Mind Invader Comics Issue #1: A Review

Whenever I find myself in my hometown of Marietta, Georgia, I always make a habit of meeting up with an old friend and going to a bar in the square named Johnny MacCracken’s. A self described “Celtic Firehouse Pub” anchoring the corner of an old southern town square, it is an eclectic place with multiple bars and rooms. It’s an exceedingly easy place to waste away time with friends, by yourself, or with the folks that walk through. I could write an entire love-letter to the place, and perhaps I will someday. Suffice it to say, the place is awesome, and it makes up an important factor of my mind’s image of Marietta.

On one such trip back home, a group of us were hanging out in one of the back rooms, cutting up and catching up. I don’t know if you can anymore, but back then you could smoke in the back of the bar, and I was considering lighting a pipe to listen to my sister and my friend banter. It was then that I saw a fellow pipe smoker. To spot a fellow pipe smoker under the age of 70 is a somewhat rare occurrence, and I needed another drink, so I went to order a drink and say hello. The guy’s name is Justin Simmonds. He is one of the brains behind Mind Invader Comics (MIC). At that point though, he had some sample artwork and a dream. I exchanged information with him and promised to keep in touch.

Sure enough, in late 2020 he published his first issue “First Encounter”. It is a collection of three shorts. He also was kind enough to send me some additional artwork. I have read my way through the comic, and enjoyed looking at the additional artwork, and would like to share a bit of a review on them.

Before I go into too much detail reviewing these things I need to make very clear that I did not grow up reading comic books. I am a neophyte. Nor am I an expert on art or anything for that matter. I’m just some dude who has thoughts. Take that for what it is.

That being said, I think this is all a blast. The issue itself consists of three short stories, with open enough endings to be continued as serials for a while. The cover is produced in vivid color, the interior in black and white. There are some ads, and the comic itself is rather abbreviated. I have no doubt in time, it shall lengthen. The production and feel of the paper is very nice. The artwork is again in vivid color and reminiscent of pulp imagery from the 40’s. The stories are a wonderful example of weird, pulpy fiction.

The idea of bringing pulp/weird/sci-fi/noir tales back from the dead is fascinating to me. Some of our most compelling stories were crafted in that era, with sitcoms and TV ultimately “rubbing out” the genre and culture to appeal to families, and other concerned types. Especially in our new era of conspiracy theories, real-life skulduggery, and bleak circumstances, we have a similar foundation to that which started the genres in the first place. To go a step further, and bring the weird stories out of the big cities, and to my hometown in particular, is awesome to me. I don’t know if MIC intends to keep everything Marietta-centric, or go wherever, whenever there is a story; the quality of the material should buy them plenty of time to explore.

As mentioned, I didn’t really get into comics as a kid. My complaints regarding other comics in the past were chiefly that context is difficult to ascertain, length, legibility and credibility of dialogue and art, and brow beating morality tales. This issue had none of these problems. The stories, as mentioned earlier, are short. That being said, characters are quickly and well developed. Dialogue is easy to follow and legible. The artwork is direct and to the point. The artist employs a good deal of background white space that makes the dark strokes outlining characters and things exceedingly clear. In a time where morality messaging is everywhere, not being barraged with it here was fucking refreshing as it ought be.

I do not want to give away any of the content of the stories. They are short. That being said, they are well contained and flow nicely. I’d like to see the first one developed a little further, and I think that is bound to happen in future issues. It is reminiscent of Japanese Kaiju such as Godzilla, or even King Kong, yet also with vibes of 1950’s B-movies. Yet it takes place seemingly in modern times. It’s a great mix of elements. As the story ended, I could not quite discern the “good guys” vs the “bad guys”. We’ll have to wait and see.

The middle story seems to be a standalone vignette. It humorous, easy to follow, and the shortest of the stories. As a “short”, acting as an intermission between a double-feature, it is great. It reminds me of the margin comics, and Spy vs Spy comics of Mad Magazine. It’s physical comedy. It’s clever.

The last story is longer than the other two combined. It’s got a nice twist at the end, that leaves some questions behind. The weird characters are compelling and well drawn. I would definitely like to learn more about them. I feel like this is the truest to the Weird Tales genre in that the ambiguity of the unknown is most palpable here. I was genuinely surprised, worried, relieved, and intrigued as I read. An excellent comic.

Really, the trio here represents much of the best of pulpy weird fiction. Weird monsters that are good or evil or both. Panic, chaos, gore, doom, humor, survival, and the mystery of the unknown. The artwork is gorgeous, large prints of characters seen, and not yet seen in the comic. These prints, like the one Justin gave me that night in Marietta, will be prized additions to my wall.

An interesting, and rather nice perk is the individually drawn and well fitted advertisements. They are few and far between, and they fit so well with the subject matter that their placement is truly perfect. From an editorial standpoint, to do in house ads like this, and have them fit so well with the theme, makes them stand out all the better.

I know I spent a pretty hefty amount of time talking about Marietta and how I learned about all of this. I intend to wrap that back in. I stayed in touch with Justin. I called him months later after staring at the print on my wall and wondering whatever happened. We spoke on the phone for a short while, and I gave him my email address and asked him to let me know when things were getting started. After a while they were and I was excited to get in on the first issue.

This past year has been a year of loss and hardship for me and my family. Living a few states over has made that no easier. I suppose I have found a feeling of comfort in following this project because it reminded me of a time where friends and loved ones could sit around a bunch of chairs in a smoky Irish bar in a Southern town square, picking up right were they left off. People were alive who are not today. People who would have loved this work in particular for bringing them back to their youth. What a helluva thing that a weird disastrous story about wrecking a local outdoor social event should remind me of a time before all of our outdoor social events were wrecked. What a helluva thing that I should meet the author of the Square’s fictional doom in the Square, and thus be able to read of that fictional doom while dealing with the existential crisis of our real perceived doom.

I strongly recommend checking out their website, and buy some loot. This is original, creative writing and art, and it’s up to us to support it. Plus, I want to know what happens next.

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