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The Middle Ground #40: So Kick Off Your Shoes, And Feel Some Kind of Free

by  in Comic News Comment

I’m having one of those weeks where comics just make me happy.

Sure, there’s a lot to be cynical about: 15 mini-series to tie in with Flashpoint, for example, or Marvel apparently trying to trademark a name that’s already been used by two other publishers, but they can’t break my comic-loving heart, as much as they may try. No, this is a week where everything is coming up roses, and it’s all because of two new series – unusually for me, both online.

Those who follow me on Twitter already know about my love for both Gingerbread Girl and Bucko, I’m sure. The first is the online serialization of the new graphic novel by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover, and the second a new webcomic by Jeff Parker and Erika Moen. It’s tempting to draw parallels between the two: Each is the creation of members of Portland’s Periscope Studios, Parker and Tobin have both made names for themselves in the mainstream by being completely underrated writers for Marvel’s Adventures line (as well as Agents of ATLAS, Hulk, Spider-Girl and my favorite even if no-one else agrees, Models, Inc, amongst others), and both on first viewing look like steps away from superheroes and into something approaching… what? A more down-to-earth, realistic comedy, perhaps? But that’d be unfair to both, and more importantly missing the point, which is these are really good comics, people.

Clearly, I’m getting old and jaded – If you’ve ever read anything else I’ve ever written, I’d like to think that that’s obvious – but I still can’t help but fall for something that is just alive with possibility and fun. Both strips are… I don’t know how to describe it, properly: Exciting because their creators are excited by them, if that makes sense? There’s a glee that’s evident in both, an eagerness to tell this particular story and a verve that comes out because of that, something that’s completely contagious and makes both must-reads after their very first episodes. There’s no nervousness or awkward openings; both open in such a way that you know the flavor of the story, even if you don’t know the details just yet (Fittingly, smartly, Annah from Gingerbread Girl finished the first episode with “I’m a tease“), and that alone speaks to the talent, confidence and just style that’s going on behind the scenes in both strips.

I won’t lie; it helps that both are funny and smart, and set in Portland. What can I say? I’m a sucker for my adopted town, as well as things that don’t insult my intelligence while they entertain me (I don’t have any idea where either story is going in the slightest, but I’m enjoying the journey so much that that’s a plus: I want to be surprised and, maybe most importantly, I have faith that I will be, and not in a bad way, here). And the art… Man, if there’s someone who doesn’t realize why both Coover and Moen are the kinds of cartoonists that people should be studied, adored and quietly worshipped by lesser mortals, then clearly they haven’t seen their work. Both just do stuff that jumps off the page and makes you want to live in worlds that really look like that.

Bucko only launched today; you can read it here, and Gingerbread Girl is being serialized as part of Top Shelf’s Top Shelf 2.0, and can be found here. I’m not promising that you’ll love both as much as I do, but I’ll definitely promise that they’re both well worth checking out.