Best Foot Forward features outstanding comics that create an amazing, memorable, and impactful first issue…or in this case an impactful one shot.
Written By: David Hine
Art By: Shaky Kane
Published: October 19, 2016 by Floating World
One of the best things about comics, and storytelling in general, is the ability to address political, cultural, or even global topics indirectly within the story you’re telling. One could be so bold to even include their own opinions about such topics, and because of this storytelling has influenced culture throughout history. Even today stories are told to promote ideologies and perspectives to the masses. It is this very reason that telling a story with a purpose can be so powerful. In Cowboys and Insects by David Hine and Shaky Kane we find a very clear message mixed with subtle commentary, all of which is wrapped around a completely interesting storyline that centers around is one of the oddest, yet intriguing, things I’ve read in a long time.
This entire comic revolves around a world wherein nearly all of our food products are being produced from bugs. Yes, let that sink in for a moment…you know that double cheeseburger you love so much, well forget the beef and bite into some larva meat. Holy crap, I nearly gagged just writing that sentence, but stay with me. At one point in the book, the characters address that this is our future, and make reference to the fact that we, the people in their past, used to eat beef and other such things. We aren’t ever given an explanation as to what happened to all the cows, or chickens, or any other food source, but everyone for some reason…or nearly everyone…in this comic eats bugs.
From that, we follow the thoughts, inner dialogue, and life of a young impressionable boy, Chip, who is challenged in two majorly different ways. The first being that Chip is in love with one of his classmates, Cindy, and being a young man it’s one of the most difficult things Chip is dealing with in life. The other challenge presents itself when Chip discovers that the love of his life is living a completely foreign lifestyle. You see, Chip’s life revolves around bugs. His father is a “cowboy” or as Chip renames it, a “bugboy.” He’s been promoted to Head Wrangler at the bug ranch in Bug Town Colorado, which is basically a dream job for Chip. It sounds ridiculous, but in this world a Head Wrangler is actually a prestigious job, and one that allows Chip’s family to live a relatively easy life. On the other side, Chip’s mom also works with bugs as a quality controller at the “big bug production plant.”
As you can see, everything in this world revolves around bugs, and while that might sound odd, or even off putting, please allow me to say that this plot point is so pivotal, so monumental to the greatness of this book that I want to forewarn you, do not let this aspect discourage you away from this book. All of this bug-stuff is extremely important to the overall story, and the way Hine uses this device is and was, extremely impactful…even though it’s seriously gross and icky. What follows, throughout this story, is the influence on society when it wraps its identity in a particular lifestyle rather than individual expression.
Now, while that’s the general idea and concept of the book allow me to shift for a moment because I want to get into the art of this comic. Be forewarned, Kane’s style might be off putting to some, simply because it has a golden age feel to it, but stick with me for a second. While his style isn’t anything like what’s being knocked out today, it delivers wonderfully. It took me, probably, four or five pages before my mind got used to seeing the far cleaner pages than I’m currently used to seeing, but once I did so what I found was phenomenal visual storytelling. By the end of this book I seriously loved the tone and feel of Kane’s art and found it to be absolutely perfect for this book.
Also, allow me to point out, that the point of art in comics is to deliver the story that is being told. It’s not about each panel being this artistic display of skill and craftsmanship. In fact, back in the 90’s that was one of the biggest problems in comics…artists forgot that their first priority was the story (soapbox over, I promise…maybe). With that said, Kane does what an artist is supposed to do, he tells the visual side of the story and does so perfectly. His art style combined with Hine’s writing delivered one heck of an impactful comic, so much so that I found myself thinking about this story for days after I read it. That’s no small task, to create an issue that lingers with the reader. That’s what storytelling is all about.
As for Hine’s writing, what can I say other than, I’m a huge fan. I can’t get enough of his other book from Aftershock, Second Sight, and if you haven’t checked that out…do so, it’s fresh, exciting, and dark in every good way. Hine has such a great grasp on storytelling, character development, and the worlds those characters live within. He manages to create these moments within each issue that grab you. Moments that cause you to stop and take notice of how you feel the situation within the comic’s pages. As with any writer, especially storytellers, the pinnacle is when you can lead your reader to a place where they’re confronted with emotion. Every great novel or story delivers a moment, sometimes many moments, when the reader is so deeply engaged that their very emotions drive them through the pages. It’s a wonderful experience to read such a story and everything I’ve read from Hine delivers in that capacity, but I’d dare to say that this comic in particular really struck me hard. There’s just so much to experience within these pages, and even more to think about once you’re finished reading.
An interesting aspect of this comic however, wasn’t its ability to create these overwhelming emotions that I don’t know what to do with. Instead, I would say that I stayed rather mellow, at least emotionally, throughout the read. With that said, the driving force behind this book was how Hine creates these deep, thought provoking moments over and over within this story. Every few pages I found myself being pulled deeper into this world, while also separating myself from the story to see the parallels within our own culture. By the end of this comic I just sat back and allowed myself a few moments to feel the impact and commentary addressed with these pages. Say what you will about the idea of cowboys and insects, but understand that it was a vessel to deliver something far greater than itself. I might be reading into this, and if I am, so be it, but this comic impacted how I saw things and reminded me of the power that stories can deliver. They can be far more than fun, or even entertainment, they can be a method used by the writer and artist to expand the mind of the reader. Hine and Kane certainly created that effect with this comic had, and because of that I encourage everyone to check it out, heck pre-order this just to make sure you get it when it hits the shelves in October.