I used to be completely imbedded in the comic book world. Every Wednesday i would be at the comic shop grab the new weekly titles. Over time, money issue arose and quite simply, I grew tired of the path the mainstream comic were taking. At first the title were more grown up and really intriguing. It felt that as I got older, so did the content. I didn’t have to change titles: Batman became darker, Superman more nuanced, X-Men more metaphysical. But those glory days weren’t selling. Comic book companies quickly adopted the idea of epic events, where nearly every title affected the core story. You didn’t have to read everything (but you kinda did). So I stopped buying. It was hard but it had to be done. However, I did not stop reading and buying independent comics. Indie comics are to the mainstream books as indie film is to blockbuster films. They are an alternative that offers more than just popcorn entertainment.
One of my favorite comics I’ve read in recent memory is Pope Hats by Ethan Rilly. I got the comic on a whim during a sale at AdHouse Books. It was only a dollar or so at the time and the title and cover really popped out to me. It was so strange, the image of a drunken girl on top of a horse while her friend look away from her. No actual pope hats in sight and still this cover had roped me in. The 33 page comic follows the trials and tribulations of Frances Scarland, a young woman who is friends with a quasi alcoholic actress and is “haunted” by a ghost named Saarsgard. The first half of the comic details with the little mishaps of Francis’ life over the span of a few days, while the final 13 pages has Frances telling stories at a bar.
When I first read the story, it felt like just a bunch of sentences that where randomly thrown into a comic. I must have read it to fast because I was a little lost, but still in awe of the comic. It was so fast paced, the dialogue between the characters just bounces off each other in such a lyrical way. After multiple rereads, I can safely say that it is a a really well done comic that jumps around in a fairly consistent and meaningful way. The art is also really phenomenal. It has this emotion and and rawness that a lot of the mainstream comics lack. The designs of the characters are pitch perfect and make them truly come to life. They feel like whole people. Pope Hats very simple story, like the beginning of coming of age tale where the lead is still running away from the ghosts of her past. Except the story is surrealistic, the narrative form is unique, and the ghost is real (but more annoying than scary).