I don’t make it a secret that I like comics that take different paths, all the overblown “stuperhero” stuff bores the hell out of me, its been done to death and every variation of some caped schmoo has been tried, granted I am sure there is people out there that will never get burned out on Batman, Iron Man and company, but for some reason I have this weird thing where if something is just overdone I lose complete interest in it. I like when people go in a different direction with the comics format which is the reason why I review mainly independent and underground “comix”. If somebody puts a new, fresh and different spin on the superhero comic than I will be interested, until then I will be reading stuff like “Highbone Theater” by Joe Daly.
Joe Daly mainly studied animation at Cape Town’s City Varsity college, and also put out the awesome “Dungeon Quest” lampooning RPG players and the equally good “Red Monkey Double Happiness Book”, with “Highbone Theater” Joe goes into stoner territory with his muscular, bearded main character, Palmer, who is a intellectual, plays the Chubush, reads books, smokes weed and has weird dreams about 9/11, his room mates are macho meatheads who hunt sharks, drink, party and screw anything and everything that moves. The art reminds me a lot of Robert Crumb’s stuff, the men are all barrel chested, with thick arms, and legs, big hands and feet, all the women are hour glass shaped with big asses. Through this all, Palmer has strange dreams that have him questioning reality itself and Palmer meets a strange man at the paper mill he works at named Billy Boy who thinks that there is people who live under the earth that manipulate events on the surface.
And the art goes from black and white when Palmer isn’t dreaming, to color when he is dreaming or high which makes me think that this is the artist’s way of saying the so called whacky dream world of Palmer is almost more real than the mundane day to day existence world. Conspiracy theories, the occult and Gnosticism get twirled in this heady brew of a comic, the humor is absurd and sometimes I think gets lost in translation because of the different humor and culture of South Africa.
This book is thick and collects all of the “Highbone Theater” comics in one place at 572 pages in hardcover and put out by the awesome Fantagraphics, it seems that whatever Fantagraphics touch turns to fucking gold. If you want something different in your comics I highly recommend Joe Daly’s stoner opus, it will make your brain bleed, guaranteed.
So get out your joint, its always “4/20” here: https://www.fantagraphics.com/collections/joe-daly/products/highbone-theater