Required Reading is DoomRocket’s love chest, opened once a month to champion a book that we adore. This week Arpad recommends ‘Dead Dudes’, an original graphic novel by Christopher Sebela and Ben Sears, out October 14 from Oni Press.
by Arpad Okay. Dead Dudes is how it feels to read an avalanche. Basic cable ghost hunters finally find a real haunted house/prison/insane asylum, and it kills them. And traps their ghosts, wants to eat them, wants to do worse to the whole world through them. Despite the odds, the Ghost Bros might just save the Earth instead of doom it. If they can stop being jerks for a second.
They can’t. Look, if you die before you’ve finished doing that one thing that defines you, is sticking around after to work on it more going to be a gift or a curse? Death teaches you about what matters, yeah, but it also teaches meaning. You can fail at something and still be a total dude.
Just, these guys… two out of three of them want nothing more than to be on TV (the third is the only dude they know who can work a camera). It’s comedy to turn a paranormal investigator into a ghost. But these bros were tragic figures before they were cut down by success.
Christopher Sebela makes reading about the Ghost Bros a pleasure no matter how they rub me. The dialog and general voice of the book is 100% TV editing gold. It’s in the pace, scenes run into each other in the sly, cheeky ways you’d expect from an evergreen banger like Larry Sanders, jokes that land at just the right moment. Dead Dudes is on the surface a satire of the History Channel’s departure from factual programming, but the comic timing really shines.
As one should expect from Sebela, knowing how to set the moment invariably spirals out into a unfathomed designs lying in wait. Give the story a little time and the reader will find a forgotten past, just beneath the surface, ready to swallow the present. Dead Dudes isn’t a send-up of reality TV. This is a ghost story. The shit that our fellas step into goes back. It bites.
You couldn’t ask for a better style to capture Sebela’s simple constructs with deeper meaning than that of Ben Sears. There’s definitely humor in Sears’ lines—Dead Dudes is drawn way more horror fun than someone’s gritty take on anatomy practice—but bro that humor in what Sears sees gets bleak.
What even is serious? Blocky, chunky figures blowing steam out their ears is a treat. Sears is sincere. If you wanted the kids from Home Movies to grow up and die young, here you go. The linework is by no means as wiggly; Sears is the camera’s lens, fisheyed to fill the frame with weird angles and it utterly works. Windsor McKay, another fan of wide characters and impossible perspective in service of whimsy, would look on this book, smile, and wonder what the hell went wrong with moving pictures in the last hundred years.
The look of the book is also right at home next to Sfar and Trondheim’s Euro anthology, Dungeon. Crank! lettering plays that way, too, taking up room in typeface and bubble without crowding, something sophisticated-ish. Ignore for a moment the schlubby attire and Sears, with colorists Ryan Hill and Warren Wucinich, have the gang looking like residents of Pepperland, like David Byrne in the big suit, like a punk rock napkin doodle from some divine art nouveau diner brunch. Hill & Wucinich’s use of colors is like the writing, seemingly low-key but actually quite bold and inspired. The art is not quite twee but maybe because of them a little closer to Sanrio and further from Fangoria.
When things get tough, dudes don’t let each other down. Are they likable? Kind of. More likable than a warden who wants to live in lockdown for eternity, or a eldritch demon nurse? Sure. The bros may lack charisma, but they are all so damn earnest it’s compelling. Dead Dudes is saying passion is what matters. They might not have any chill, but the drive inside the Ghost Bros is that which moves the world.
Oni Press / $19.99
Written by Christopher Sebela.
Illustrated by Ben Sears.
Colored by Ryan Hill and Warren Wucinich.
Lettered by Crank!
Read more about ‘Dead Dudes’ by checking out the DoomRocket interview with Christopher Sebela and Ben Sears here.
Check out this 4-page preview of ‘Dead Dudes’, courtesy of Oni Press!
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