COMICS: Show-and-tell on the Edmonton indie scene

It takes bravery to draw something and then bring it to a group of more experienced artists and hold it up for their criticism.

Not quite superhero bravery, but bravery nonetheless.

So who shows up when a group of comic artists get together twice a month at Happy Harbour Comics on Jasper Ave. and invite anybody with a few sketches to bring them along?

For starters, you get Alan Funk and his older brother, Seth, who have driven in from Spruce Grove with a comic they worked on together about a vain superhero and his incompetent nemesis from another planet. Alan drew the frames, while Seth came up with the story and the dialogue.

Their comic is called “Beetle Brow” and the nemesis is tiny, but wears a giant suit to appear more impressive. He also has a gorgeous female accomplice, but he doesn’t appreciate her much. Like the suit, she’s mostly for show. And for some reason he requires his henchmen to wear their guns in holsters attached to their foreheads.

There’s also Justin Berger, who’s been here a few times before and isn’t quite as new to the process as the Funks, but is still keen to hear reviews of his latest frames of his newest comic, “Native Ninja.”

“It’s about a native street kid who gets adopted by world-renowned asassin,” Berger explains.

And on the judging end are a group of regulars who also show each other their own work, and discuss their latest ideas. These are creative and imanginitive people, so the critiqeuing process often gets delightfully sidetracked.

For instance, Dan Schneider explains that he and his friend Jeff Martin are working on a comic called “Dynasty” about an evil futuristic government that employs fake superheroes to distract the population from its real problems. He explains that he got the idea while watching Wrestlemania.

Schneider says that Martin is helping him devise a political system for the plot, and this leads to a suggestion that perhaps The Vatican might be a suitable model.

Now, ordinary people would be (a) offended, or (b) would analyse the argument as to whether it’s true or false. But comic book artists immediately seize upon whether the Pope qualifies as a superhero.

“Have you seen his hat?” one artist asks rhetorically. “Superhero.”

On this particular night Alan and Seth Funk are hoping to convince the group to include “Beetle Brow” into Happy Harbour Comics’ free comic promotion next month. (The group puts together a compilation book, and it’s an opportunity for artists to get their names known in the local comic community.)

“Beetle Brow” are shown around the table. There are nods of approval, and recommendations are offered on the best process for getting the rough pencil sketches inked.

As the artists talk, they’re always, always sketching. Roger Broemeling works on his new 3D stereoscopic cartoon about two perrenial flowers that fall in love. Schneider, meanwhile, colours in a Marilyn Monroe-like woman standing in front of the Las Vegas sign.

Alan Funk explains that he’s been to a couple of the previous meetings with some of his other comics, which he displays on his website, but he admitted it was stressful bringing in new work.

“I brought it here for feedback to see if it’s acceptable. It seems it is,” Funk says. “I was pretty excited. I like the meetings. It’s like a grown-up show and tell.”

There’s also interested in Berger’s “Native Ninja.” It’s violent — maybe too violent for a general audience. But its artitic style is original, as if aboriginal art were turned into a cartoon.

And just when you think things appear normal, the discussion turns toward the complications of placing a fist emblem on a superhero’s trunks. Pointing the fist up is problematic because, if you make a fist, it isn’t the right shape for that part of the anatomy. But pointing the fist down makes it look like the hero is being punched — in that part of the anatomy.

The jury never does quite reach a verdict on that one.