Bloom issue #1.
Writer/Layouts/Colours and Letters – Ted Sikora.
Pencils/Inks and Layouts – Butch Mapa.
Inking – Chris Arieswendha.
Flatting – Anthony Cuizon.
Published by Hero Tomorrow Comics.
Full Colour – 40 pages story.
The Story – This story is set in 1969 and partly over the same weekend as Woodstock was happening elsewhere from the 15th August – 18th August. Ramsey is a comic book artist who pays the rent with a mechanics job at a local Cleveland garage. He’s planning a new comic about a female villain who is covered in tattoos. His studio is adorned with sketches of demons and heroes and his often too straight-laced girlfriend doesn’t totally understand his future plans.
Whilst at a gig he is entranced by a hippy free spirited and gorgeous woman called Regina. He approaches her and asks to draw her as the model for his upcoming comic. The two eventually meet up for the session and he photographs her as they hike deeper and deeper into the woods. What will happen? What will they discover? Is there a chemistry growing between them?
The Review – This is the first issue in a wider series of comic books that I recently discovered on Kickstarter. I had a dig into the publisher’s back catalogue and discovered that the Regina character in this issue is in fact a character in the longer running APAMA series. But don’t worry, you don’t need to have read the previous books to make sense of this new one.
This crowd-funder has a series of covers, some more successful than the others. The one featured at the head of this review by Bong Dazo (that’s a helluva name to call a kid?) and Ted Sikora is the cover that caught my eye and had me clicking on the link but I would also recommend the faux sixties Romance Comics cover by Benito Gallego and Ted Sikora for its pure fun, and the fact that it has speech bubbles! There’s also a ‘Serpent Virgin Variant’ which has some photo-realistic faces starring out at the reader? It’s a little much but I’m guessing that these are the faces of some of the backers?
The story is especially evocative of the age it is set within. You can feel the atmosphere of emotional and spiritual freedom in the air. Ramsey is the everyman in many ways but also the talented artist looking to push the boundaries of his craft through a possibly magically erotic experimentation. I’m not certain where this story is going but I’m guessing that the intentions of the previously tethered artist will be his undoing? His vulnerability being that need to feel his work …at moments almost literally!
I found that the first issue lacked action and is honestly quite a slow burn. Once I settled into that rhythm it became less bothersome and the script takes it time over a period of some thirty odd pages to build up a rapport between Ramsey and Regina. I became ever more tense to the reasoning behind this as they explored further into the deep woods. It has a payoff which is both inevitable but also not what I was expecting after the somewhat dream inspired build up. This first issue also foreshadows like a MoFo as Regina changes costumes, adopts different emotionally resonant poses and sexually charges the environment she inhabits. Ramsey is her companion, suitor, and artist and she is his muse, actress and canvas. I came to the realisation that I shouldn’t be so worried about rushing through the panels and breathe in the interactions. ‘What’s the rush?’ I heard my inner hippy whisper.
The art is great and stands proud with a broad canvas of colours that highlight the hippy-dippy decade as well as the forest around and over their heads. Sikora and Mapa capture the cool beauty of Regina and gift her that coexistence of a 1969 hippy dancer and an out of time Romany Gipsy. She is ‘Wild, Raw and Free’ as she is described early in the comic throughout the pages and you sense that she is beyond the Lysergic times and more of a Priestess or a witch. Now that I know about her other appearances in this line of comics I fully expect a diabolical origin story to erupt in issue #2. Mappa steps up to the plate in the facial acting stakes as the writing requires the model to emote and that Ramsey needs to show elements of wide-eyed innocence. I would compare the style to perhaps an artist like Mike Norton in that it is solidly configured exhibiting ability to draw convincing people and surroundings but also packs in the cartooning character.
In retrospect now as I think back on my reading experience I would like to have read this as a single story, perhaps in a collection or as a graphic novel. It cuts off a little too bluntly with a moment that could only very loosely be described as a cliffhanger. But the journey to that point and the personality interplay made the page to page an enjoyable experience. I have signed up for the second issue of what is looking like a four issue mini-series and it is coming to Kickstarter very soon and would recommend it as a book to follow.
Many thanks for reading.