Humor books can be a hard sell in comics. Fans tend to pass them by in favor of more action-oriented fare, but they're out there. Of course, there have been some notable exceptions over the years. Sergio Aragonés and Mark Evanier's "Groo" had a lengthy and healthy run and humor books with a goth edge like "Lenore," "Squee" and "Johnny the Homicidal Maniac" have all found their audience. Writer Dwight L. MacPherson is hoping readers embrace his particular style of humor in "Jim Reaper: Week One."
Coming in July from Silent Devil Productions, "Jim Reaper: Week One" is a 40-page, full-color book by MacPherson and artist Mathiew Benoit. It's the first of what MacPherson hopes is one of many one-shots about the Grim Reaper's cousin's nephew's son. Go ahead, do the math in your head. You with us again? Good. See, the Grim Reaper's having a nervous breakdown, so he looks to his family to step in while he takes some much needed time off. Except the only family member Grim can find to step up is this rather timid angel of death, a reaping spirit far removed from what you usually expect from a guy who's supposed to be collecting souls for a living.
"'Jim Reaper: Week One' is an experiment, if you will," MacPherson told CBR News. "Each page is a stand-alone strip with each 'episode' following in continuity. 'Week One' is the story of how his Uncle reluctantly came to pass the scythe on to Jim for a short period to take a vacation. What ensues is Jim accepting the mantle and attempting to continue his Uncle's work. But let me tell you, Jim is absolutely horrible at it! A complete and utter coward, Jim bumbles along from one misfortune to the next. 'Week One' follows Jim on his first week on the job as he attempts to collect the souls of those whose names he finds in his Uncle's planner. Of course, finding them is not the problem. Oh no! It's the act of collecting them that gives him quite a few... problems."
The story behind the creation of the character is a simple one. One day MacPherson was talking with one of his buddies when a random thought popped into his head, "Wouldn't it be cool if the Grim Reaper had to go on vacation so he gave the job to his nephew? Only his nephew is a total wuss?" He went over the idea a bit more and suddenly "Jim Reaper" was born.
"Later, while surfing the Arcana Studio forum, I came across the art of Canadian cartoonist Mathieu Benoit and was blown away with his work. I contacted Mathieu about collaborating on a book entitled 'Jim Reaper,' told him about the character and he really loved the idea. So much so, in fact, that he designed the character the same day and sent an image of little Jimbo shortly thereafter. I was blown away! His vision of Jim was exactly as I had visualized and we formed a partnership immediately.
"Over the course of a month or so, I wrote 25 episodes and Mathieu illustrated them as he was able to. The plan was actually to try to find a publisher who would publish one strip per book, but after a plethora of 'So sorry' e-mails, my buddy Tim ("Hack/Slash," "G.I. Joe") Seeley offered to publish them in his book 'Hack/Slash: Land of Lost Toys.' This generated a lot of interest in the character, and I received a few offers for a 'Jim Reaper' book. I was utterly impressed with [Publisher] Christian Beranek due to his dedication to Silent Devil and their books. He is a member of every forum that I am a member of - which is more than a few! I sent Christian fifteen 'episodes' of the 'Jim Reaper' strip and he absolutely loved them!"
But as we pointed out earlier, humor comics are a hard sell, but MacPherson believes "Jim Reaper" should appear to fans of books like "Lenore," "Ghouly Boys," "Squee" and others. "I'm a big fan of creators like Roman Dirge, Christopher and Jhonen Vasquez," said MacPherson. "All three of these guys have a great sense of humor and have really done an excellent job of translating the humor of popular culture into a form that is so widely enjoyed by the younger crowd-- and older crowd alike. I would say that their work has paved the way for 'Jim Reaper,' to be honest. I believe that fans of the aforementioned books will find the same brand of humor rampant in the pages of our book. 'Jim Reaper' fits right in line with what these talented creators are doing-- low-brow, dark humor for intelligent younger readers which can also be enjoyed by anyone from any walk of life. There is a market for smart, dark comedy and the success of the books we have mentioned is positive proof of the fact. I think 'Lenore' fans will fall in love with 'Jim Reaper.' They may even wish to find a 'Jim Reaper' baby doll t-shirt the next time they are in Hot Topic - and we're working on that, too."
When the strip appeared in the pages of "Hack/Slash: Land of Lost Toys," MacPherson simultaneously published each strip on his Web site as they became available in the comic. The decision turned out to be a good one, as it helped gain the attention of Silent Devil and soon there after a book was in the making.
MacPherson's been working at this writing thing for a while, back to when he was 10 years old and wrote of his family's trip to Canada from Florida. His Grandfather sent the journal to an Ontario newspaper who published the article and a writer was born.
Through high school MacPherson worked on his writing, eventually landing a job as a sports reporter his freshman year in college. "Being a bit of an idealist as a young man - well, that hasn't changed - I left college to join the Army. 14 years later, here I am - a disabled veteran, full-time college student and single father of three great little boys - and writer of comic books."
"Jim Reaper" actually leads into what's next for MacPherson, the new book "Lil' Hellions." "'Lil' Hellions' stars Jim Reaper and some of his friends: Louie and Lucy (the twin son and daughter of Satan) and Boog (son of the Boogeyman)," explained MacPherson. "'Lil' Hellions: A Day at the Zoo' will be released in September and features interior art by Mathieu and a phenomenal cover by Jack ('Lions, Tigers and Bears') Lawrence. 'Lil' Hellions' is also being published by Silent Devil Productions."
"In addition to the Jim Reaper spin-off, I have two books which will be released this year from Dead Dog Entertainment. The first is entitled 'Abra Cadaver: The Afterlife Adventures Of Harry Houdini,' which features art by the mysterious and talented Mr. Exes and a cover by the amazing David ("Devil's Rejects," Rob Zombie's 'Living Dead Girl') Hartman. Fans of good ol' pulp/horror/action-adventure/mystery should definitely check it out. If you dig 'The Goon,' 'Hellboy' and 'League of Extraordinary Gentlemen' (among others), you should really enjoy the book. The first of four issues will appear in the next Previews along with the solicit for 'Jim Reaper: Week One' - which is exceedingly exciting to me!
"The second book is entitled 'Morbid Milton Saves Scarytown.' This is a three issue mini-series which will be debuting around the same time as 'Hellions.' Readers of Dead Dog Entertainment's 'Cryptic Magazine' will catch a first glimpse of Milton in the pages of 'Cryptic Magazine' #2, which has already been solicited in Previews and is available for pre-order (MAR06 3626). 'Milton' is illustrated by the talented and equally morbid Bob Byrne. Bob's an Irish artist with several published works under his belt and let me tell you, his art is amazing! Fans of 'Lenore,' 'Johnny the Homicidal Maniac,' 'Ghouly Boys' and others are going to absolutely love this book. As it says on the 'Morbid Milton' banner, 'Toys and cadavers, giant robots, laser rays and jet packs!' I mean, what's not to love about that?"