Independently Well Done highlights completed and/or noteworthy story-arcs published by indie and small press creators.
Written By: Adam Glass
Art By: Pat Olliffe
Published: April-November 2016, by Aftershock Comics
The other day I was having a conversation with my friend, and co-host of our YouTube show, about which comics would make great movies or television shows. We went back and forth on certain shows and they would, or would not work in live action. Of course that conversation then flipped into a discussion about animated series, which took on a whole life of its own, but in the end we settled on a few books that we believe would excel as movies or television shows. The purpose of telling you all of that is, we believe Rough Riders would probably make one heck of a movie, a darn good television show, and we want that to happen.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Rough Riders, and you should definitely fix that problem in your life because this series is awesome, the basic premise of the comic is that Theodore Roosevelt puts together a rag-tag group of American legends together in order to solve, and fight against, a mystery that threatens all life. If that sounds super goofy, well, you’re correct. That’s goofy premise, but don’t check out yet. This is a comic book, and as such the goofy and weird excel. If you explained Batman to someone it sounds even worse: a young boy watches his parent get killed, decides to learn karate, and ends up fighting crime in his home city dressed like a human bat. Of course, Batman is far more than that simple break down, thus we love it.
Rough Riders, in the same vein as Batman, is far more than its pieces. This is an adventure book like none other. This book captures all the fun one can have in a comic, then mixes in a sort of Indiana Jones feel, surrounds itself with American History and the famous people therein, and finishes off with a touch of sci-fi and fantasy. The first thing that comes to mind when I explain Rough Riders to people is “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.”
Most people know that title from the Sean Connery movie released back in 2003, but many didn’t know that it was originally a comic from Alan Moore that started in 1999. The movie was a little underwhelming, which is debatable, but the comic it was based on ran for eight years with a moderate amount of success. I mention all of this because Rough Riders, being similar to that movie/comic, takes that idea and rockets it into a whole new existence. I normally don’t say stuff like this but the way I describe Rough Riders to people is, “Are you familiar with the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? Well, imagine if that movie was great, and a comic, you’d have Rough Riders.”
For all its pieces, from American icons to sci-fi alien tech, Rough Riders delivers a reading experience unlike most books. There’s a sense of playful adventure from the very beginning. It doesn’t take itself too serious, and it understands what it’s trying to do. There’s no attempt at making Roosevelt a serious character, instead, they just crank his personality to max and let him go wild. It’s that very thing, which is done with nearly every part of this comic, that makes it so enjoyable.
Who want a boring, mild set of characters, rushing into action toward a danger that’s somewhat realistic? No one, that’s why villains like the Joker and Thanos exist. They are the embodiment of crazy or narcissistic imperial ruler taken to the utmost extreme and given abilities that couldn’t possibly be real. That’s what makes them fun. Rough Riders does this so well that you almost lose the idea that the characters in this comic are actual people who lived. They become something like an animated version of the real thing, and for seven books we get to watch as these people, with some of the best characterization in a comic, come together through impossible means to accomplish something that no one else could do.
Rough Riders takes the idea of a team book and dissects it down to its most bare essentials, then rearranges it in such a way that it feels new and fresh. I’ve mentioned other books that’ve been ridiculously fun to read, but none in that way that this first series of Rough Riders accomplished. At times it felt like I was a kid once again, playing in an imaginary world, doing the impossible with sidekicks and icons at my side. There was such a draw into this whimsical world where in real people were doing outlandish things in ways that aren’t possible…but it worked.
I read every issue with a smile on my face. For all the comics that I’ve read this year, Rough Riders did something that none of the others accomplished, it made me feel like a kid. The fun and enjoyment I’ve had with this series, along with its amazing art and well told story and characters just brought me back to a time when my imagination could go wild. There was a freedom I found in this book, and frankly, as this first series comes to an end, all I can say is that I will be one of the first people at my store grabbing the first issue of the next series in February.