1.1: ‘ “Blood Sisters” Part One
Jess and Kelly have nothing in common except a boyfriend who has unfortunately given them both a rare STD called Vampire. Now they have to learn to work together, with help from their new suck buddy Stewart, to successfully navigate their new bloodsucking lifestyles.’
1.2: ‘ “Blood Sisters” Part Two
With a vampire slayer hot on their trails, Jess and Kelly are desperate for help – and if you think this description is going to give away who they get it from, you’re crazy!’
Written by: Darin Henry
Art by: Jeff Schultz (inks), Glenn Whitmore (colours)
Released: 31 January 2018
This is a two-issue review, because it’s two parts of a single volume. As usual for this situation, obviously I can’t just say ‘Book 1′ because that’s not what I read and I don’t know if any extra material or changes are made between the individual issues and the collected book, but I’ll be reviewing them as one overall work. Sitcomics’ publishing style is to make two or three issues that are combined for print publishing as one larger self-contained issue (the standard is 64 pages total). This is opposed to the method of continuing comic story arcs through single issue that may not have any obvious chronological connections, then collecting a few issues at a time into volumes which generally contain an arc in themselves or at least part of one, which from big name companies are often a few US dollars per issue and ten to twenty dollars (or more) for a volume. Sitcomics claims to aim more for a binge style – a couple of issues already collected into a volume, and at a much cheaper price. From a company established by a television sitcom writer (who is main writer for the various series from this publisher too, with some co-writers brought from his TV career) this certainly sounds like an interesting way of doing things, and the first thing you’ll notice is that with less than 70 pages to a generally self-contained arc, it’s not friendly to long-form story telling except in small doses (just like sitcoms, after all). In this case, issues #1.1 and #1.2 make up Book 1 of Super ‘Suckers. I like that the issue numbering makes it easy to pick up an issue and tell at a glance where it is in the general story or specific story arc, and that the books don’t require lots of background knowledge even if it’s not the first one (a recap of who the characters are is at the start of each one), though it doesn’t apply here of course since I’ve selected Book 1.
Can a sitcom writer do good comics? I did mention that the publishing style seemed unaccommodating of long-form storytelling; Super ‘Suckers is actually four books in now (which I’ve mostly read), but the style means that each book is its own adventure with those characters, largely separate from the others but with some ongoing plot-threads. Sound like a description of sitcom episodes, too? Longer drama is hard to work in, but if that’s not what you’re aiming for it works fine. This series isn’t exactly a philosophical, or in any way deep, introspection of the concept of the vampiric condition or something like that – it’s a light-hearted and silly romp with a couple of uni students suddenly dealing with horniness and bloodlust, usually at the same time. The handy device of a person to already drink blood from is provided (the vampire who turned our main two characters had an arrangement with someone to pay them for regular blood sucking, who then approaches them in hopes of keeping up the deal), to both largely avoid the ‘uncontrollable blood lust from not feeding’ trope when inconvenient and court it when needed for plot shenanigans, which shows a bit of planning, but it’s not exactly a must-read for those interested in vampire stories.
Unfortunately, the sitcom background does show up a lot in some lowest-common-denominator writing and jokes. Humour doesn’t have to be deep and witty all the time, and this series’ brand of shallow, bawdy humour is generally fine for entertainment, but rounding out the main cast of characters is overweight sassy-black-woman stereotype Vera, who is the butt of regular fat jokes to boot, which is disappointing because it’s just plain lazy writing. As a character Vera manages to hold her own occasionally (more noticeably in later books where co-writers are present) but is most often just a crappily-written comic relief, and since she appears a lot it’s not exactly easy to ignore. This isn’t the only series from Sitcomics – meaning written by Henry – which has some trouble dealing with an overweight or obese character (superhero series Startup’s main character has at least been written with more depth, but her situation is still handled . . . not great), and along with other parts of the storytelling and humour, it really does come across as reminiscent of early sitcom problems with scraping for/cramming in cheap jokes wherever they can. Henry could have looked closer at more lauded scripted adult comedy shows today (a whole host of animated ones comes to mind) that have cultured huge fanbases with their sharply-written and modern humour for a bit of inspiration.
(from issue #1.2) Sitcomics
At least when it comes to the charge of badly stereotyped characters, Vera isn’t the only black character, as Schultz has cultivated a relatively racially diverse group of supporting and background cast. This may be related to his long-time work with Archie Comics, which have been absolutely looking at modern humour and entertainment. I grew up with Archie and Betty & Veronica comics, so obviously the first thing I noticed about this series was artist Schultz’s work. He’s been maintaining their signature art style which he’s used here, so there’s going to be some comparisons. That’s unavoidable, strap yourselves in. I don’t know for certain whether Schultz was hired specifically to recreate that style, with the publisher aiming to be able to say ‘it’s like Betty and Veronica but in college and they’re vampires, and with more obvious sex jokes’, or if he just wanted to use his smooth professional work that suited the humour with expressive characters and body language (he can do other styles after all), but I’d be surprised if the former wasn’t the intention. It uses a lot of the same humour structure of asides and overreactions, however it’s not like that’s rare in light humour literature, so I still can’t say for certain. Either way, the artwork that nearly everyone associates with old-fashioned, generally not risqué funnies, of the 50’s media teenagers style but with more mature setups, does add to the humour since it’s not done completely outlandishly. As I said, Schultz does those expressive faces and body language well, Whitmore’s colours match that Archie Comics style perfectly, and they do their best to prop up the sometimes cringe-worthy jokes with a certain sense of dignity.
Overall, if you can get past the fat jokes, this is cute and alright in terms of concept and plot lines, even if not always in execution – I was entertained enough to keep reading, but I didn’t laugh out loud, and if I didn’t like vampire stories I might not have bothered reading all the issues I was given. Schultz and Whitmore’s artwork is great; while Henry’s confidence as an episodic writer shows, though often so does the outdatedness (and generally low expectations) of the sitcom humour he apparently got that experience with. I may be demanding too much of it, but even light humour can be quality, and this was a bit too hit-and-miss in terms of good taste, even though most of the jokes at least hit the target board. Also included in #1.1 are three ‘ads’ where three different artists have taken on one or two pages each to do parody TV-commercial style ads, which were a funny little extra. The separated issues of this series, #1.1, #1.2, plus the issues making up books 2 – 4, are available digitally, while the printed full books appear to only be available in North America. In price, they are a good deal when compared to the big two, so we’ll see if their production model works to build up the brand (you can’t just push quantity over quality after all). Lucky you, Sitcomics is offering the first issue of each of their series for free download so you can have a poke about for yourself if you’re interested.
Thanks to Comixology.com for providing these issues of ‘Super ‘Suckers’ #1.1 and #1.2 for review.