I don’t like cursing the darkness without lighting a candle, so how about a reason to live? Let’s start with Kyle Baker’s breakout work, The Cowboy Wally Show. I’d seen it on the comic store shelves for a while and finally broke down and bought it one fine day.
Oh, the joy I had! Baker promises quality jollity on his covers, and he certainly delivered with this one.
The Cowboy Wally Show is written in a cinema verite style. Before you look at me funny for my saying I really enjoy Baker’s cinematography in this book, you have to understand it’s told as a filmed documentary for most of the book, with other parts dedicated to Wally’s television and film appearances.
The book is hilarious. Baker’s drawing style is reminiscent of the golden age of Mad Magazine, with a great debt to Wally Wood, by way of George Woodbridge. He’s realistic most of the time, but always ready to exaggerate facial expressions for grand comic effect. Baker’s writing is up to the greatness of his illustration. It’s got one of my favorite lines ever: “We’re in a fort. Lock the door.” The story swings and plunges and rockets in three dimensions, taking its characters with it. OK, there are a couple of cardboard guys tossed in for running gags, but Baker definitely paints a picture of Cowboy Wally as a consummate idiot done good. The closing set, “Cowboy Wally’s Late Night Celebrity Showdown” is a perfect romp that I love to re-read.
If you’re into graphic novels, you must own this one. If you’re not yet into them, start here. There are things comics can do that simply can’t be done in any other medium. Baker’s a great artist and writer and this is a great introduction to the rest of his work. You can find it at your local comics store, which is the best place to get your comics. If you have no local comics store, then… sigh… order it from Amazon.