Friday, February 13, 2009

Feud: Less 'funny-animal' than Uncle Scrooge, funnier than the Unfunnies.

I've been feeling a bit lazy and listless this week, so why not a long look at a book that just had to be a ton of work: Mike Baron and Mark Nelson's book for Epic's Heavy Hitters line, Feud. Why do I say a ton of work? Because they designed four major and distinct races for a four-issue mini.

On a world that may or may not be a far-future earth (it probably is, a Teenage Fanclub CD is one of the relics found in the first issue) long after man is dead and/or gone; four major races struggle for dominance, or at least co-existence. There are the Stokers, builders and motorheads; the Skids, sea-dwelling fishermen; the Grunts, strong plodding farmers; and the Kites, pterodactyl-like artists. While all the races are evolved enough to talk, use tools, and so forth; they are still animal enough to remember in the back of their heads when they used to eat each other; which makes getting along problematic at best.

The series opens with the royal heir of the Skids kidnapped by the Kites, who frame the Stokers for it because they're sick of the Stokers' industrial furnaces polluting their air. War begins, alliances are formed, treachery abounds; and there is more swearing, drug use, and sex then you'd expect: kinda sad that Feud was more mature than X-Men.

Looking back at it now, it almost sounds like one of those convention pitches or new series proposals that veer straight into horror-story territory: a writer or artist will try to sell a world that has sixty pages of backstory before the plot even starts. But Baron can make it happen, or enough of it to keep the ball rolling. Even within the individual races, the characters all have their own voices, and it doesn't hurt that I had already been a fan of Baron's for Nexus, Badger, Punisher, and so on. Moreover, Nelson's art helps a ton: he had previously done Dark Horse's first Aliens comics. All of the creatures are designed with a lot of personality, and a lot of body language.

In one clever bit, the Kites try to form an alliance with the Grunts. Now, the Kites are faster thinkers, almost hyperactive; while the Grunts are a bit more...steadfast would be the polite way to put it. So, the Kites send their slowest guy--not in smarts, but a little off--who then has to deal with the metabolically challenged fastest of the Grunts.
I did a little searching on Ask Cerebra, and didn't find Feud, the series, anywhere. (You will find a lot for "Feud," though.) It was released in 1993, with a pile of other books in the Heavy Hitters subset, and I don't think any of those went on to become classics. That was Marvel/Epic's go at creator-owned books, and while I enjoyed Midnight Men, Lawdog, Spyke (another Mike Baron book) and Untamed; this was also when Marvel was flooding the hell out of the comic book market. Even indie books like the Trouble with Girls or the Sam & Max Show were brought under the Marvel umbrella, and between the regular line and all their subsidiaries, Marvel was cranking out almost a hundred titles a month. (I'm pretty sure about that, but you can look that up yourself!) That, of course, was way more than even the loyalist Marvel Zombie (shuffles feet, looks away) would buy or that the market could support; and quality was all over the place: the ship may or may not have been in great shape at the time, but that's when it really started taking on water.

(By the way, even though I'm guessing the print run was higher than for any other book they had in the indies, I've never even seen a copy of the Sam & Max Show. And I'd really like to. I have the old Sam and Max trade, and it's one of my favoritest things ever. The only Marvel stuff I saw them in was a writeup in Marvel Age, which totally sold me on the book, which was nowhere to be found in the glut of Marvel UK, Razorline, who knows what else.)

We'll look at one more bit from this one after the jump. Partly because it's mildly gross, and partly because it took me so long to install the damn thing, I'm damn well gonna use it...

Ron, the chief wrench of the Stokers, admits early on that while interdependent, he sure as hell can't stand the other races. "It's an atavistic thing," he says. And during a meeting with the queen of the Skids, he proves himself right:

If this sort of thing happened "accidentally" more often, I'd totally watch more C-SPAN. From Feud #1-4, written by Mike Baron, art by Mark A. Nelson, letters by Willie Schubert, and colors by Ray Murtaugh. Flip through it if you can find it, won't you?


Nick and Justin said...

Wow, I really, really want to read this series now...I'd never even heard of it.

By the way, thanks a lot for adding us to your blogroll!

SallyP said...

I've never even heard of this, but I have to admit that it sounds pretty good. I adored Baron on Badger and Nexus.

I remember The Trouble with Girls! That was hilarious. Short-lived, but hilarious.