- Paperback: 208 pages
- Publisher: Burlyman Entertainment; First edition (3 December 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1932700404
- ISBN-13: 978-1932700404
- Package Dimensions: 25.7 x 16.8 x 1.3 cm
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
The Shaolin Cowboy Paperback – 3 Dec 2014
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About the Author
The COMPLETE BURLYMAN SERIES! Over 200 pages! Ready for the HOLIDAYS! OVERSTUFFED with EXTRAS, featuring: MOEBIUS (JEAN GIRAUD), MIKE MIGNOLA, KEVIN NOWLAN, RICARDO DELGADO, SCOTT GUSTAFSON, and JOHN SEVERIN. You'll want to SEE the Cowboy confront his nemesis, KING CRAB, grapple hand to fin with a GREAT WHITE, and dance with an army of the UNDEAD! It's a BUDDY PICTURE with a BODY COUNT! Collecting SHAOLIN COWBOY #1-7.
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
It's about time. After leaving animation for comics, Geof Darrow debuted with a French album called 'Bourbon Thret'. It collected his short stories for various bande dessinee periodicals, and featured an unlikely hero who would later be known as 'The Shaolin Cowboy'. His purist approach to the 'ligne claire' style and ridiculously detailed, meticulously plotted compositions made him something of an artist's artist, and collaborations with the late, great Moebius and Frank Miller followed. 'Hard Boiled' and 'The Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot' were -- in retrospect -- gifts of a sort from Miller, and tokens of his esteem. Darrow was unknown to North American audiences, while Miller was already a comics giant, in the midst of his now classic 'Sin City'. Miller's respect for Darrow's prodigious talents prompted him to use Darrow as the physical model for the silent, deadly cannibal named 'Kevin'. With 'Hard Boiled', he imagined the most outrageously violent, darkly humorous and visually complex science fiction story possible; something that would challenge and showcase Darrow's abilities to maximum effect. It was not a challenge Darrow took lightly, and it took over three years to complete. But the results were f***ing spectacular.
'Hard Boiled' and 'The Big Guy...' featured the most intricately rendered, beautifully imagined line-work in comics history. Miller's name alone was enough to generate significant interest, but Darrow was unquestionably the star of the show. 'Hard Boiled' in particular was an eyeball-melting extravaganza of choreographed comics chaos -- Miller's story was an inspired blend of 'Blade Runner', 'Total Recall' and 'Robocop', with the straight-faced satire and violence of Verhoeven multiplied exponentially. Dark Horse published European-format oversized albums collecting each series, with European-style painted coloring that 'clear-line' art is made for. They also set a precedent with something that seems almost typical now, releasing two 12-inch wide by 16-inch tall black-and-white collections: 'Big Damn Hard Boiled' and 'King-Size Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot'. Anticipating the stunning Sunday Press reprints of 'Little Nemo in Slumberland' and IDW's excellent 'Artist Edition' facsimiles, they were black and white reproductions of Darrow's original art, without any of the dialogue or captions obscuring details. The multiple editions and formats were unusual for the time, before comics had committed to collected editions and claimed their place on bookstore shelves (it's ironic, considering how late this volume is, and how difficult the material it collects was to find -- in any format -- for several years; I bought the French language hardcovers just before the price jumped, since the comics still available were far too expensive; the French albums are nicely produced and oversized, but reprint only the first six comics, missing the final seventh issue).
Then, not much happened. Reports of 'Shaolin Cowboy' started in the late nineties, and Darrow did the occasional cover or pin-up. Most of his efforts, however, were devoted to his conceptual designs for 'The Matrix'. His friendship with the Wachowski brothers led to various film-related projects, but 'Shaolin Cowboy' remained an enigmatic title with a perpetual 'coming soon' status. When issue number 1 finally appeared in 2005, it was published by Burleyman Entertainment, the Wachowski's boutique label, established primarily for the purposes of showcasing the work of Darrow and other Wachowski favorites like Steve Skroce. Burleyman released seven issues of 'Shaolin Cowboy', and six of them were collected in three hardcover albums in Europe. The decade-long gap between 'The Big Guy (...)' and 'Shaolin Cowboy' had not diminished his illustrative prowess, earning Darrow yet another Eisner Award for 'Best Penciller/Inker'. The silent master of Kung Fu -- a.k.a. 'Bourbon Thret' -- had returned after twenty years, this time astride an incredibly verbose talking donkey. The story is a surrealistic pastiche of Hong Kong action flick, the comedic fantasy of John Carpenter's 'Big Trouble in Little China', and post-apocalyptic zombie horror; there is no real 'plot' to speak of, just a series of hyper-kinetic battle scenarios that recall the cinematic celebration of violence in Tarantino's 'Kill Bill'. The comparisons to film are intentional; the pacing in 'Shaolin Cowboy' has the movie-like momentum of Japanese manga, reading almost like story-boards.
Unfortunately, Burlyman Entertainment was (and is) a part-time project for the Wachowski's, and the 'Shaolin Cowboy' comics didn't get the promotion or distribution they deserved. The notion that the work of an artist as important as Geof Darrow could languish in out-of-print limbo for several years is insane, and testifies to the low priority the Wachowski's placed on comics. Burlyman might have been a way of placing their proprietary stamp on another person's intellectual property; the growing number of comic-related film adaptations has led to an influx of small press titles associated with actors, directors and producers, following the example of very successful comic-book-writers-turned-Hollywood-heavyweights like Mark Millar* and Robert Kirkman. Too many titles have become film pitches, as if the entire medium is just the Movie Industy's developmental candy store. I didn't really need much excuse to dislike them after 'Speed Racer', but dumping over 200 pages of finished Geof Darrow artwork into a black hole for seven years is grounds for war (especially since it amounted to something like 30-35% of his comic-book output to that point). Well, Burleyman has finally collected the seven-issue series, and released it a couple of months before Dark Horse unleash their collection of his recent four-issue 'Shaolin Cowboy' tale. After a long drought, it's a superabundance of immaculately rendered carnage. Pick up the Burlyman trade paper-back while you can, because there's no telling when a second printing will appear.
My suspicions about Burlyman's priorities are confirmed by the format. It's a nicely made standard-issue trade paperback, printed on glossy stock that shows off the details nicely. But it's small. It's the usual 7 x 10 inch book, and the famous Darrow details are not given their due. This should have been AT LEAST a 9 x 12-inch hardcover, and preferably a 12 x 16-inch deluxe hardcover beast of the kind Humanoids do so well. Come to think of it, why didn't Humanoids publish this book? Darrow was hand-picked as the successor to Moebius by the late legend himself, and his only serious threat as "Heir of Jean 'Moebius' Giraud" is Ladronn, or perhaps Das Pastoras. His time spent working in film follows an eerily similar course: Darrow's essential role developing the Matrix trilogy echoes the work Moebius did on Blade Runner and Alien. Now he needs to find his own Jodorowsky-type partnership, and produce his own 'Incal'... because Wachowski does not equal Jodorowsky. What about an Aronofsky? 'Noah' kind of sucked, but he's got a '-sky' and a propensity for mystical, Jodo-rific SF epics. AND he's already embraced his inner Jodo by collaborating with artists Kent Williams and Niko Henrichon on the beautiful graphic novel versions of 'The Fountain' and 'Noah', the latter of which was far better than the film, IMO. Until such an unlikely partnership begins, however, there's 320-pages of premium Darrow hitting the bookstores, and I think it's fair to say that 'Shaolin Cowboy' is Geof Darrow's very own 'Airtight Garage'.
P.S.: *Mark Millar in particular has used his ever-expanding list of R-rated indie superhero films to make his comicbook projects the job every artist wants in on, leading to co-creator status and the kind of money DC and Marvel won't come close to paying. Steve McNiven, J.G. Jones, Frank Quitely, Dave Gibbons, Leinil Yu, Goran Parlov, Bryan Hitch, John Romita, Jr... No other writer has attracted the same kind of pure artistic firepower; artists will hang up on the Marvel Editor-in-Chief/CEO/Disney Overlord if they get Mark Millar on the other line. His books are fast, entertaining head candy, but they also serve as gloriously story-boarded film pitches, complete with script and sometimes casting (you can thank Millar and Bryan Hitch for the casting of Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury)... and they get optioned before the first issue hits the stands.
Two issues (these are more preference issues than anything else)
1. I wish the book was larger and Black and white so I could truly appreciate that detail I mentioned
2. I wish it was presented without word balloons or dialogue because, honestly, I didn't enjoy nor need the "story"
So naturally I had high expectations for another book jam packed with more of Darrow's artwork. After reading this dumpster fire, I can say that again that the art was fantastic, but the rest of the book is so bad, it serves as a penalty for those who would dare to take in all the beautiful pictures.
The book is clearly written as a play on Kung-Fu movie/story tropes. The wandering hero, vengeful foes from the hero's past, fantastical violence, etc are all there. However, I think the main failure of this book is that none of the execution is nearly as clever as Darrow thought it was when he came up with it. In particular it is the "so random it has to be funny, right?" approach that is neither funny nor even innovative at this point because it has now been done to death, and done much better by other writers.
I could elaborate much more with specific examples, but it would spoil the story (not that there is much to spoil). Just suffice it to say that the "charm" of the book is based on cheap laughs, brought on by characters and situations that are meant to be funny just by their sheer ridiculousness.
If you are just salivating for Geof Darrow artwork and couldn't care less about the rest of the book, then this book IS for you - the artwork is the one thing that does deliver. If you are in the mood for kind of a goofy book with a lot of puns and wacky humor, check out Brandon Graham's stuff (King City, Multiple Warheads) - he does that style much better. If you want an over-the-top-violence fix, I might suggest Mesmo Delivery or the Prison Pit series, both of which do it much better. Finally, if you just want a wacky but good book that pays homage to the Kung-Fu genre, try Infinite Kung Fu.