The Complete Adventures of Cholly & Flytrap


By Arthur Suydam with John Workman, Chris Eliopoulos & Annie Parkhouse (Titan Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-78276-767-1

Win’s Christmas Recommendation: Merry, Manic Mayhem… 8/10

Arthur Suydam comes from an impressive American dynasty of acclaimed artists harking back to the birth of the nation, but whereas they excelled in gallery painting and architecture, their polymath descendant has divided his time, talents and energies between sequential art and music.

Probably best known (unless you’ve seen him playing with Bruce Springsteen) today as a creator of stunning Zombie art, Suydam’s other signature graphic enterprise has been the perilously peripatetic and gorily satirical burlesques of an inseparable duo of legendarily post-apocalyptic weirdoes dubbed Cholly & Flytrap.

As noted in this lavish hardcover complete collection, the illustrator, author, designer, screenwriter and composer/musician has, since the 1960s, peddled his anarchically humorous, offbeat confections in such disparate venues as Heavy Metal, National Lampoon, Penthouse Comix and Epic Illustrated (where many of these brutally madcap little graphic novellas first appeared – specifically issues #8, 10, 13, 14 and 34); comicbooks like Tarzan, Conan, Batman, House of Mystery, Walking Dead and Marvel Zombies plus movie spin-offs Aliens and Predator.

He has also produced covers for novels including Max Allan Collins and Mickey Spillane’s collaborative Dead Street and Game-box art for Touch the Dead. Periodically the always-busy Suydam returns to his own uniquely skewed creative projects such as Mudwogs and the mirthfully militaristic muck-ups of his bombastically bloody buddies, teasingly releasing another snippet every so often…

Lavishly grotesque, wickedly wry and surreptitiously subversive, Cholly & Flytrap is a bold blend of dryly witty pastiches combining elements of Moebius’ Arzach, the sci-fi tinged cultural iconoclasm of Vaughn Bode and a surreal anti-war temperament as pioneered by EC Comics which imbues the constant and blackly comic ultra-violence with a hauntingly tragic and educative undertone.

Long ago the space-barge Exodus II crashed on an uncharted world. After untold ages the survivors have bred but never prospered, locked as they are in the constant struggle for survival. It’s not that the planet is particularly inhospitable… it’s just that the denizens – indigenous and not – adore war-making and love killing. Gosh, it’s so very much like Earth…

In the early 1970s Cholly began life as a bat-riding warrior: an inspiration (and eventually poster advert) for the animated Heavy Metal movie, but it was mysteriously transformed into a hot chick on a pterodactyl after acceptance (this sort of inexplicable conceptual metamorphosis happens a lot in film-land), leaving Suydam with the rights to a cool-looking visual and a lot of ideas…

Time passed, Marvel started a creator-owned, rights-friendly fantasy periodical in response to the success of Heavy Metal and that reinvented bat-riding, goggles-wearing avatar of conflict started popping up. Of course, he had evolved slightly whilst the chiropteran had become a colossal, dauntingly naked, bald fat Chinese man. Cholly still rode him like a seasoned Ace, though…

Augmented by a wealth of original art studies, sketches and finished paintings, the ‘Introduction by Max Weinstein’ offers contemporary background, history and critical expression before the exigent exploits (gathered in the order of the 2004-5 repackaged reprints from Image Comics) begin with ‘Chapter 0’ (plotted by Peter Koch) as the restless wanderers haul up at their favourite restaurant for a feed. Impatience, hunger, foreign food cooked by scurrilous talking bugs and honking big guns never make for a sedate evening…

This yarn is neatly stitched together with a later tale (originally entitled ‘A Little Love, a Little Hate!’ from 1981); a frenetic chase/duel between a foul-mouthed, flying-jacketed war-hawk and his slug-like arch-enemy, which showed Cholly’s streetwise cunning in spectacular, over-the-top, take-no-prisoners fashion.

That neatly segues into extended saga ‘The Rites of Spring’ where Suydam expanded his cast and extemporized on the concept of mortals as organic war machines in a Horatian paean of Thermopylan courage on a world where combat is the natural order.

With Cholly and faithful, mute Flytrap stubbornly holding back a veritable horde of slug-troopers and colossal war-wagons, this is a smart and lusciously graphic feast of visual violence and sassy back-chat…

‘Flightus Interuptus’ follows; an airborne tussle (possibly started before the previous tale?) wherein the high-flying Cholly, sans his humanoid steed, harasses a massive mammary zeppelin-bomber in nothing more than a primitive tri-plane pulled and supported by a brace of the planet’s autonomous, levitating anti-gravity breasts – and no, that’s not a misprint…

Shot down in the throes of victory, the adaptable aviator finds a giant bat to ride (remember kids, recycling even of ideas and art is good for any planet). Sadly the noble beast doesn’t last long before ‘The End’ sees the unseated aviator tooling around the sky with a pair of those flying hooters strapped to his appreciative feet until he encounters a monolithic monster having a furious argument with his own outrageously outspoken boy-bits. Passions aroused and tempers flaring, Cholly is witness to a conflict resolution you simply don’t see every day…

Soldier and human(ish) steed are reunited for ‘Chapter 6’ (with additional text by Bob Burden) as Cholly and a couple of fellow warriors battle slug-troopers to secure a downed freighter’s supplies and end up falling into the oddest sort of hell…

‘The Adventures of Cholly and Flytrap Part II’ commence with their explorations of the scarily Eden-like valley and its buxom, welcoming inhabitants. It’s almost a relief when the Devil pops up to deal with them, but happily Flytrap has a counter to his Final Solution…

The remainder of the comics extravaganza is dedicated to a vast and sprawling pseudo-noir pastiche entitled ‘Center City’, set in a brooding metropolis indistinguishable from 1930 New York or Chicago… except for the aliens, robots, mutants and monsters…

Vile, crippled gang-boss Emiel Luvitz runs the rackets and makes most of his money from the citizens’ gambling on his prize-fighting operation. It helps that he also owns the undisputed “Champ” – slow-witted, gigantic, super-strong Stanley Yablowski – who has never lost a bout or let an opponent live…

Cholly & Flytrap don’t care, they’re only in town long enough to scrape up some ammunition and get drunk, but when The Champ and his minders invade the dive they are patronising, things go south pretty quick.

The hulking bully wants some fun but when he forces the silent Chinaman into an arm-wrestling contest – and loses – all hell breaks loose…

Watching the brief but ferocious struggle is rival mobster and fight-promoter One-Lunger who instantly sees a way to topple Big Wheel Luvitz. Killing Cholly and shanghaiing Flytrap, the callous thug drags the protesting mute all over the world, training and building up the heartbroken yet still-resisting, silent giant into a successful, popular mystery contender who can possibly beat the Champ…

Center City soon becomes a Shakespearian nightmare as Luvitz, seeing foes all around him, begins a paranoia-fuelled campaign of terror, killing or alienating everyone around him even as One-Lunger and his over-the-hill robotic trainer Pop prepare their captive combatant for the grudge match that will settle the fate of the maddened municipality.

What nobody realises yet is that Cholly isn’t actually dead. Slowly stalking the unwary mobsters, he’s anticipating some extreme violence to get his beloved bosom buddy back…

Smart, devious and utterly compelling, this is a splendidly hilarious, wickedly gratuitous OTT tale to make Wagner or Brecht sit up and take notes…

Supplementing the graphic wonderment is a ‘Cover Gallery’, a vast portfolio of monochrome sketches, working drawings and finished paintings, a studious and multi-generational essay on ‘The Suydam Legacy in New York’ plus a photo-packed, celebrity stuffed ‘Biography’ of the dauntingly gifted Arthur…

This is a sumptuous, exuberant and entrancingly daft slab of eye-candy that will astound and delight all canny fantasists.
Cholly and Flytrap ™ & © Arthur Suydam 2015. All Rights Reserved. All other art and trademarks are the property of their individual rights holders.