Saturday, February 16, 2013

COPRA: The best comic you don't know about

I've been aware of Michel Fiffe for a few years now - more for his blogging about comics than his actual comic work.  But last year he wrote and drew an amazing Suicide Squad homage that feel right into continuity around issues 15-18 of the late lamented Ostrander, McDonnell, Kesel, et al. series from DC.  Having been a huge Squad fan, this was a breath of fresh air for me, and I've read a handful of times since getting it free with his Death Zone print. 

Fiffe followed that up with a new monthly comic, COPRA, which is his love letter to comics and his influences within that medium - Steve Ditko, in particular.  Rather than a true Suicide Squad comic, COPRA is a pastiche of the Squad, including many easily recognizable analogs for my favorite Squad characters, including Amanda Waller, Captain Boomerang, and Deadshot.  We also see analogs of Dr. Strange, Shade, the Changing Man (both Ditko creations or co-creations), and the Punisher (I believe) in the first few issues Fiffe has published.  For Ditko fans, or 80s Marvel/DC fans, this is a great book.

With COPRA, Fiffe is trying to push through the "Kirby Barrier," if I may paraphrase his comments in the back of the issues.  Having worked for a number of years toiling over his art and stories, Fiffe wants to work fast and push ahead with this story he wants to tell; he wants to produce pages, get them out there, and see what the reaction is.  Which is not to say that he wants to be sloppy.  Not at all.  Fiffe just wants to get past being overly precious about his artwork and just tell the story

Much of Kirby's dynamism on the page, it could be argued, came from the pace he needed to work.  At his height, Jack Kirby was producing 15 pages a week, and these were, with very few exceptions, quality pages that had an energy and a heart not seen in most comic books.  Fiffe, with COPRA, is trying to harness that same quality.  And I feel like he's succeeding.

COPRA is an action-packed comic that drops readers right into the middle of things, and Fiffe makes no apologies for not giving his audience all the answers.  I think this is great.  Part of what can make a story a good, enjoyable story is mystery.  Too often, creative people forget that (see: the explanation for the Force in that first Star Wars prequel OR the explanation for the immortals in the second Highlander film, which was a disaster), but thankfully Fiffe seems to have a firm grasp on this storytelling trope. 

Of course, I think he was also very smart to utilize characters with "mainstream" doppelgangers in this series.  This allows him to propel the narrative forward without having to stop and give us exposition explaining who these people are and what they do.  We know who they are.  But, if one is not familiar with these characters, I think Fiffe's dynamic storytelling is more than enough to keep readers engaged. 

Fiffe also exhibits some wonderful storytelling on his pages.  One, in particular, from issue #2 resonated with me.  It's simple, but elegant, the way he creates a panel border from the doorframe and wall in the image below. 

and look at how he uses the whole page - on the second page of the spread below -  for two characters, as they cross through opposing sides of an interdimensional portal created by the Dr. Strange analog.

There are little things like that throughout this series, to date, and it's so much more enjoyable than almost anything that constitutes "superhero" comics today.

I don't buy many monthly comics - and none from the Big Two.  But COPRA is one that I subscribed to because I wanted to support Fiffe in this endeavor, but, more importantly, because it was so damn fun to read, I didn't want to take a chance on missing an issue. 

If you enjoy fun comics, you should do yourself a favor and head over to Michel Fiffe's site and purchase these books now.  You won't regret it.