Aussie Comics Wunderkind Frank Candiloro keeps putting out books that plum the depths of Western Pop Culture, and his 42-page paean to 1950's teenage horror films, Mail-Order Mutant! keeps the wheels turning and the rock rolling while putting the real in surreal.
Mail-Order Mutant! is as much a love letter to comics as it is to the genres of monster movies and teenage kick flicks foisted on a culture unnerved by the advent of a nuclear age, still reeling from the psychic havoc it exploded. Candiloro says about his book:
Mail-Order Mutant! is the story of Theo Gorgo, a young whippersnapper obsessed with horror and sci-fi comics and a member of the teenage gang The Gorgos, led by his older sister Tina.
Upon encountering a nuclear missile, Theo is caught in the explosion, and ends up with various powers and abilities, all based on things he read in the funny books. Now a nuclear misfit, Theo goes to his friends for help.
But The Gorgos have other plans for him.
As this is a Frank Candiloro comic, there are all kinds of wonks and whatnots within its pages. It cooks with the crackle of energy these sorts of stories can unleash, and Candiloro's linear, black-and-white, German Expressionistic, wood-cut inspired cartooning keeps the backbeat clear, the rhythm jamming, and the whole thing blowing: GO! GO! GO!
Mail-Order Mutant! also contains, in 8 totally whacked wordless pages, one of the greatest drag race scenes I've ever seen in comics. It's one of those things that almost leaves you breathless by the end of it, whether from its frenzied kineticism or its bat-shit craziness, though, I'm not really sure.
Also, suffusing this book there's this look on Candiloro's character's faces that he has perfected: The Wide-Eyed Crooked Smile. It's been showing up more and more in his comics of late and the look radiates a gleeful surprise – a nakedness of emotion – as if the world is truly a wonderful place and, when you realize this, your face can't help but detonate with joy. It's one of my favorite things that Candiloro does in his books.
Given the limitations of what Candiloro is trying to do with Mail-Order Mutant!, it still has, at its heart, a tenderness that carries the tale and takes it to that next level from exploitation to story-telling. While the characters are rendered using the broadest of strokes and the writing is, at times, stilted and uninspired, there is something approaching genius at work here. Whether it is his choice of narrator or the effusiveness of his art, Candiloro shows he's got the chops to make it in this comic book game.
Thankfully, Frank Candiloro shows no sign of letting up on his creative gas, as books keep fruitfully flying out of his brain.
You can purchase Mail-Order Mutant! as well as all his other books directly from Frank Candiloro here.