A few years back I took a gamble on a comic called King City, by an artist named Brandon Graham. I’d seen it on the shelf a few times in stores and wasn’t quite sure it was for me. I spoke to my local proprietor of fine books (Between Books in Claymont, DE) and Greg, the owner, talked me into it (as is Greg’s custom). I took the book home and devoured it. It started a very strong love of the author/artist’s work in general.
Brandon Graham’s Strange Beginnings
Art flowers in strange places. In Brandon’s case, it started between two sources – graffiti art and pornography.
Graffiti is unsurprising. It doesn’t take more than a couple seconds to look at the body of his work to see street art gushing out. From his character designs to his backgrounds, everything has this wonderfully curvy kind of flow to it. Everything seems like it originates in the wide movements of the shoulder and elbow. As a designer, I know it’s not the case – when I draw a comic you can pretty much be guaranteed that my fingers are cramping to get precise control. I think most artists do in the medium. Graham applies that big, wide-open wall principle to his designs in the micro-cosm of panel art. The work isn’t always color, but when it is, you see it there too. Solid palates generally rule his roost with little or no gradation or visual clutter to get in the way.
The more surprising aspect of his genesis into comics was his start in adult cartoons. But, when you stop to think about it, it’s perfectly rational. Sex sells. It always has, and Brandon didn’t shy away from it with either Pillow Fight or Perverts of the Unknown. His foray into adult comics opened doors though. The porn years led to Multiple Warheads taking off and his being picked up by Image Comics. Additionally he had a deal going for some time with Tokyo Pop concerning his best work (in my opinion) King City.
Graham’s City That Never Sleeps
King City is, simply put, eye opening. Brandon Graham’s unique style also combines with the absurd, the punny, and the sexy. Here’s the details:
Joe leads a complicated life. In recent years, he completed training with a far off group of mystics who trained him to be a Cat Master. His personal cat, Earthling J. J. Cattington III, possesses the power to do almost anything that Joe can dream up. All it takes is a proper explanation to Earthling, and then a quick injection of cat juice. Despite his newfound abilities, his return to King City after a long absence doesn’t make his life any easier.
The city has its own problems before adding Joe’s. There’s a strange Lovecraftian businessman running through the streets, eating the fingers of Yakuza soldiers, devouring souls, and otherwise causing trouble. Then there’s Joe’s luchador-styled best friend who works questionable jobs for a crime cartel. There’s a sexy, alien plant woman victimized by xenos trafficking. There’s new and incredibly bizarre street gangs (as well as really weird familiar ones). A mysterious femme fatale keeps crossing his path who seems to know something about the monstrous salaryman, too.
Oh, and then there’s Joe’s ex, Ana. Joe and Ana feel like there was nothing resolved in their past relationship, which makes things difficult for both of them when he wanders back to the city after a few years away. Despite lingering feelings, she’s got a new beau who has an addiction to a drug that eventually will transform his body into the same drug he’s using: Chalk. He got that way after using it to drive away the nightmares of his time in the zombie war going on in North Korea.
You can see why I like this so much. Between the style and the over-the-top ideas and action, King City grabs you by the frontal lobe and starts swinging into whatever it damn well pleases. Even the margins and book flaps are awesom