2005 BELONGS TO DANIEL MERLIN GOODBREY
He’s got three names and if you don’t know them yet… you will.
On Saturday, April 9th, 2005, Daniel Merlin Goodbrey was awarded the Isotope Award for Excellence in Mini-Comics for his book “The Last Sane Cowboy.” Goodbrey, who came from England to exhibit at APE and to attend the award ceremony, mentioned that he was glad he won since he came the 5,357 miles to get his hands on the coveted prize. That’s right, he’s a Brit. The Isotope Award for Excellence in Mini-Comics winners have gone international.
Remember how a few columns back I wrote all about how I considered winning this award something akin to winning the Miss America Pageant? That’s not because Isotope Award winners have to be beautiful or be able to recite a poem from memory or to sing an inspirational song in tune or to even do something humanitarian for the world. Winning the Isotope Award is all about grabbing the spotlight, holding it for an entire year, and representing the world of mini-comics as righteously as you are able. It’s a heavy responsibility but one our previous winners have lived up to beyond all expectations and one look at the work of this year’s winner and it’s pretty apparent that Daniel Merlin Goodbrey is going to be representing for the world of mini-comics in a big, big way.
Let’s cut to the chase and talk comics, shall we?
Goodbrey’s “The Last Sane Cowboy” is something beautiful to behold. It’s not the art, the packaging, or the bells and whistles that make Goodbrey’s work so jaw-dropping. It’s the sheer potential of mad ideas at work here that will leave your head swimming and your good comic nerve-center stimulated. “The Last Sane Cowboy” is set in Goodbrey’s Unfolded Earth, the surreal land of stretched, folded, and unfurled reality and of pure, unadulterated imagination, it’s a place of fever dream high strangeness of the likes you have never seen before and it is a place that once you visit you will never want to leave. Into this off-kilter setting Goodbrey has set a western tale of a girl who must save her brother who is trapped in a fish bowl in a town called Insanity. Somehow with “Last Sane Cowboy” he manages to pack an allegory of Orpheus’ decent into Hades, a wild west yarn, the ghost of Abraham Lincoln, and a gigantic talking scorpion into the pages of a mini-comic with a sense of Grant Morrisonish fun. And most importantly of all, he also manages to entertain the hell out of you while he does it.
In town for APE and to collect one of the industry’s most coveted of prizes, Daniel Merlin Goodbrey brought with him an armload of his work, which my staff and my fellow Isotope Award judges snapped up as quickly as we were able. Goodbrey’s most recent work, “The Girl Who Talked,” which is also set in the Unfolded Earth, provides reality-TV confessional style personal accounts from the bizarre lives of three individuals living in this extraordinary world. The moments of true human emotion shine through in what otherwise might have been just fantastical stories, making this book a truly unique read. But perhaps the most gripping of all of his comics is “Mr. Nile: The Illustrated Bastard,” a metafictional comic that is a fiction about a fiction. Mr. Nile knows he is a comic characters and manages to manipulate the other characters, the panels, the outcome, and indeed even the reader themselves. Each of Goodbrey’s minis can be described by words like original, imaginative, clever, determined, inventive, eccentric, inspirational, and accomplished. All words that best describe why I love mini-comics and started this award in the first place.
A mere sampling isn’t going to show you what Daniel’s comics are truly about, because frankly, this is work that invites you to immerse yourself in a whole new world. But we’re going to visit the Unfolded Earth anyway, with yours truly acting as your tour guide through the abnormal landscape within. Here’s six pages from “Last Sane Cowboy” for your reading pleasure.
After the award ceremony, I made sure to put a copy of “Last Sane Cowboy” into the hands of one of the most influential people in the industry or “the true king of all media” as one of his clients calls him, Ken Levin. As the man responsible for First Comics, getting the “Hellboy” and “Road to Perdition” movies made, whipping the hell out of Todd McFarlane in court on behalf of Neil Gaimen, and acting as lawyer, agent, and consultant to some of the biggest names in this industry, Ken Levin is a damn good guy to know. When you’re the Isotope’s Miss America you get all the benefits that come with the position and one of those benefits is that you get me and my staff putting our know-how and industry contacts to work for you. Because while it’s a heavy responsibility to represent for mini-comic creators the world over, it’s also a beautiful thing to get to stand in that spotlight all year long. The next day when I saw Misters Goodbrey and Levin having a serious conversation over the trophy adorned table of minis I couldn’t help but be thrilled. One day out the gate and already some very, very important folks were getting to know Daniel Merlin Goodbrey’s three names.
It was going to be a damn good year.
Now I’ll confess, what blew me away was the work we found within Daniel’s mini-comics and little did I know that the bulk of Daniel’s comic work is in webcomics arena, a medium the boundaries of which he is constantly testing. But I soon came to appreciate the true scope of Goodbrey’s awesome talents. On the computer screen he presents hypnotic experimental fictions that are trapped between the definition of video game and comic strip, crafting weird and wonderful worlds in which each reader gets to experience the hyperfictional story through a sequence of events that he chooses. It took me literally hours to peruse his entire website and devour all the delightful comic newness within, and on my travels through the extraordinary world that Goodbrey creates I realized that I’d seen his work before. Back in 1999 PopImage ran a strange but interesting webcomic Goodbrey did with Alasdair Watson and readers of CBR might remember Daniel’s excellent “Sixgun” strip that ran on this very website starting back in 2001. I’d been enjoying Daniel Merlin Goodbrey’s work for years and I didn’t even know it!
Perhaps when you started reading this and you saw Daniel’s name up there in the title you thought to yourself “Daniel Merlin Goodbrey? Never heard of him,” or perhaps you were like me and had seen some of Daniel’s work and didn’t make the connection, or perhaps you’ve been aware of Daniel’s name and his work for ages. Whatever the case let me introduce Daniel Merlin Goodbrey to you for the first time all over again. Go, visit his website, read his mini-comics, and find out why I’m so exciting about this incredible talent.
For those comic industry journalistas out there who want to get their hands on Daniel’s work for the purposes of review, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, include Goodbrey’s name in the subject line and I’ll mail you a copy of his book free of charge.
… and if you haven’t learned Daniel Merlin Goodbrey’s three names yet, you might as well commit them to memory right now. Because 2005 is his year, and it’s going to be a damn good one.
TOASTING THE EISNER NOMINATIONS
Of course Mister Goodbrey taking home The Isotope Award for Excellence in Mini-Comics isn’t the only news in the world of comic book awards… because April brings the announcement of the prestigious Eisner Award Nominations.
In general the most exciting addition to the Eisners this year is the addition of the Best Digital Comic category, which is long overdue. I like seeing the talented and smart as a whip Kazu Kibuishi getting a nod for “Copper” which will melt your brain with its beauty and I also like seeing Steve Bryant getting an Eisner nomination for the utterly fucking glorious “Athena Voltaire” webstrip that any fan of great pulp adventure must read right now. Thumbs up to the Eisners for this latest addition, I can’t wait to see who brings home the gold!
That’s “in general,” but more specifically to me, the thing that I can’t help but be giddy about is that the 2005 Eisner Nomination list reads like a who’s who of creators my staff, customers, and I had events with in the past year or so here at the Isotope. Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris‘ “Ex Machina” swept the nominations with nods for Best Single Issue, Best Serialized Story, Best Continuing Series, Best New Series, Best Writer, and Best Coloring. My good pal Brian Wood has got to be beaming over the love the Eisner nominations are bestowing on his and Becky Cloonan’s “Demo” which is up for both a Best Limited Series and a Best Single Issue award, of which I don’t doubt they’ll take home at least one. Legendary scotch drinker Warren Ellis turns up the heat on the proceedings with noms for Best Serialized Story for “Planetary” and Best Single Issue for “Global Frequency,” and the always deserving “Courtney Crumrin” writer/artist Ted Naifeh is up for Best Publication for a Younger Audience. And if that wasn’t enough, this year the comics award industry has discovered what comic readers have known all along, and that’s that Kieron Dwyer deserves a standing ovation or at least a Best Cover Artist nomination for the stunning “Remains” covers he produced, while his zombie-lovin’ partner-in-horror Steve Niles is also up for the hotly contested Best Limited Series category for “30 Days of Night: Return to Barrow” and the Best Writer division.
My staff and I couldn’t be happier to see these creators names on this nomination list. So let me congratulate everyone and give a righteous tip of the Isotope scotch glass out to those Eisner nominated creators who the Isotope has had the pleasure to do events with. I thank you all for helping us celebrate your works with you in such high style, and wish you all the best of luck when it comes to judging time!
… of course, looking over this list of Eisner nominations does also make me realize how many more creators I’d like to have in for events of some sort some day. If I had my way by this time next year I’d be telling you all about events with David Lapham whose “Stray Bullets” is up Best Continuing Series, Osamu Tezuka whose “Buddha” is up for Best U.S. Edition of Foreign Material, Geoff Darrow whose “Shaolin Cowboy” is up for Best New Series, Juan Diaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido whose “Blacksad” is up for Best New Graphic Album, Mark Millar and J.G. Jones whose “Wanted” is up for Best Limited Series, Dave Gibbons whose “The Originals” is up for Best New Graphic Album, Osamu Tezuka whose amazing “Buddha” has been blowing my mind and is up for Best U.S Edition of Foreign Material, Darwyn Cooke whose beautiful “DC: The New Frontier” is up for Best Limited Series, and Eric Powell whose “The Goon” is up for a stunning four Eisner Awards: Best Single Issue, Best Continuing Series, Best Humor Publication, Best Writer/Artist – Humor categories!
Who knows? Perhaps one day I won’t be wishing I could write about events with these creators, but instead I’ll be doing just that. Stranger things have happened!
THIS WEEK THE ISOTOPE STAFF IS READING
Ian Yarborough – Bon Vivant
Mr. Nile: The Illustrated Bastard
Superman Vs The Flash TP
Supreme Power HC
Jared Guenther – Enforcer
Flaming Carrot #2
Ultimates 2 #5
The Girl Who Talked
Kirsten Baldock – Special Projects Director
The Last Sane Cowboy
James Sime – Proprietor
The Last Sane Cowboy
Adam Strange #7
Until next time…
James Sime is the proprietor of San Francisco’s Isotope – the comic book lounge. When he’s not pimping comics he likes to attack his neighbor’s ears with his music. A Peavy Foundation four string, a Korg Prophecy, and a Roland SH-09 are his weapons of choice.