Creators: Kevin Eastman & David Avallone
Script: David Avallone
Illustrator: Ben Bishop
WHAT IS IT?
A story about a washed-up cartoonist with dreams of reaching the level of renown he once had years ago. But first, he's got to dig himself out of the hole his life is in.
It's kind of a meta-crime story that straddles the line between comedy and drama. It's equal parts Wonderland with Val Kilmer and Bret Easton Ellis's Lunar Park.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
I'm going to do something a little different for this review and break this section up into two parts. The first part will just focus on the comic, itself. The second pulls back the curtain a little on the story behind Drawing Blood and the Radically Rearranged Ronin Ragdolls. Feel free to read it if you want some extra background on the books, or ignore it if you don't want to ruin the magic, or if you have a short attention span. You won't hurt my feelings. Promise.
Years ago, Shane "Books" Bookman once launched a massive franchise: The Radically Rearranged Ronin Ragdolls. Now? He's in his 40s. He's got no money, no inspiration. Numerous ex-wives. Oh, and also people who want him dead if he can't pay them a truly massive sum of money.
All the down-on-his-luck cartoonist has to do to dig himself out of this hole he's in is break through his creative block and come up with another billion-dollar IP before the Lithuanian Mafia breaks his legs – or worse. Easy, right? Then again, necessity is the mother of invention...
It's ironic that the full title of this comic is "Drawing Blood: The Story Behind the Stories." That's probably not the correct usage of "ironic," but this is my story behind the story.
A few weeks back, Joey Sheehan, Editor-in-Chief of ComixCentral and CXCBuzz, sent me a copy of Drawing Blood and Radically Rearranged Ronin Ragdolls (RRRR). They seemed like quality comics, so I was excited to check them out and review 'em.
As I'm sure you know by now, I do some research on the comics I cover and their creators. I saw that the some of the same team of creators made both books, that Shane Bookman was a main character in this tell-all-style book, Drawing Blood, and mentioned on the cover of RRRR, but didn't seem to have any other creator credits. I also loved the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) growing up, but am ashamed to admit that the name "Kevin Eastman" didn't ring any bells. So, I took the next logical step:
One of the first results that came up? This interview with Shane Bookman about Drawing Blood. In it, Drawing Blood is positioned as this tell-all, 112-page graphic novel about his life after he sold the rights to RRRR, a smash-hit that debuted in 1992. It says the comic is based on Bookman's sketches, notebooks and diaries, which gave it this cool "biopic" feel.
I wondered why I hadn't heard anything about this Bookman guy, but then again, I didn't know who Kevin Eastman was, either. And I thought I was crazy, not having known about the RRRR, if they were such a huge hit. Every Google search just took me to the comic, too, so I figured my research was being baffled by good SEO.
Maybe it'll make more sense if I read these comics, I thought. I can always do more research later. So, I picked up RRRR first. I should've started with Drawing Blood, because I was just more confused. It read like a TMNT homage, not leaning fully into parody but very informed by the Turtles and their origin. The comic was well-made, but it felt so derivative of the heroes in a half-shell, I was surprised it could be legally published at all. Plus, this comic was obviously created recently – where was the alleged original material from 1992?
Something was fishy, and it smelled like Marketing.
I opened Drawing Blood for answers. I've outlined why it's great and why you should read it below, but the backmatter speaks to the Kickstarter, the RRRR comic, and a lot of what you need to know. That led me to an article by Bleeding Cool talking about how the comic is a "semi-autobiographical account of Kevin Eastman's career."
That's when it clicked.
I'm not a smart man. But I also know that there are large swaths of comic book history and pop culture that I sometimes just miss, and wanted to do due diligence to the titles and their respective creative teams. Creating a fictional character through which they can tell semi-autobiographical stories feels like a good solve for protecting the real-life people from his stories, and maybe being able to play up other parts with metafictional elements. It's a little like Bukowski's "Hank Chinaski" persona.
Is all this information necessary to enjoy these comics? That's something only you and your personal tastes can answer. But I'm a big fan of the larger world created around Shane Bookman's "life," and thinking about how and where it intersects with Eastman's. But if you grabbed these titles on a whim instead of through the Kickstarter somehow, maybe this long-winded review helped you out a little.
The "based on a true story" aspect elevates the narrative, giving the danger and character decisions more weight and making consequences feel real.
Even once you realize it's loosely based on Eastman's life, you wonder how much of it is true and how much of it was made for the comic. This mystique keeps you engaged, thinking about how likely the reality of each beat is.
Love the homage to X-Men's Days of Future Past comic book cover.
The yellow, ruled paper theme carries that creative aspect from the covers and the protagonist's cartoonist roots through the book's captions. We lose a little of this in the fantasy "drawn" scenes, but only because it looks cleaner with a white background.
The narrative voice feels remarkably natural, comfortable and conversational, which helps identify with the main character more easily and sucks you into the story.
There are three art styles throughout the book: the main story, flashbacks and what the creators call "hallucinations." Ben Bishop does the first of those in its entirety, and handles the layout for the latter two in order to keep a solid creative core. Kevin Eastman does final touches on the flashbacks, and Troy Little makes a similar appearance on the hallucinations. While it's a bonus seeing some cameo art in different styles from Eastman and Little, Bishop's art is truly stand-out.
With Bishop's art, you get this texture of a crumbling, dirty city, and you see those same qualities reflected in the book's characters. It highlights imperfections in a way that's palpable, adding fine detail that brings every scene to life without feeling overwrought. Plus, the constant "RRRR" appearances in the background are a constant reminder to "Books" and to the reader how successful the franchise is and how disconnected from it Bookman is.
Brittany Peer's colors take Bishop's line art to the next level. The red glow from billboards and taillights in the dark, the overbearing, sticky city heat brought to life through a warm palette...they work perfectly together with Bishop's lines to bring the scenes to life and make them feel real.
We already discussed the caption style, but Esposito's lettering fits the book's voice very well. Mostly serious, a little playful, lots of sound effects. His flow from balloon positioning is also really well done, helping the eye zig-zag across the page to take in all of the art.
Releasing an RRRR comic at the same time develops the world more and takes the idea of "bonus content" to a new level
The backmatter also tells a lot of the story on how this comic came to life, and the behind-the-scenes stuff some readers will be really into.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
This is an adult comic. It's got drugs, nudity, cursing, blood and violence. Definitely not for all ages!
Yes, the idea's been done before. We've seen movies about a once-great, now down-and-out guy who has to go to great lengths to make a significant amount of money. However, I'd remind you that most of those movies tend to be awesome.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Drawing Blood is a semi-autobiographical, comedic, crime meta-drama roughly inspired by Kevin Eastman's life.
As such, it ties to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with a wink and a nod. The comic itself is masterful, told through experienced, confident voices and artwork that blends the realism of urban decay with a cinematic sense of style.
With the undeniable charm of its roguish protagonist, Drawing Blood is captivating. Even if you know absolutely nothing about Eastman or the Ninja Turtles, it's a very rewarding,
entertaining comic you won't want to miss!
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Elvira, Mistress of the Dark by David Avallone by Dave Acosta
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Kevin Eastman & Tom Waltz
Slots by Dan Panosian
If you like the art:
Radically Rearranged Ronin Ragdolls by Kevin Eastman, David Avallone & Troy Little
The Aggregate by Ben Bishop
Spencer & Locke by David Pepose & Jorge Santiago, Jr.
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Kevin Eastman – Co-creator/story, Finals for Flashbacks
Inspired the comic and its main character in a big (yet not entirely defined) way
Name Recognition: Is one of the creators of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Multitalented: Is also the editor and publisher of Heavy Metal magazine
David Avallone – Co-creator/story, Script writer
Multitalented: Has worked in film in one way or another for decades
Has been writing comics since 2014
Also does "activist work as a board member and social media director for AIsFor.org"
Ben Bishop – Main artwork, Layouts on Flashbacks and Hallucinations
His comic, The Aggregate, is hailed as the world's first split decision comic, with multiple beginnings, endings and choice in between
While The Aggregate is what won over Eastman & Avallone, Bishop has also had experience as illustrator on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Comics
Offers courses where he teaches comic book illustration
Brittany Peer – Colorist
Dream Team: Worked with Ben Bishop on his comic, The Aggregate
Has also been a colorist on issues of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Taylor Esposito – Letterer
Owns and runs Ghost Glyph Studios, which handles comic book lettering, production/pre-press & general design
Dream Team: Was brought onto this title because he's David Avallone's favorite letterer (and, presumably also because of his massive talent)
Multitalented: He is also a second degree black belt in Koei-Kan Karate-Do
Troy Little – Finals for Hallucinations
After Eastman & Avallone saw his work on Little's adaptation of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, they brought him on to do the art for RRRR and the Hallucinations, since the art for the latter would mirror a lot of the art in the former
Outlander: Hails from Canada
HOW DO I BUY IT?
Click one of these:
It should also be available on Comixology soon! You can also buy a bundle set of Drawing Blood, RRRR and their variant covers for $28 from Kevin Eastman's site.
Drawing Blood issue #2 should be available June 26th – keep an eye out for it!
The image(s) used in this article are from a comic strip, webcomic or the cover or interior of a comic book. The copyright for this image(s) is likely owned by either the publisher of the comic, the writer(s) and/or artist(s) who produced the comic. It is believed that the use of this image(s) qualifies as fair use under the United States copyright law. The image is used in a limited fashion in an educational manner in order to illustrate the points of the author and not for the purpose of entertainment or substituting the original work. It is believed the use of this image has had no impact on the market value of the original work.
All Kevin Eastman & David Avallone characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are trademarks of and copyright Kevin Eastman & David Avallone or their respective owners. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED