We Want Sci-Fi Comedy – The Doorman From Heavy Metal
Originally published by Heavy Metal in 4 issues, The Doorman TPB lands February 22nd, containing 14 pages of bonus material and the full run of the original series. Written by Eliot Rahal and Daniel Kibblesmith, with covers and art by Kendall Goode and logo and design work by Tim Daniel, The Doorman takes zany sci-fi story to the next level with an inundation of social references, jokes, and commentary on modern life, all while telling a fast-paced story. What stands out most about The Doorman is the equal parts science fiction and comedy in the comic. That is a rare combination when you look at the swath of single-issue comics published each week.
The thing is, at least among the fellow comics readers who I know, we say we want comedy in comics, and that we even want some mainly comedy comics being published, but something seems to go wrong in the market for said comics if they get published. They get overlooked, cancelled, or receive little press. Perhaps this is due to the way they are marketed to retailers or the way in which they are presented to readers by publishers. It’s been a truism for a number of years that comedy just doesn’t work out financially when it comes to comics any more unless it is based on a major animated media property. In an era that has produced the Deadpool film and even the dark humor of Suicide Squad retooled to highlight Harley Quinn (and if her comics aren’t comedy-infused, what comics are?), I hope we are beginning to reevaluate that stuffy and outdated truism.
There is a market for comedy in comics. Plenty of readers want social satire and commentary. Perhaps publishers, fearing that comedy won’t do as well create self-fulfilling prophecy loops by failing to support comedic comics once they are in the process of hitting the market. Comedy also tends to be applied more readily in creator-owned properties rather than licensed comics unless the original property is known for a certain kind of branded humor. That humor is likely to be more constrained to “fit” the property and is less likely to be as directly relevant. There are exceptions, but no doubt the task of staying relevant is simply made more difficult by trying to stay true to existing IP. And publishers are more likely to support the publicity roll out of licensed books, which have a known fanbase, and to be more tentative with creator-owned books, which are “new” to readers.
Comics that have broken said truism in 2016 included The Fix (Image), and Flintstones (which as a licensed comic is exactly the exception to the rule mentioned above from DC Comics), and Eliot Rahal is a stand-up comedian as well as comics writer, someone who has already pursued bringing comedy into comics. The Doorman is a frenetic sci-fi set and cosmic adventure comic. It’s part crime story, part conspiracy story, part feel-good meaning of life story, but the comedy is what creates, enables, and empowers the social critique that constantly turns the camera back on us, the reader, and the society that we live in.
The title character is Henry Clay Waters, who after 40 years on the job, is facing his last day as a Porter guarding the secret cosmic doorway between Earth and other planets. A member of an organization who works in the shadows to protect against misuse of the doors, Waters is proud of his service, but ready to be done with it, when craziness ensues. Dragged along on a murder investigation featuring the death of other Porters by alien Detective Flowers, Waters faces a rollercoaster ride of an introduction to the politics surrounding the Doors between worlds and those who would like to close them—forever. Other significant characters who play out degrees of social satire are gazillionaire Carlisle Moongate, known philanthropist and megalomaniacal businessman, an alien superstar power couple who are “pop culture royalty, and locations such as the “Zookepedia” where “digital animals” are housed, who have had their DNA infused with data as living hard drives.
But this doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface on rapid-fire jokes and comments about our modern reverence for the wealthy, their power, or our denigration of people who work seemingly menial jobs but in fact save the world every day in their own way. The comic is smart, and of course has heart, making sure to throw in ironies of perceived social class whenever possible. The comic reads as madcap fun that encourages you to keep up with the barrage of observations being made, all while introducing you to a fascinating visual world presented by Kendall Goode. His line art and color choices are polished, lively, and fluid, making you firmly believe in the loony universe you’re encountering in The Doorman. He also infuses the comic with a wide array of visual gags to accompany the verbal craziness. This combination of features just results in a damn entertaining comic on a number of levels.
[Goofy photo of Eliot Rahal and Daniel Kibblesmith]
Heavy Metal ostensibly has a publishing goal that is more edgy, casting the net wider in expressions of the medium and The Doorman is an outlier in terms of what you tend to find on the comic shelf, but one that conjures up some of the best comic traditions of the 20th century while engaging with the 21st. Picking up the trade when it arrives in February will make for a satisfying read and help support more visibility for comedy in comics.
[Even goofier photo of Eliot Rahal and Kendall Goode]
To find out more about the comics-themed hybrid comedy night Eliot Rahal runs in his home city of Minneapolis to benefit the Hero Initiative, follow their Facebook event page here.
The Doorman TPB is currently listed in Previews World right here and arrives in shops on February 22nd.