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The Amazing Joy Buzzards Vol. 1
Review by David E. Miller

Amazing Joy Buzzards vol. 1 cover
The Amazing Joy Buzzards Vol. 1

Mark Andrew Smith
Dan Hipp

Image Comics
Softcover Collection
Publish Date
July 7, 2005
Cover Price

Before the story even begins, writer Mark Andrews Smith and artist Dan Hipp are generous enough to start us off with a disclaimer in the Amazing Joy Buzzards Vol. 1 (which collects issues 1-4 of the series). Right off the bat, they want to establish their flaws. They are as surprised as anyone that their first effort has met with such success and recognize that their tadpole effort has grown into a frog. These two have tons of ideas and they want the reader to share in their unbridled youthful exuberance. There is so much going on that reading this graphic novel feels like trying to manage a kid with ADD. You want to strap the story down and let it settle for a moment so that you can get a handle on it, but instead, it keeps biting your arm and knocking over furniture.

Amazing Joy Buzzards BiffThe story at its simplest is about a rock band called The Amazing Joy Buzzards (or AJB for short). The three members of the band are Biff, the vacant minded lead-singer and focus of the ladies, Stevo, the agile bass player who communicates in images(a creative highpoint), and Gabe, the brains of the group who lacks skills with the females. The group also magically employs the services of a mythical genie that has taken the form of a donut loving Mexican wrestler. The genie can be summoned at any time by the group chanting “Go El Campeon Go!” However, Smith and Hipp wisely employ El Campeon, not as an invented Deux Ex Machina, but rather as a welcome, willfully flamboyant, ass-kicking compatriot.

Though the group is portrayed as a legendary rock band, after reading the story, it seems so by default. The group, though recognized by countless fans, only perform twice in the four issue collection. The group spends much more time battling B-movie horror-flick zombies and creatures than they ever do on stage. Heck, they spend more time in Hollywood hanging out with actors and acting in a Roger Corman style flick and fighting monsters than anything else. Also, their fame is much more indicative of a pre-teen boy band with screaming girls, reminiscent of old Beatles footage, than the type of rapscallion behavior typified by a true rock band, rampant with sex, drugs, and booze (all of which are noticeably absent). No, this story is much more about the love of the genre.

Clearly Smith and Hipp were raised on Elvira-hosted Friday Night Fright movies and their predecessors. Their passion and creativity lies in conveying how much fun that they are having doing this. There are so many great gems that are buried throughout. There is a satire on Uncle Ben, Powers, Saturday morning cartoons, James Bond, manga, and every other nugget of pop culture that television raised us with. The enjoyment is not so much in following the story as it is in seeing these post-adolescents play with all of the icons that they grew up with. Add all of that to kicking a little zombie butt, an underlying love story, and a few backdoor Hollywood antics, and you can’t help but become a groupie.

Amazing Joy Buzzards villainsThe art reminds me most of what I have seen done for the band, The Gorillaz. I definitely see the manga influence that also runs deep in the artwork of Skootie Young and Paul Pope. It is clear that Jack Kirby has been a tremendous influence on Smith and Hipp as well. Hipp regales us with Fantastic Four style chapter delineation splashes and a Fantasticar-esque flying spacetub the AJB use on one of their adventures. As noted in the disclaimer, we are able to see Hipp’s development as this four issue series progresses. The lettering is key here as well, in fact, it is practically a supporting character. Capitalized proclamations throughout blur the line between 50s horror movie trailers and comic. There is a strong design presence which is stunningly executed throughout.
Bonus Features
Image never seems to disappoint with bonus features in a trade. However, I do not think that anyone could have stopped these creators from throwing in added bonuses because they clearly are enjoying themselves so much that they don’t want it all to end (see ending for details). Owners of the original four issues will want to check this out because there are new story pages, character development art, and an all-star pin-up section. You will not be able to put this collection down unsatisfied.
Final Words

I truly enjoyed reading this story. Not necessarily for the story itself, but for all of the efforts that went into making it. I enjoyed the ride. Throughout the story, there are minor characters that Smith spends way too much time giving background to, but have to be appreciated for the effort. Nothing was done half-assed and each page featured a little joke, a cultural reference, or a detailed slaughter-fest that kept me anticipating what would happen next. I think that it is awesome that Image gave these two guys a shot. The future of this series is in very capable hands and it is fantastic that these guys have been given a platform to prove that they deserve to be doing this. Based on the story alone, I would recommend this graphic novel because it is so creative and outside of the beaten path, but because of everything else described, I would have to give it a…

Highly Recommended

David E. Miller (email) has been involved in the comic book industry for almost 20 years. He started out attending Serendipity Comic Book Conventions in Suburban Philly and befriending top independent creators like Reggie Byers(Shuriken for Comico). He parlayed his industry expertise into recruiting the Honorary Board for the New York City Comic Book Museum. His highest related achievement was sitting down with Stan Lee in his studio office for an hour talking history. His lowest was selling off most of his collection in High School.
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