Wednesday, 23 December 2009

A to Z: E is for Elephantmen

Okay, so we've reached the end of the first handful of A to Z (one for each digit!), and it's been a much longer journey than I expected. Still it's quick to read and a great insight into the developing insanity that is my mind. And so with said insanity in mind let us delve into the article!

This time around I'm jumping into territory that is so foreign to me that I had to refer to research materials multiple times just reading the first volume of the series. However that can only improve what is basically the 'newcomer's approach' that has occasionally been called the style of these articles by... I don't know, some people. This series comes as a suggestion from Kirk Warren of The Weekly Crisis, and I both want to thank and throttle him at the same time.

Why? Because this is one of the most rewarding comics out there, but moreso one of the most confusing. Mainly because it's a spin-off apparently, but still. Oh you want me to do that normal thing where after the introduction I say what the comic is?

... It's Elephantmen.

Now, this installment has some notes to get out of the way before I get all snooty on your arses about how great it is, so let's hit those on the head here and now. First and foremost is that this is in fact a spin-off from a series called Hip Flask, that starred the titular character and addressed the existence of the Elephantmen and so on. It's a good series by the look of it and worth it to save on having to waste time researching like I did with this comic. Secondly the entire basis of this is the first volume (7 issues) so there's a fair chance that the comic gets better or worse as time passes. Got it? You sure? Okay.

Who are the Elephantmen? Well, I'll tell you. They're the genetically spliced monstrosities created by the crazed Japanese head of the MAPPO corporation in Africa. At some point in the recent past they were trained soldiers and killers and now finally have their own independence and lives in the slightly grim future that they live in... which is the present. I'm fairly sure I just made professional writers cry at how poorly I explained that. But that's not the point. The point is that there are Human/Animal hybrids living out there in the general populace with their own personalities, souls and purposes, just wanting to live their lives in their own particular ways. Of course there's the typical racism that comes form being different and threatening, but that's just framing to the actual point of the stories in these first 7 issues. The main point is just to episodically give you a taste of each individual character and prepare you for whatever future events may come from them. Oh and there's a Hip Flask story running all through it, but I'll get to that.
The aesthetics of the series is very Bladerunner-esque, with that semi-dystopian feel where it's obviously not a good future, but it's still somehow an incredibly pretty one. And to cap this weirdly serious caption HOOTERS! WOOOOO!.. Or something. I don't think we have those here in Blighty, so any reaction might well be stilted.

If there's an obvious problem with this series (other than it being pretty confusing for the first few issues) it's how differently you'll feel for each character. Not necessarily in that the different emotions they provoke is bad (after all, variety is the spice of life) but rather that some focus characters will provoke empathy and immediate enjoyment of their plight or story and others will just fall flat. All ensemble stories carry this risk but the stark contrast between Ebony Hide (awesome) and, say, the crocodile guy is so huge that you lose so much interest in reading the next issue. This is subverted by each issue usually containing two stories in a fair ratio, but there's always that risk that a future issue will contain two bad stories and make you feel like you've been summarily ripped off.

Finally (if only because this is REALLY hard to write about and I have so much other stuff to move onto) I feel the need to mention issue 7, which is genius to me. The issue is framed by a young girl who befriended the elephant character Ebony Hide wanting to be taken to the hospital to see him after an incident and the hippo Hip Flask talking her down and telling her a story about a pirate. Except it's evidently not a pirate story, it's a part of his past masked as this story. The parts that make this clever instead of the normal cliché that these stories tend to be is that it is presented 100% as a brilliant pirate story that visually, and indeed in how it is laid out with the text and everything, is like a BRILLIANT children's book. I'm to understand that the creator of the Elephantmen did graphic design stuff prior to the series such as fonts and logos and the like, so I shouldn't be surprised by how amazing this is, but it took out my mind and replaced it with a pleasant jelly as I read the issue. Observe:

I best wrap this up, simply because this is more nonsensical and I don't even know what I'm going on about now but trust me when I say you should pick this up and if you don't you're STUPID. Or at least as easily confused as me with less intent to research like a hopeless comics whore.

You can pick up the Hip Flask stuff HERE and the first volume I used for this review HERE

That's E, what's F? F...lippin' hard to write about? No. No it's much easier to ramble about. You'll love it.


  1. So, odd question for ya: would it offend you if I copied (i.e. ripped off) your A-Z concept for my blog? I love this concept, and I think it would seriously help me discover new things to read. Also, I'm from Southern US, so I'd have a completely different perspective than you (in theory, maybe not). Whaddya think?

    Also, to make this comment relevant, Elephantmen Vol. 1 thus far rocks my face.

  2. Oh, feel free to use this idea, I'm sure I'm not the first to use it. Besides it's not like all of our alphabet would happen to be the same.

    That and this blog was originally built on the concept of ripping other people off so it's all fair game from where I'm standing :P

  3. Haha understood. Just didn't want to step on your toes since you know for a fact that I read this. And since I'm behind you, I will make sure that I don't cover what you already have.