Martin Scorsese Through The Lens Of Jack Davis: An Early-Bird Review Of Slots #1

by Oliver MacNamee

Meet Stanley Dance, a no-good charming chancer who’d “(flirt) with your girlfriend when you leave the table, but (would have) a drink waiting for you when you sit down”. And, everything you need to know about his M.O. you get in the opening pages as he skips out on paying for a cheap motorway side diner. And not for the first time.

Writer/artist Dan Panosian freely admits in the back of this debut issue of his creator-owned comic, Slots, that the prefect chiselled world of superhero body types and their equally granite-like morals can be boring, and so why not serve up a story that offers up anti-heroes like Stanley that you simply cannot help but fall for? But then that might have as much to do with the unfolding story as it does the wonderful, nostalgic-laced artwork and overall style of the book.

A mix of Panosian’s brisk, bold brushstrokes, that have something of a call-back to the wonderful work of Jack Davis (MAD Magazine legend), old-school fonts delineating each chapter of this issue (four in all, and all harking back to the style of fonts used by MAD Magazine back in the day, hence the reminder of Jack Davis; surely a big influence on Panosian?) and a sepia, washed out cheap paper stock look to each page along with dot printing giving the whole comic a feel of the Silver Age, but with less heroic characters. A lot less.

And, as such, it’s a contradiction of a comic. It seems like some new-found treasure; some kind of comic only now unearthed. And yet, the mobile phones and modern cars give it away to be a contemporary story. And, all set in Las Vegas, with a very Las Vegas-based plot, too, as Stanley has run out of luck and out of road and gets reacquainted with old friends and family and willingly offers up his help. Something he freely admits he is normally on the receiving end of, and usually not the one providing it.

It’s a Martin Scorsese level plot and style with a cast of characters (mainly) on the right side of the law, or as right a side you can be when you’ve made your home and your life in Las Vegas. Stanely is a loveable rogue (more John McClane than Han Solo) but with hidden tragedies in his past that are only hinted at as he contemplates his future (or not) out in the desert at the start of this fast-paced, sleazy but sassy series. A city where no questions are asked when you put your own daughter on stage in a crowd-pleasing burlesque show, and a city where everyone is on the take, playing their own grift with anyone gullible enough to hand over their cash. Maybe Stanely’s right to be down and out and living in a trailer.

Overall, my impression of Panosian’s main man, Stanley, is that he is more than another washed-up would-be contender in his 50’s, and by the end of the issue I was smiling at his brash, bold, cockiness that sees him seemingly breeze through life. His flirtation on the page has certainly caught me in his spell, even after just one issue.

But, this is Vegas, baby, and so I don’t imagine what little luck he’s got left to keep him out of big doo-doo for long. A great, almost film-noir, comic that mixes the old with the new and offers up a story with flaws, warts and, I dare say, the odd femme fatale too, somewhere along the way.

Who needs superheroes and spandex anyway when a wink and smile and a bit of confident charm and confidence trickery can get you further? This could well be one of my top ten titles of the year if this debut issue is anything to go by. And, unlike Stanley Dance, I can’t fault this book.

So I won’t.

Slots #1 is out this Wednesday, the 4th of October from Image Comics. Don’t be a chancer and get one while you can.