By William Messner-Loebs & Sam Kieth (Piranha Press/DC Comics/Warner Books)
When DC created their special projects imprint “Piranha” in the late 1980’s, both the work produced and the reaction to it was mixed. It has long been a Holy Grail of the industry to produce comics for people who don’t read comics and notwithstanding the inherent logical flaw it is generally a good ambition to have. However, the delivery of such is always problematic. Is the problem resistance to the medium? Use radical art styles, unusual typography and non-comics talent to tell your stories and you get some intriguing results but risk still not reaching a new audience whilst alienating the readers you already have.
Writer Messner-Loebs and illustrator Sam Kieth approached the problem from another angle. Epicurus looks like a comic. It reads like a comic. All that really differs is the treatment of the subject matter. Set in classical Greece the stories relate the cynical yet screwball adventures of the Philosopher who advocated moderation in all things, amidst a woefully misrepresented culture, and one knee-deep in intrusive and arbitrary deities with the collective morals of drunken Yuppies at a football derby.
Gods, sex and magic have been mainstays of the industry for generations but the humour of the writing reaches out to the mature side of our inner child, whilst embracing the inescapable desire of every man and woman for a good healthy horse laugh every now and then. Also, it never hurts to assume that your readers are as smart as you are. Sam Kieth’s lush and earthy drawings add weight to the wackiness and utilises his penchant for cartoonish surrealism to stunning effect.
These stories have appeared in a number of publishing formats over the years, and although they‘re apparently out of print at the moment (but still readily available through such online outlets as Amazon and the better comic shops) such funny, witty, adorable books are well overdue for republication. More importantly, we would all be Blessed by the Gods if the creators could be cajoled into concocting new tales to warm our hearts and hearths.
© 1989, 1991, 2003 William Messner-Loebs & Sam Kieth. All rights reserved.