If you listed every comics publisher based on how much you associate them with superhero comics, Fantagraphics would be somewhere near the bottom. The prestigious indie publisher has been around since 1976, publishing underground comics as well as beautiful collections of classic comic strips. But in spring 2017, Fantagraphics is getting in the superhero game with All Time Comics, a line of shared-universe books spearheaded by brothers Josh and Samuel Bayer.
Whenever I think about Ben Marra's comics, which is often, the one thing that always comes to mind is how well it captures the style of the VHS era. With his work on self-published titles like Night Business and OMWOT: One Man War On Terror, Marra's been doing his level best to evoke that sleazy, neon-soaked aesthetic of walking through the aisle at the local video store in the late '90s, full of boxes that haven't left my imagination in 20 years.
It makes sense, then, that when it came time to re-release Takeshi Kitano's Violent Cop, the landmark 1989 yakuza film about a policeman pushed over the edge when his sister is kidnapped, Film Movement decided to tap Marra to create a new poster to accompany the feature.
The cover of Benjamin Marra's new book Terror Assaulter: O.M.W.O.T. (One Man War On Terror) is just about perfect, at least in terms of telegraphing the interior pages. In his signature Paul Gulacy-by-way-of underground comix artists style, Marra depicts the title character gorily decapitating a bizarrely attired opponent who has a chainsaw in one hand and is firing gun with the other, while a buxom, scantily clad woman looks on, the whole tableau rendered in glaring Golden Age comics coloring.
The only way the cover could be more accurate in telling a potential reader what lies beneath it would be if the title character were simultaneously engaged in a graphic sex act.
In all the years that I've been going to comic book conventions, I'm pretty sure that Ben Marra is the only person I've ever walked up to and said, "I'd like to buy one of everything you have." His comics, and I mean this in the absolute best way possible, have the aesthetic of weird, stapled together drawings done in the back of math class once he'd finally perfected the Van Halen logo, and while that's probably not for everyone, it is exactly the VHS action movie-meets-80s black and white boom aesthetic I am into.
Now, everyone's getting the chance to hand over their hard earned cash for some of Marra's most bizarre comics. Not only is the completely bonkers Terror Assaulter: OMWOT: One Man War On Terror getting a full-length release from Fantagraphics, Marra has launched a Kickstarter for an oversized version of Blades & Lazers, printed with metallic blue and fluorescent pink ink.