Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Trade Waiting - Doc Bizarre M.D.

Doc Bizarre M.D. is a strange little book written by Joe Casey, drawn by Andy Suriano, and published by Image Comics. It continues the tradition that Casey has set in place in recent years of creating new characters and settings on which to let his ideas loose. Aiding Mr Casey is his frequent collaborator Andy Suriano, an artist who suits Casey’s frankly off kilter sensibilities to a tee, as seen in previous collaboration, Charlatan Ball. Does lightning strike twice for this pair of creators? How does it compare to Casey’s other works? Find out after the jump.
This is yet another great guest post from @taylorpithers

Doc Bizarre M.D.

Written by Joe Casey
Art by Andy Suriano

Doc Bizarre M.D. tells the story of our title character, a charismatic but slightly stupid practitioner of the weird and wonderful, and his demonic, sarcastic but ultimately correct sidekick Epoch, as they travel the world working their magic on, as the blurb on the back of the book says, anything from “monsters crippled from pneumonia to demons suffering from incontinence.” The duo are asked for help from a man based in Romania named Dr Offensteiner (a very loose analogue of Dr Frankenstein) who has a ‘monster problem’ – namely his creation is suffering from impotence and will not mate with Offensteiner’s female monster. The whole story really is one joke stretched out over fifty something pages, but thankfully the joke, and the punch line, are dark, twisted and incredibly funny.

What would potentially feel like a retread of stories past feels fresh as Casey and Suriano let the concept play purely for laughs. The dialogue between Bizarre and Epoch is consistently amusing as Epoch plays the intelligent problem solver to Bizarre’s flamboyant plaudit hogger. Once again, the idea of the star being a buffoon whilst the sidekick does all the hard work is not a new idea but due to Casey’s ability to write a charming and sometimes laugh out loud situation lets the book shine.

Rumour has it that Doc Bizarre is a failed Cartoon Network pitch and it’s easy to believe that this is the case as the book at times feels more like a first episode for a television series than a one shot comic. In fact, it could be seen as a point of annoyance as the book itself has no satisfying conclusion and, especially at the end, feels like a primer for an ongoing series. Whether or not this is the plan for the creators to revisit the concept is unsure, but this is without a doubt a world that is ripe for Casey and Suriano to visit time and time again as the concept really does lend itself to a Doctor Who (a slightly less interesting doctor than Bizarre) style adventure of the week. It is a testament to the creators involved, in particular Casey as in this point in his career he really is in a personal zeitgeist, that you are given just enough to get hooked but not enough to truly make you complete.

Joe Casey is a man that needs no introduction. His work alongside his Man of Action cohorts on Ben 10 have made it so he arguably would never have to write another comic as long as he lived but does so because he loves the medium. A lack of reliance on the Big Two to keep him in work has led to him creating some of the more interesting and strange characters in recent years and Doc Bizarre is no exception. Anyone who has read any of his articles on the web or in the back of his comics knows he loves absorbing pop culture through the ages and part of the fun of reading a Casey comic book is wondering where his head was at when he came up with his ideas. Quite possibly watching reruns of Count Duckula and Young Frankenstein.

Andy Suriano is an artist who, like most of Casey’s other collaborators, has a style that would be a hard fit for a Marvel or DC book. But the loss of the Big Two is our gain as he has an uncanny knack for drawing amusing situations, a skill that is often unappreciated but incredibly hard to nail. His panels are packed with detail but are never hard to decipher and has page compositions are beautiful. His figures are over exaggerated without being unrealistic – well as realistic as a book involving demons and monsters can be. He has a thick ink line that pushes the moodiness of the characters whilst retaining the absurd sensibility that Casey has instilled in them. A special mention must be made to the colours in this book which juxtapose Day-Glo psychedelics within a dark horror tinged world. Suriano is without a doubt a throwback to the greats of yesteryear, specifically Jack Davis, an accolade that for anyone who has experience with Davis’ work knows is one of the highest order.

Image seem to have stepped up their presentation in recent years in regards to their hard covers and once again have nailed it with Doc Bizarre M.D. The presentation of the book is beautiful with an almost spot varnish illustration over a lush purple cover. Also there is no dust jacket, arguably the worst thing about modern hardcover comic books. To add meat to an otherwise fairly slim volume, there is a mammoth amount of extras, almost as many as there are actual pages of content. Character designs by Suriano as well as thumbnails of pages are presented alongside Casey’s script to satisfy fans of the DVD extra that has almost been treated as a given in recent years. Additionally we get some nice pin ups from up and coming and established talent, which is something that seems to be the M.O. of the collected editions and hardcovers of Casey’s work.

Verdict – Buy It. Whilst there can be complaints made in regards to the amount of content in the actual book, the amount of entertainment between the covers can not be denied. Separately Casey and Suriano have a brilliant ability to portray absurd comedy but together create an alchemy that has to be seen to be believed. Casey’s dialogue is always funny and Suriano is a draughtsman of the highest order, eeking emotion out of the most ludicrous scenarios. Why it had to be so short is anyone’s guess but an ongoing series with these characters would be more than welcome on any fan’s pull list. Please guys, make it so.

This book for some strange reason really works well when read with an Alexander O’Neal album on in the background and lots of sugar.

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