(Self Published, 2014)
Words – James B Willard
Artwork – Patrick K Beavers
The idea of geek culture bleeding into popular culture has been discussed and debated, by comic pros at comic cons, (oh…its early in the week for puns like that, but occasionally I feel inspired) but the fact remains that we as comic collectors have the upper hand right now when it comes to entertainment. Could that result in a flood of bad things? It could, but at the same time there is a flood of good things, great ideas and comics that may not normally see the light of day are given a chance, the spotlight shines where it should.
The overlap in culture results in reality shows like Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures. (I’ll admit being a fan of the former at the beginning, but the black and white shocked expressions at the “whispers” got old after a while.) After so many episodes that kind of thing can get old, and my biggest worry is that the bleed can go two ways…that the bad stuff, while cool at first, becomes overdone and bleeds backwards into the good stuff, the original comics that inspired the concept.
Penny Palabras puts all worries about that back bleed to rest. Writer James B Willard and artist Patrick K Beavers have shown that originality and skill can take a concept that has been done before, i.e. the person who sees dead people, and completely rework it so that it seems fresh and different. And it is fresh and different.
Penny is a seventeen year old, a loner, and has the Shamalanian ability to see the ghosts of the departed. She is haunted by the Straw Man, an entity that has her in its’ crosshairs for no discernable reason. It haunts her dreams, scares away her friends, and generally makes a complete nuisance of itself. But here is sinister purpose behind the Straw Man, and Penny goes to those few people she can for help. The Librarian and the Pawn Broker, while not exactly friendly, are the only friends she has. She is also harassed by a devil and offered help from a “spectacular revolver” and a “sleep mechanic”. The possibilities are endless.
James B. Willard builds myth easily into this story, creating the fantasy and fairy tale aspect as easily as someone following an established outline. The naming of things, like the revolver, give legitimacy to the story, establishes a cinematic mythos that sucks you into the story by the second or third page. The characters he’s created, especially the Straw Man, are of such a unique nature that you want to know more in every sense. It’s like hearing the story of how Michael Myers or Freddy became killers. I was always a sucker for a creepy origin story, and I have a feeling that Willard has something more interesting than a little girl in red shoes behind the Straw Man. You find yourself doubting Penny, wondering what the Straw Man could be looking for, why her? Penny is at the mercy of the fates, and Willard has woven the story cunningly around her.
Patrick K Beavers has an addictive style, a cross between the comic and the absurdly normal; he uses grey scale to bring emotion to the characters. It looks like everything is done digitally, but his fades and tone changes make it look at times like it was painted. His work is darkly emotive, fascinating and perfect for the story.
Penny Palabras is not in the line of “just another paranormal book”, but, like The 6th Sense when it first came out, and Odd Thomas, the Dean Koontz series, James B. Willard has managed to create a new hero of similar ilk. A girl trapped by circumstance and fate but willing to play the hand she’s been dealt, with help from the paranormal. This book recalls all of my favorite stuff in this genre and at the same time plowing its own row through the miasma of popular culture. The artwork by Patrick K. Beavers sets the tone and holds a steady line throughout. An indie book in the truest sense of the word, lend your support to Penny Parablas…be on the ground floor of something that is sure to be beyond the pale.
To learn more and purchase “Penny Palabras” #1 - 4 please visit their website HERE.