Cold Cut Distribution's Feature Spotlight #11 - November 1995

 [ page from Rare Bit Fiends ]

Rare Bit Fiends

Publisher:	King Hell Press
Story & Art:	Rick Veitch
Cvr Price:	$2.95 
Frequency:	bi-monthly


There really isn't much of a storyline to Rare Bit Fiends - it is essentially Rick Veitch's Dream Journal, and as such mostly contains short bits detailing Rick's dreams, which like most dreams are not particularly narrative. But in recent issues, he has begun a series-within-his-dreams he's calling the Pocket Universe, where the dreams are fairly interconnected and recurring characters include Stephen Bissette and Bob Dylan.

One of the highlights of the series, though, is the "guest dreams" in the back of every issue. Rick publishes anywhere from two to ten pages of other folks' dream art and dream stories, occasionally even drawing it himself for those whose talent lies more in scripting. Contributors range from Stephen Bissette to Neil Gaiman, to a panel by M'Oak, to a page from James Owen, and on and on, endlessly fascinating glimpses into the brains of dozens and dozens of great comic writers and artists.  [ page from Rare Bit Fiends ]

Writing Review:

Early issues feel more disjointed than later ones, since only recently has Rick begun telling longer dream vignettes. In early issues, most dream-scenes last a single page and don't connect at all with later dreams - feeling much like each page is a separate night's dream. Later issues flow more smoothly as scenes last two to four pages and tend to meld into future scenes, with only an occasional abrupt scene change.

Art Review:

Rick's art has stayed as strong as ever and his work on RBF is some of his finest - especially the earlier books, where it seems he took more time on each page. In a book where occasionally resemblance is critical to the story, Rick manages portraits and caricatures with a deft hand; there's no need to specifically name Neil Gaiman beyond "Neil," as anyone who has met him (and quite a few who haven't) will instantly recognize him from Rick's rendition. Stephen Bissette, Bob Dylan, Dave Sim... none of them need to be named due to the great linework. Great narrative flow as well, especially considering the lack of logical referents to lead the reader into future scenes - many times he depends on his art to express entire plot points.


RBF is a bizarre book, unlike anything else on the market. Fans of non-fiction stories, biographies, psychology, and of course dreaming, will find this a rewarding and intriguing series with endless insight and potential. And dedicated fans of the many creators who both appear and contribute to the series will need these books to complete their collections.

If you like Rare Bit Fiends, take a look at:

 [ page from Wolff & Byrd ]

Wolff & Byrd

Publisher:	Exhibit A Press	
Story & Art:	Batton Lash
Cover Price:	$2.50
Frequency:	Quarterly.
(Review by Cathy Stroup)


Just suppose for a moment that you are an average, middle-class bog monster... or perhaps you're a normal guy but your house becomes haunted every 28 days, or maybe your beloved dog returns from the grave and the neighbors cry "foul" and slap a lawsuit on you. Who you gonna call? Alanna Wolff & Jeff Byrd are prepared to not only believe you but to represent you in a court of law. If even the odor of the supernatural enters your reality, they are on the case defending you against the local Prosecutor, Burke Larson (who does Hamilton Burger proud).

Writing Review:

This series (regular issues and the collection of issues 1-4) is a light- hearted pun-filled poke at the legal system and the idea that lawyers will take on literally any kind of a case. The storyline is handled well as the plots flow directly over the tons of puns that litter the word balloons. If you have ever wondered who zombie employees would get as counsel in a workers comp case give it a go! The stories are easy to follow and have an investigative "dodge the bad guys and solve the case" type of feel to them, although one might wish for a little more punch and a little less "matter-of- factness" about the obscure cases these two lawyers take on, as well as an occasional sidebar. As it is, we tend to see the "highlights" of the case with few subplots.
 [ panels from Wolff & Byrd ]

Art Review:

No superheroes here! Well, at least not yet - Alanna and Jeff haven't had to defend one yet. The art is clean and well detailed with interesting backgrounds and page layouts. You have probably seen Batton's work in CBG (the ongoing Wolff & Byrd strips) and perhaps even from the Brooklyn Paper (as early as 1979 for those of you lawyer types out there).

Batton's work is nicely-varied in depth and tone, with straightforward renditions of both humans and... non-humans, which bring to mind the clean lines of 50's horror. Batton's clearly having fun with the art in the series, playing with camera angles and shading, and it shows.

Sales Overview:

The Wolff & Byrd comics are different from the strips which appear regularly in CBG - these are neither reprints nor retellings of those stories, but brand-new book-length tales of legal wrangling - your customers may not be aware that if they like the CBG strip, these comics are more and different adventures of the same characters. Batton also makes use of the full page in the book, where in the strip he is necessarily limited in scope.

This series would likely appeal to all your customers who have ever had to deal with a lawyer as well as those who know them (they make great gifts for those attorney offices too!). Try this puppy out with fans of the old ECs and Mads, fans of the Gladstones and Lethargic and Soulsearchers & Co (especially Soulsearchers). Anyone who has a funny bone with a yen for the subtle smile in place of the surprise guffaw, and a taste for the slightly strange should give it a try.

WARNING: This book may be too punny for your own good!

If you like Wolff & Byrd, take a look at:

 [ page from Swan ]


Publisher:	Little Idylls
Story & Art:	Mike Moreu
Cover Price:	$2.95	
Frequency:	Bi-monthly.


As a widowed queen begins to try to consolidate her power over her kingdom, her assistant hires two jester/minstrels for a banquet in her honor. But when a captured girl from the "primitive" Paxis tribe recognizes Swan, one of the minstrels performing at the banquet, she calls him by the name "Uxmal Penque", which causes Swan to begin behaving very oddly, and causes the queen's guards to get overexcited.

This leads to Swan being jailed while his partner, Hampus, attempts to free him with the help of a lovestruck teen named Galen hanging about the court. Meanwhile, the captured Paxis girl is hoping to meet Uxmal Penque again, for he is her only chance of escape -- and the queen is attempting to recover from the public embarrassment of the ruined banquet and bolster public opinion of herself.  [ page from Swan ]

Writing Review:

A complex and thoroughly engrossing fantasy story set in a medieval kingdom, with a varied and fascinating cast of characters. As the story progresses, mysteries deepen even as we begin to find out more about the stars - what exactly did happen to Swan to make his neck so disfigured? Why does the Paxis girl know him by another name? And what is the queen's Admiral up to?

Meanwhile, solid and occasionally hilarious comic relief livens the tale - though the occasional use of anachronism-as-humor is jarring, the funny characters and little situational jokes make this a funny, enjoyable, involving book.

Art Review:

Although somewhat cartoony, Mike's artwork lends itself to a fantasy series. His castles have sturdy stonework, his doors solid planking. His pen is a bit thick, and the occasional foray into cartoonish distortion of features can be jolting, but by and large the style seems to work for me. The first issue it felt somewhat odd, but by the second I was completely hooked.

Storytelling-wise, Mike tends to stick to the tried-and-true with only occasional forays into the daring and unexplored. His standard storytelling work holds up well - his forays result in a mixed bag, occasionally clear and exciting movement, other times confusing sequences that leave one wondering precisely what went on. But as these last only a page or so and the basic gist of the events is clear, these are easily-pardoned points, and the basic character work is solid and interesting - expressions really shine through on many occasions.

Sales Overview:

Swan is yet another intriguing fantasy series in what seems to be a continuing stream entering the market. But it's hard to imagine saturation occurring when there are fewer than a dozen good fantasy series being published today. And here's another.

This will sell to readers of Replacement God, Circle Weave, and Thieves & Kings. Swan has one disadvantage sales-wise: its covers are less than spectacular, usually being somewhat garish in color and looking something like blown-up panels. It's unlikely the cover will sell the book, so it requires more of a proactive push from the retailer: either a sign drawing people's attention to it, or racking Swan next to RG or T&K with a note that here's another quality fantasy series.

If you like Swan, take a look at:

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