In these articles, I will be looking at well known creators from the comic industry and taking a look at their lesser known works from throughout their career.
First up, I’m just indulging myself by focusing on one of my favourite indie creators, Rich Koslowki.
Probably best known for his long-time relationship with Archie Comics, where he made his auspicious debut working on Sonic The Hedgehog back in the mid-nineties, and he still works for them as an inker to this day. He says he can “ink Jughead in his sleep”, and as such his credits include such books as the recent Archie Vs Predator. He’s also turned his hand to Marvel characters, writing several short anthology stories with various characters before getting the gig writing the solo adventures of the new Guardian in the oft-forgotten relaunch of Marvel Comics Presents, and later reprinted as the Weapon Omega Tpb.
The very first indie comic I ever picked up was the apt-yet-badly-named How To Pick Up Girls If You’re a Comic Book Geek. Flicking through one of my very first issue of Previews Magazine, something about the title spoke out to a sixteen-year-old me. HTPUGIYACBG (possibly the worst initialisation in the history ofabbreviations) was his first self-published work and would evolve into perhaps his most readily-identifiable body of work as both an artist and a writer: The 3 Geeks, which was published by Image Comics for a while in the late-nineties as Geeksville and earned three Eisner nominations. It featured the always amusing cartoony adventures of three lovable losers – Keith Pankowski, Jim Tamphear and Allen George – as they got into various comedic scrapes at the comic store, finding mythical long-lost comic collections, and trying not to get shouted out by the angry goth girl who frequented their comic-shop and derided all of their favourite books in favour of real sequential art.
Charmingly sweet and a lot of fun, I recommend the entire 3 Geeks back-catalogue to anyone who enjoys comedy titles such as Liberty Meadows and Groo, anyone who misses the humour from Twisted Toyfair Theatre, and anyone who wishes Big Bang Theory was just a little less broad and a little more geek-centric.
In 2001, Rich Koslowski undertook his most ambitious project to date: Three Fingers. The title took an oft-comedic yet very dark look at the animation industry of the 1930s/40s, painted the show characters as real stars who acted in the shows – albeit as second-class citizens – and the sometimes extreme lengths they would go to in competition with the superstar of the day and obvious analogue Rickey Rat. Thanks to the fine folks at Top Shelf Publishing, this book has remained in print since then and is still available, and comes very highly recommended not just from this columnist (I consider it his best work to date and as essential read), but the people at the Harvey Awards, Ursa Major Awards and the Ignatz Awards who nominated the book for best graphic novel; it ended up winning the Ignatz Brick.
Next up for his self-publishing titles came The King, examining the almost religious phenomenon of the cult of personality through the filter of arguably the most influential man in American History: Elvis. It’s sort of like a thinking mans “The Return of Superman” storyline, where no-one is quite sure if this is really Elvis back from the dead Jesus-style, or if it’s an impostor, posing the bigger question: what does it really matter compared to the message? Another great title released through Top Shelf, which remains in print in multiple languages, despite not receiving the critical acclaim of Three Fingers.
In 2007 he followed up The King with The List, an illustrated Christmas novel, a spiritual successor to Dudley Moore’s Santa Claus movie, but even more cynical and dark, while never falling prey to grimdark gratuity. When Santa Claus’ lesser known antithesis Zwarte Piet/Black Peter (an important part of the European tradition of Christmas, but largely ignored by the US and the UK) returns from a period of obscurity and tries to take over the biggest and most powerful manufacturing plant of all time – Santa’s workshop – and the most important document of all time: the List of who is naughty and who is nice. Turning the family business into a heartless, diabolical money-making machine (no, not Disney buying Star Wars!), that requires the combined forces of Santa, the Abominable Snowman, the Elves, and all of the Reindeer, to make a daring raid against Santa’s former complex in the North Pole, which rivals the Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers in scope. A brilliantly entertaining read I like to crack out every Holiday Season to remind myself that as horribly commercial and manufactured as Christmas seems, it could still be worse
So what has he been working on since then? Well, he’s been in discussion with movie studios about various properties, and he’s been doing his work-for-hire gigs, so hopefully we’ll see something new from him soon. I’ve just ordered his most recent work: BB Wolf and the Three LPs, but it seems he only illustrated it, rather than writing it as well. If it’s amazing like his other work, I’ll let everyone on BC know about it, but in the meantime you could do a lot worse than checking out any of the books mentioned above! Enjoy. And if I missed an amazing piece of Koslowski comic work, please let me know in the comments!
– C Z Hazard has worked in and around the comic industry for 20 years, and also writes novels.