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.