Action Figures #1 gets my vote for the most creative comic book cover of 2006. It shows our intrepid author/illustrator as a real action figure, Richard Marzelak, encased in typical, plastic packaging trying to punch his way out. With an introduction to our character in this manner, what’s it like on the inside?
A few years ago I watched Harvey Pekar’s American Splendor. Although I’ve been collecting comics for almost 40 years, reading the stories of day-to-day living never really appealed to me. They seemed extremely mundane as compared to the multi-cosmic excesses of megalomaniacal Little Caesars trying to thrash XYZ Universes in order to remake in their own, glorious image. But, after having read comics for almost 40 years (have I mentioned that I’ve read comics for almost 40 years?) my eyes often wander from capes and cowls to something…different. In the wake of newly expanded and freely experimental mindset, I’ve started buying books that don’t begin with an “X” or a “Mighty” or “Indomitable” or some other hyperactive adjective.
“Action Figure #1” begins in the not-too-distant future (uh-oh, a “cosmic” beginning) whereupon newfound homeowners find a box of journals, day-to-day notes and photos of Richard Marcej. This is a rather inventive way to introduce a character justifying a closer look at his daily travails and victories. We find that Richard is an artist struggling to do well in life…but, he’s instead, dealt a few bad hands. The artwork and writing beautifully articulate Richard’s life. The choice of black and white (while possibly chosen for strictly financial reasons) perfectly frame his life as nothing otherworldly or spectacular but, still moving and impacting, nonetheless. The opening sequence is reminiscent of some of the straighter, understated artwork of Mad Magazine’s Don Martin. When the book takes a look inside the journals of Richard’s life, the artwork morphs into line work reminiscent of the great Richard Howell. Marcej is a great storyteller with beautiful artwork that serves to keep the story grounded in reality.
“Action Figure #1” shows us a glimpse into the life of Richard Marzelak. As comparatively mundane as this book may seem when placed next to the Big Two’s spandex “Flavor of the Month” titles, Marcej shows us that true life can be just as fascinating, if we just take a look and pay attention. I highly recommend this book!
Writing Rating: (9.5/10)
Artistic Rating: (9.5/10)
Overall Rating: (9.5/10)