Collected from local and national writers, Oddgod may single-handedly change the way you look at comic books. From the sexually charged and morally challenged female pirates of Ben Shannon’s “The Rescue” to John Ownby’s satiric look at superheroes, Oddgod’s anthologies are filled with stories that reflect adult sensibilities.
“To say that comics are just for kids,” says Patrick Godfrey, owner of Velocity Comics on Grace Street and co-founder of Oddgod Press, “is to say that movies are just for kids. That kind of attitude just doesn’t apply anymore. And it really hasn’t applied for the last twenty or so years.”
Godfrey, an aspiring illustrator, founded Oddgod with writer Jesse Bausch in early 2002. Bausch had been writing scripts for comics and met Godfrey by collaborating on a Web site called nextcomics.com. After they finished the online project, they decided to pursue a print version and soon realized a huge number of Richmonders were writing their own comics.
Without even knowing it, Godfrey and Bausch had tapped into an artistic reserve that had gone undiscovered in Richmond. “I really had no idea how much talent there was in Richmond,” Godfrey said. “I would imagine that per capita Richmond has got to be way up there as far as talented people that really want to pursue comics professionally. Much of it is fostered by VCU’s art school. Around 80 percent of the people in the first Oddgod anthology [July 2002] came through VCU’s school of the arts.”
Since its first issue, Oddgod Press slowly began to build up speed. Soon it was able to attract writers and illustrators from outside the Richmond area. In addition to two more comic anthologies, Oddgod published a full-length graphic novel, “Zebediah the Hillbilly Zombie Redneck Bites the Dust” (Oddgod Press, $10.95) by award-winning cartoonist Scott Mills. This year Oddgod has five to eight more projects lined up for publication.
“The focus is on long term work now,” Godfrey says. “We’re moving away from the anthologies because they’re just not as financially viable. The goal has always been for us to produce serials and stand-alone graphic novels.”
Oddgod’s publications are now nationally distributed and span the genre gap between science fiction and horror. “I would say everything we do has a real pulp sensibility in terms of subject matter. … with a modern viewpoint attached to it,” Godfrey said. “The combination of words and pictures in comics give the artist nearly limitless creative potential. And that’s what we try to explore.” S
For those interested in checking out graphic novels, here are a few recommendations:
“Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth” (Pantheon Books, $17.95) written and illustrated by Chris Ware in a highly refined style that recalls the earliest comic strips. Focusing on four generations of defeated men, Chicago’s Ware tells the story of abandonment and despair. The similar histories of the Corrigan clan reflect the importance of Jimmy’s opportunity, at age 36, to meet his father for the first time.
“Sleeper: Out in the Cold” (DC Wildstorm, $17.95) written by Ed Brubaker and illustrated by Sean Phillips. Holden Carver is a deep undercover agent in this illustrated Soprano-esque graphic novel. Holden’s infiltration of Tao’s criminal organization is jeopardized when the only person who knows about his double agent status lapses into a coma after an assassination attempt.
“Blankets: An Illustrated Novel” (Top Shelf Productions, $29.95) written and illustrated by Craig Thompson. This graphic novel explores the feelings of friendship and separation created by the author’s Christian Fundamentalist upbringing. As Thompson’s love for Raina grows, he begins to develop a sense of independence separate from his family’s belief system. —F.W.D.
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