Archive for September 7, 2017

© 2017 G.N. Jacobs

When we last left my ongoing commentary on my friend, Francis Joe Burns, and his recent creation Danica Shade, I pretty much raved about her prose introduction story This Party’s Sooo Dead (see post). I had a lot of fun watching a purple skinned, pink haired deadly cutie of a dark elf (Drow or D’orch’A in the D&D Monster Manual for those who care) chop-socking her way through a variety of mostly undead people at a Hollywood house party led by a lich needing killing. In the main, now that Danica has jumped into the comic book character she was always intended to be, I’m still enjoying the experience. 

This time around in Nevertheless She Persisted our favorite dark she-elf assassin, counter-terrorism agent, pseudo-millennial gamer girl and all around metaphorical standard bearer for modern decency simply needs a job. A ‘normal’ job that in Danica-verse means a security consulting position. Wearing what is likely to become her signature out fit of a purple and black skirt mated to black metallic armor pieces that give her an odd sexy but still subdued Ren Faire bondage mistress vibe she goes for an interview.

In this short comic book with no interior color, Danica waits in a large office waiting room making mental notes about what it is the Boss might be compensating for. The ladies in the office, all of them beautiful completely out of proportion to the normal distribution of such pulchritude, really don’t like working in this office. The Boss-man assumes every woman walking in the door is a secretary and he grabs asses whenever he can. Danica fumes and leaves about halfway through the interview. She later interrupts a Dungeons and Dragons session to do something about it, break into the office.

As someone who must admit that I knew this story was coming because it is my privilege to sit across from Joe most Wednesday nights working on projects, I must say that how he pitched it gave a lot of expectation compared to how this first story came out in black and white comic book form. There is a totally awesome story in here that might not play as well to new readers, but Persisted serves as a good interim story to keep a fun character alive, until Joe either writes a novel or a full size comic book/graphic novel with colorist attached.

With Persisted, I really want to see Danica either make the Acapulco cliff diving splash into full color comics or retreat into prose where Joe’s words do amazing amounts of heaving lifting describing scenes, characters and dramatic situations. I didn’t hate the pencils provided by Ali Toglukdemir that gave Danica a black and white pseudo-anime look with wide expressive eyes. On most pages, I really enjoyed how pencils and inks worked out, but there were a small few where the narrative got mushy because I’d lost a bit of my ability to tell people apart.

Most noticeably, when the ladies in the office were sent to a harassment seminar as a distraction for Danica to enter the evil handsy Boss’s office to fight for the job she should’ve had in the first place. I had trouble telling if the people sitting around the conference table were the women likely to gain strength in numbers or if they might be the old crony dudes in the boardroom that would then have to deal with the newfound uprising among the steno pool.

Part of this is reflective that Joe really pitched the hell out of this story when we sat together like five-year-olds in study hall, but Persisted for me has been a good solid read that put me in a state much like doing lime shots without chasing it with tequila and salt immediately after. Limes are good if a little sour. Tequila is always good. And the salt chaser has its place. The assumption is that we follow the recipe and do these three things together.

Maybe Nevertheless She Persisted is really a 24-page (full size) single-issue story needing the extra twelve pages of chop-socky, snark and all around attitude to develop Danica’s world and what happens to the crappy Boss-man that many women must’ve worked for at one time or another? Especially considering the chosen ending, the twelve pages presented feel too short (a rare thing in storytelling).

These extra pages that were omitted due to Joe having the usual independent creator woes of having to balance keeping Danica in the market in time for key conventions, knowing that artists don’t work for free and the almighty budget. Sadly this is how well pitched should be 24-page one shots become truncated 12-page reads that leave so much on the table.

What do I want to see in these missing extra pages? Mostly, we should see that the Boss is powerful enough to retaliate against Danica forcing her to up her violence game. And a big climactic monster at the end of the video game level: Ogre, Bridge Troll, Werewolf…pick one.

What really gets left on the table even in the truncated version is the feeling of schadenfreude we want to feel towards the handsy Boss as he gets the shit kicked out of him by a woman that just ain’t takin’ it no more. Even with the presented ending that goes for let’s make a deal, Jerk, much like how Cardinal Richelieu makes a deal with D’Artagnan at the end of Three Musketeers, I really would’ve liked this asswipe to twist for a few pages and need to beg Danica to help fix the damage. I have a feeling that Joe really did this story justice in a prose outline draft that got slashed up translating it to comic book form. These things happen.

Most of the rest of my griping comes from Danica just isn’t a black and white character. Even with the pencils and inks as they are (mostly good but with a couple pages the artists want back), I really believe that color will make our favorite femme asskicker pop off the page. Dude, she wears purple and black dress armor with spandex underneath and at least with this art team it didn’t move me all that much in black and white. Hopefully, Joe will take heart and pay for a good colorist next time around.

After reading both extant stories, Party and Persisted, I wondered if I read them in the wrong order. Danica’s normal career path is to be destined to wipe out really big bads like undead necromancers and other things that go bump in the night. Basically, she should invite Buffy, the Charmed Sisters and the entire cast of the all-female Supernatural spin-off for dinner and shared mayhem. Taking a few minutes to chop-socky disposable goons in an office break in seems like a come down leading me to wonder if Joe gets a little more out of both stories by arbitrarily asserting that Persisted happens before Party, a warm up for the Halloween zombie/lich fight.

At the level of script, I felt that Joe had a mixed bag using caption and interior monologue boxes to drive the narrative. Really good for narrating Danica’s reactions and thoughts seeing this impressively sexist workplace needing an ass-whooping, less so for explaining the sharp cuts between scenes (job interview to interrupted RPG session to the break in to gather evidence). A character introduced in This Party’s Sooo Dead, a gnome hacker that acts as Danica’s Tom Arnold (support team on the headset) might have needed a caption box to tell the reader who she is.

But, I really want to highlight some of the earlier caption boxes that give the reader insight into Danica as an investigator and open can of whoop ass. She walks into the cavernous waiting room and makes a point of seeing the many impeccably dressed beautiful human women with slumped shoulders and downcast eyes. She immediately understands she has walked into a lion cage where the tamer hasn’t fed the performers properly. And when her suspicions prove out with the first ass grab, we get to feel her anger, snark and determination to do something. This part of the comic book just really worked so well, there’s no bashing it. Truncated story or not, Joe clearly hears Danica whispering in his ears as she reaches out from her world far beyond our observable stars. We should all be that way with our characters.

Also in the vein of closing out my thoughts on a high note, I can’t say enough about the additional art provided by cover artist Don Walker and the exposition/title page provided by Paola Carbajal Kerr. Don, another friend from the Wednesday scene, imbues his cover (see above) with the depths that we know Danica will find when Joe finds her true stories and a good artist for the character. The cover gives Danica a sensuality missing from the interior art and quite frankly is the real reason for my ‘spring for color or just write a Danica novel, but don’t let her languish in black and white’ comments. The juxtaposition is just that stark.

And Paola, also a friend from our comics scene, busted out one of her funny and charming Chibi style drawings of Danica, as she acts like Basil Exposition explaining all the parts of the universe that just aren’t going to show up in a simple story of Danica taking down a sex harassing douchebag Boss: magic, magical races from RPGs and the racism therein. This deceptively simple art delivered with a smile helps me want to turn pages and keep saying as many nice things about Danica as possible.

So far that’s Great In Prose, Fun but Could Be Better in Black & White and Will Blow Socks Off in Color.