Back In The Saddle Again

Article by, Matt Gorman
The Deadbeat

Written & Created by Jeremy Massie

This is old-school cool. Created by Jeremy Massie (All my Ghosts, Bee Sting,) The Deadbeat tells a compelling, yet simple tale. Through an art style reminiscent of the now-vintage comics that paved the way for the industry back during the 1950’s, The Deadbeat is nostalgic, but original. The Deadbeat is a story about family, abuse, and dealing with one’s demons. Strikingly, and easily, Massie weaves a plot of how human the superhuman can be.

The Deadbeat shows us that complexity isn’t required to tell a compelling story. In its simplicity, it shows us an estranged father and how his daughter, presumed dead, re-enters his life. [MEANWHILE ] an old nemesis returns, and the Deadbeat is reluctantly forced to action. An older man, the Deadbeat spends most of his days at a bar, drowning his past in yoo-hoo (the only drink that affects him,) despite the abilities of flight and invulnerability. Unable to escape his past, it takes the arrival of Vera to make him fly again. Battling alien creatures from out of a lost dimension and dealing with repercussions of childhood trauma, the fantasy elements of the superhero genre play second to the interpersonal drama that unfolds. 

Told concisely and without restraint, the Deadbeat sets a precedent for what is needed to tell a story. Both in plot as well as in character development, there is no fluff. Everything fits into place, with very little extra, each piece of the puzzle snugly fitting with each other. There’s an occasion where it seems like Massie is just having fun with superpowers, with no real connection to the plot, but he uses it, instead, as an opportunity to segue into a flashback. Massie does a tremendous job of building a story with a solid foundation, and showing us the top, slowly feeding us more and more until the reader can see it in whole. The character development employed is strategic and minimalist, and yet, executed perfectly; you know who these people are, what they’ve done, who they were, and what they become. 

Lined in vintage style, the Deadbeat’s focused storytelling is facilitated by heavy, beautiful lines. As if pulled from an old issue of Action Comics, Massie establishes a retro feel. I especially like his use of the old staples: BAP! BIFF! and POK! Seeding our expectations, the art cues us in that this isn’t a tale of intrigue or glory, and that it isn’t a winding path, but rather a straightforward one, and all the better for it.

This one surprised me. Reading it, I was delighted at each connection that was made in the story. I wanted to know what was going to happen, and that’s what a compelling plot means. Open and literal, the story doesn’t go where it doesn’t need to, and doesn’t try to confuse or shroud aspects in mystery. The characters are surprisingly deep, but only as deep as they need to be. The Deadbeat illustrates and celebrates how powerful a storytelling platform graphic novels are, through simplicity and execution. The Deadbeat was released as a graphic novel in 2009 and can be bought digitally and in print for $3.99.

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