Dedication: For Sal and for that madman’s mad man, Dean, and for nothing stronger than black coffee
I first met Fabian Rangel Jr. and Alexis Ziritt’s Space Riders not long after my wife and I split a delicious crepe drizzled with honey and walnuts and stuffed with ricotta. I had just read another duller than the dullest dull corporate comic I won’t bother to talk about, except it had something to do with some miserably weary ‘secret’ something and my feeling that everything about superheroes i.e. corporate properties nowadays really does make me feel dead inside. With the coming of Space Riders began the part of my life you could call my life on the road to gutters filled full with faux smudges, ersatz water stains and all Ziritt’s phantasmagorical ribbons of red, orange and green exploding like spiders across the stars and all that crackle, crackle, crackle; and Rangel Jr.’s tale of an anthropomorphized mandrill first mate by name of Mono, Yara whose half Fritz Lang and half Hajime Sorayama and all hip-swinging-karate-kicking gynoid and, course, Capitan Peligro, a dangerous sort, duh, the son of the “toughest son of a bitch in the galaxy,” wielder of the Ghostmaker and enemy to Vikers and space whalers everywhere. Whither goest thou, Capitan, in thy tiny shiny skull ship, thy Santa Muerte in limitless space as black as the morning’s coffee as “black and [as] infinite?” Where goest thou? Space Riders #2 proves one-eyed beardy boys and green-skinned-magenta-haired alien warrior girls with Genesis-era-Peter-Gabriel-style makeup in America and across all the universe have such a sad time together when they must part because he’s a Space Rider and she’s a wizard; but oh, my dingledodies, my mad ones, that kiss, that kiss, that kiss they share it burns, burns, burns in madder red and salient saffron, her hand on his hirsute cheek, their lips in ferocious symmetry of questions unanswered—EE-YAH! EE-de-lee-YAH! Ey-y-y-y-y-es—oh Donna Barbara you space wizard and speaker of Enna-ish, you, you protectress of strange wonderful tribal creatures of wherever. Rave on. Rave on. Rave on! Rangel Jr. is the HOLY GOOF, a con man of comics who writes like an old tea-head of time. See how he takes what’s in those old musty dusty moldering stacks of memories and youthful indiscretions so fraught with the efforts of the imagination injection machine, the ones found in four color panels and now only safely held by the white cotton gloves of some sub-sub-sub-librarian in basements and morgues? You know, all the ones to Flagg, those old serials filled with head hurling super wizards and mystery woman of the jungle, right (?) the one with the bedroom eyes who becomes the fearsome and not-to-be-fucked-with skull-faced Fantomah? How he, I’m talking about Rangel Jr. here, loops and grooves and riffs to create the mimesis of mimesis of the infinite? See how he stands astride the heaps of pulpy comics stacked like cordwood, stands there with outstretched palms hovering over keyboard like those old monks in their cells with ink pot and pen who stave off ‘the’ plague as they bend to their illuminated manuscripts? Rangel Jr. wrestles this vortex of madness to a draw just enough so as to let it live on its own. He does not tame, he acts and encourages and all that stuff, stuff, stuff that wonderful stuff is his medium. With him it’s all “sure, baby, mañana,” and I shamble after as I’ve been doing all my life after writers and madmen who interest me, on to the next issue, the next fix— mañana, a lovely word and one that probably means creator-owned comics. And Ziritt? Ziritt is a God lashed to the drawing table or the cintiq undulating through the infinite like great an-anu herself in all her dreaming, her munificence. Those thick ink lines so supple they roll and roil like the Susquehanna in the wilderness of the American spring. Ziritt’s pencils, inks and colors are, as Yara puts it about a ship the crew encounters, a ship, a space station of sorts, perhaps, in the shape of a seated robot like great wise Solomon himself, a robot composed of all the best parts of Force Five — Grandizer, Gaiking and Dangard Ace — Yara sez, “that design … is beautiful.” Here is a cartoonist who knows what he likes. Ziritt’s figure work looks like the drawings of that one kid in high school who would fill pages upon pages of blue-ruled notebook paper with space ships, astronaut guys, and aliens with skulls encased in helmets or with the heads of wolves or pyramids while I wept for that seer and pig-palaver-ist Simon, killed by machismo, chaos and sharp sticks. I always envied those talented kids, kids like Ziritt who could slip the bonds of High School English class and light out for worlds of their own non-Lucas-ized imagining. Ziritt brings Space Riders its intestinal fortitude, its balls. Those fools of consistency and continuity, those hobgoblins of little minds who take the name of Kirby in vain as if it’s some truth-telling device, some test, a buffet of the enlightened use to wave away whatever bits of golden age knowledge has crossed their transom. Oh those sad, sad-eyed fanboys who will never understand … Ziritt does not draw for them or for Jack Kirby or for the heavy holy trinity of Maroto, Moreno and Lindell … he draws for himself, for Ziritt. So in America when the “class 5 tractor beam” pulls us all into the mouth of a giant seated robot spaceship-thingy and I stand at the old broken-down re-purposed cubicle watching the long, long lines of MCU sheep at the Cineplex and sense there is something more in all the primary color and paper that rolls onto the shores of the LCS week-to-week in one unbelievable huge bulge we call Capital-C Comics, and all that road going, all the people dreaming in the immensity of it, of comics and what they hold, and don’t you know that God is Pooh Bear, and ol’ Rangel Jr. and Ziritt? and nobody knows what’s going to happen next to our heroes now captured by those robots with their glowing green wire-frame heads and smoke streaming from round eyes like newly made bullet holes, I think of Space Riders, I even think of old Hammerhead the first mate we haven’t found (yet) I think of Space Riders.
Space Riders #2 is available tomorrow, May 13 at fine retailers in America and elsewhere. Space Riders #1 (which we reviewed here) and #2 can also be procured in both physical and digital manifestations direct from Black Mask Studio.
Keith Silva rereads On the Road in what Eliot sez is the cruelest month. He writes about comics and pop culture. Such endeavors have made him an inveterate caffeine addict with an increasing taste for stronger vices like Kentucky bourbon and single malt scotch. He does not need his hand held unless it’s by his wife or daughters. @keithpmsilva