Beer and Heroes 

Two local illustrators visualize different worlds

Comic books bring to mind a freedom of imagination. Unlike fiction, in which a story must stay rooted in a setting--whether on Earth or in another galaxy--comics have the ability to make leaps between time and space. They can go wherever they want to, taking the reader right along with them. The graphic works of local artists Allen Gladfelter and Brian Sendelbach make just those kinds of leaps, carrying readers to very different realms.

Strongman, written by Charles Soule with art by Gladfelter, is the story of Tigre, a luchador (Mexican wrestler) and one-time superhero who is no longer larger than life. Tigre is down and out. He's washed up, but dedicates himself to one last mission to make the world right and rediscover the superhero he once was.

Gladfelter's black and white artwork evokes the gritty, end-of-the-road place where Tigre exists. Poignant stills show Tigre alone in his world, slouched on a bench or smoking a cigarette at home. The imagery helps characterize Tigre as much as the dialogue or actions within the story. The story's noir quality keeps the adventure serious, following Tigre through seedy bars, alleyways and junkyards. Though depressing, Tigre's plight is an engaging one.

While Strongman follows the struggles of one character, several story lines play out in Sendelbach's Planet of Beer. Sendelbach, a BW contributor, takes readers on the misguided adventures of Captain McBride and his crew as they search the universe for a planet comprised entirely of beer. We also meet Bigfoot tromping his way through modern society, and, despite how hard he tries, always screwing up.

Not to be outdone, Jimmy Carter and his alien sidekick, Kenny, rampage through Carter's days as president. Sendelbach's artwork is colorful, loony and surreal as he depicts Carter picking on Henry Kissinger or just kicking it around Washington, D.C. And although some strips are more compelling than others, the underlying portrayal of outlandish characters and places nicely mocks the at-times absurdity of the real world. It's not obvious, and it's not in your face, but Sendelbach's comics make us wonder why we embark on our own misguided journeys.

Planet of Beer is available locally at Rediscovered Books and Captain Comics. Both books are available at amazon.com.

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