, and the ghost of Elvis stalking about in silhouette, offering strange words of warning. All the while the line between absolute fiction and absolute truth is blurred by the fact that several of the main characters are based on real people, but more on all that later. No clue how Dougherty distilled this into pitchable form, but it’s easy to see why it got picked up, because there is an incredible amount to like here.

The six issue mini begins in Graceland with documentary filmmaker Margarita Bloom demanding that the ghost of Elvis Presley stops haunting her. This forms the bridge to the framing device that introduces us to the title characters, narrated over a visual collage of music industry deaths, including the likes of John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix, before culminating in images and news clippings signaling the death of Elvis. From there, the humble beginnings of the four men that will become one of the world’s most popular rock bands, are compared and contrasted until the time of their eventual union. With it brings the requisite fame and fortune, the hit records and critical acclaim, leading to the reflexive backlash and their dismissal of it with yet another smash hit. Then it happens. Lead singer Cyclone Bill is cut down by two bullets in the middle of a sold out concert. Four months have passed, and the murder remains unsolved…

The thing that struck me the most was the sense of connectivity that Dougherty was able to achieve. It’s so deliberate that it becomes natural, the crossing of characters, relevant dates, and the subtle coincidences blending together and then repeating themselves. Characters are born and then die on identical dates, giving a pre-ordained feel to the overall plot. Everything happens for a specific reason, and there’s nothing we can do, nothing we can say, to stop it. That is a concept that remains personally fascinating, and it shines through quite clearly here, but as I mentioned before, that’s just my response to the material.

There is an appreciation and an admiration for the music industry, sure to appeal to aspiring musicians, and a critical but knowledgeable dissection of pop culture tendencies, and how the media can’t help but to build people up, for the express purpose of later tearing them down. With several titles out there offering similar commentary about the rigors and limits of fame, Cyclone Bill on one hand fits into some of the contemporary mind states in comics, and on the other, flips the whole thing on its head by basing much of the central cast on actual people.

Found this out after getting my hands on that preview copy months back, and doing a little additional research, but three fourths of the band are based on the real life composition of Dan Dougherty’s own band. Something else that sets it firmly apart, if the rock and roll murder mystery and Presley’s ghost isn’t enough to convince you that if anything, this emerging talent is telling a story only this medium could support. A successful brew of murder, mystery, and fame, Cyclone Bill goes out of its way to secure your attention for a full 32 pages, and that’s more than most books can attest to. I should’ve said it before, but I’m saying it now. If you’re a fan of the independent title, and the prospect of getting a little black ink on your fingers doesn’t frighten you, there’s no reason you shouldn’t find something in this introductory issue to bring you back for the next chapter.

It’s very possible that you’ll be hearing more about Cyclone Bill right here in the coming weeks, but for now, if you happen upon it this Wednesday, please give it a look. Thanks for the feedback from last week’s column, and I know that I mentioned it at the installment’s close, but wanted to again convey that I wasn’t taking shots at Lee Ferguson and our difference of opinion in regards to the direction of Damon Cross. Because this is my column, I’m sure the whole thing skewed things in my direction a little, but it wasn’t my intention to put him on blast because of his decision. No idea what I’m talking about? Hit this link and find out.

Probably an interview with Lesean Thomas about his new Cannon Busters series next week, so I’ll see you in seven.


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