Small Press Spotlight: Chip McFitz: Joint Fever, Captain Cosmic #3, MULP: Sceptre of the Sun #5

It’s a bumper week for new books launching at this weekend’s Thought Bubble and here are some more fantastic small press reads. Featuring psychedelic sleuths, intergalactic adventurers and archaeological rodents.

Chip McFitz: Joint Fever

Mat Greaves’ caffeine addicted, sleep-deprived journo Chip McFitz is back in Joint Fever. After seeing a public information film on the dangers of marijuana Chip heads undercover to investigate the lure of the demon weed and sees himself embark on a tripped out journey around the LA jazz clubs and the city’s seedy underbelly. Greaves does a fantastic job of parodying those 50s drug films that were designed to scare the youth ‘straight’ and it perfectly suit the wide eyed spirit of McFitz. It also mixes in perfectly with the pulp noir stylings of the previous McFitz books (Wanted Dead or Alive and A Dame in Starlights) which feels like something from a vintage paperback – but with the surreal humour of an Adult Swim animation. All in all that makes Joint Fever into a surreal mix of Dashiell Hammett, Fritz the Cat, Cheech and Chong and Adventure Time – what a combination?! Greaves animation inspired style gives the characters a unique but very expressive appearance and he mixes that in with some awesome psychedelic visuals as McFitz becomes hooked on the demon weed, as well as a flashback to Chips time in the army (which helps explain why he hasn’t slept for so long!). All of which makes for another addictive read from Greaves!

Captain Cosmic #3

It’s no secret that we’ve been huge fans of Andy Clift’s glorious Captain Cosmic from the very start. While the first issue of CC was Clift’s love letter to Kirby and the silver age, the subsequent issues have built on that passion to create one of the most glorious small press series around. Each issue has developed slowly but surely, giving the series more depth and detail as Clift has channelled different sub-genres – from classic Dr Who in issue #2, to 1960s Batman in #3 – but without ever veering away from the core concept of a father and daughter space adventurer. This latest issue is another fantastic read, and introduces us to the sinister Phantom Spaceman, a villain who only appears every 5 years, so time is paramount if Captain and Kid Cosmic are going to stop him. With this new creation, Clift gives the series a truly enigmatic villain with a poignant past, and also gives us the kind of recurring nemesis that can really make this series click. (Could he be Cosmic’s answer to the Joker?) If you follow Andy on social media you will know he is a big fan of the classic Batman Animated series and also Bruce Timm’s Batman Adventures books and you can definitely see a real hint of that in this issue with the smart storytelling and deftly layered concept than underpins colourful action with genuine depth. Yet it is also a gloriously fun read at the same time, with some daft dialogue and a genuinely positive outlook that isn’t snarky or self referential, which is one of our favourite things about CC. Visually Clift’s artwork continues to be out of this world, and manages to make Captain Cosmic into more than just a homage to those halcyon pulpy days. It has an increasing confidence and slickness to it, something which we saw developing last year with his work on this as well as Red Rocket Comet and 32 Kills and feels like it is really paying off. We often talk on this site about the importance of originality and consistency in small press comics, and Captain Cosmic is a shining example of both, which is why this is and always will be an essential read!!

MULP: Sceptre of the Sun #5

This new issue of Matt Gibbs and Sara Dunkerton’s glorious mouse based pulp adventure serial is bitter sweet. On one hand it is a new chapter of this wondrous series that has been five years in the making, and sees a group of archaeological rodents attempting to recover a lost artefact. But on the other, this final issue means the end for this truly unique series. Across it’s 5 issue run MULP has been a consistent delight. It’s wonderful concept has felt like Indiana Jones meets Bramley Hedge, yet it has avoided being just another cute animal book. Writer Matt Gibbs has combined a quaint charm and a really well constructed adventure serial tone to make a fantastically readable adventure. But one with plenty of hidden depths, especially the over-arching theme that sees the mice live in a world where humans no longer exist, giving it a really unique and intriguing mystery to go alongside the action. Dunkerton’s gorgeous painted artwork has been a revelation too. It makes every panel feel like something from a classic children’s book rather than a comic. She has coped effortlessly with whatever concept Gibbs has thrown at her, from giant bird-like creatures to Incan temples and much more besides. The characters are wonderfully cute and expressive, but also incredibly well studied and their mix of human and animal anatomy is faultless. With an ending which leaves the door open for more, we are keeping our paws firmly crossed as MULP has been one of the most glorious adventures in small press comics!