Tim Skinner: Total Scumbag
The brief, spoiler-free potted review: jumping between often vulgar pastiches of well loved comics characters and recent trends this is sick, perverted, twisted filth full of violence and sex.
That got your attention? Ah, want to know more? Yes, I though you might. You sick lot! You might remember a while back that Declan Shalvey told us that he was working again with Andy Winter for the first time since the duo collaborated on the Eagle Award winning Hero Killers; the result is Tim Skinner. And as I said in the brief, one sentence review, this is a sick comic. Delightfully, incredibly enjoyably sick. Oh, I liked it.
What this one-shot does in a fairly compact fashion is take us on a perverse but fun satirical ride through a slew of modern comics types, gleefully pastiching popular characters along the way from Judge Dredd to Power Girl, Craig Thompson to Alan Moore, while also taking swipes at comics readers too. Oh yes, Winter and Shalvey are happy to bite the hand that feeds and they smile as they do so.
The tone is set pretty much from the get-go, with Skinner in what looks very much like a clichéd comics scene: the lone assassin in black leather jacket lining up his rifle by a leaning gravestone. Then your attention slides over to the text and Tim explaining the thing he hates most about comics. Which, as it turns out, is one of those things that I’m betting often annoys the hell out of many of us, something that’s become a bit of a joke in the medium: characters die, but they usually don’t stay dead. So Tim waits as the funeral of a fallen superhero takes place, then, true to form the deceased hero is mysteriously resurrected in front of his mourning colleagues. And as they celebrate the return from the Mysterious Country of their friend Tim cheerfully shoots him through the head. “My god, Kaos… He’s Dead,” falters one friend. “Again,” adds another.
After this we get to know Tim a little as he introduces himself:
“Hello, I’m Tim Skinner and no, I don’t want to be your friend. You see, I’m a nasty piece of work – I lie, I steal, I cheat and even Mother Theresa would have wanted to kick me in the throat within five minutes of meeting me.”
Yep, as the title makes clear, Tim is a scumbag, a real bastard. And a real bastard with a nice home which came with a huge collection of grandpa’s comics. Magic comics. Oh yes, these enchanted four colour funnies can literally be entered by Tim. Does he use these for jolly adventures where he fights alongside great heroes to save the world? No. Tim’s a bastard – we mentioned this already. He uses them to score with superwomen (a pair of Magma Woman’s panties are a favourite trophy of his), steal valuables and basically indulge his selfish whims before diving back to the real world before it can all go pear shaped for him. Being able to enter fictional worlds isn’t new, of course, and Declan and Andy don’t pretend it is – playing with clichés and old stereotypes is all part of the fun.
Naturally his hedonistic lifestyle will sooner or later turn around and bite Tim on his selfish ass and it all starts to go wrong as he gets trapped into stories and unable to return home, while some of the heroes he has previously offended chase him across fictional realms. And this give the pair a great excuse to indulge in, what in a TV show would probably be sketches; quick skips through a host of different scenarios and characters, all of whom are very familiar, from Magistrate Grudge who’s the law in Murda City One (along the way taking the Mickey out of ‘future slang’ so beloved of many SF creations and doing one of the best takes on what Dredd – sorry, Grudge – looks like under the helmet) to Spectaculass, and with her Power Girl like attributes you can guess what Tim focuses on (oh go on, you know you’ve had sniggering looks at them too).
Naturally Tim has to try and talk his sleazy way into that tight costume. And while this might seem like a bit of fan service perving (which in a way it probably is) its also great fun – Declan and Andy don’t just play up the incredibly obvious sexual fetish of the super heroine and her unfeasible physique and revealing costume, they riff on the whole often overblown ‘epic’ nature of superhero series. When Tim meets Spectaculass she seems upset and it’s directly caused by a constantly changing, convoluted origin tale and the added stress of coming out of yet another Crisis.
(How can a selfish perv like Tim resist a superheroine with a cleavage “like Grant Morrison and Bendis fighting in a sack”? Obviously he can’t…)
Along the way Andy and Declan take swipes at more comics trends – the autobiographical Indy comics “oh no, my girlfriend left me”, which then takes an unexpected lurch into another popular comics sub genre and another. We move through superheroes, zombies, Indy press, Brit comics, sex – even modern ‘controversial’ comics by the likes of Garth Ennis get mercilessly lampooned (meet The Chaps and a probably deserved skewering of Simon Pegg) as does even our revered Bearded Comics God Alan Moore (I’d like to think Alan would approve of poking fun at sacred cows). It’s all a sick, twisted person’s perverted view of comics of the last few decades. It’s so filthy and sick I had to re-read it again the same evening. And I laughed my not inconsiderable Magnificent Celtic Arse off as I read it both times and god knows a good laugh is something we can all use, especially these days.
(all art from Tim Skinner: Total Scumbag, published Moonface Press, by and (c) Andy Winter and Declan Shalvey)
The lampoon harpoons pretty much all hit their targets, poking (with a sharp stick) fun at the medium characters, clichés and readers alike, but its clearly obvious the pair of them are having a real laugh doing it and I think that always shows up in any work, when the creators are obviously enjoying it. And since its some of our own doing the fun, while they are clearly having a dig they aren’t malicious about it. Well, not too much. Okay, in places, perhaps, but at least they have a laugh as they dig the barbs in and pull with clever words and some great artwork (Declan changing his style to suit each of the different scenes very adeptly). Sadly Andy tells me that much as he and Declan were looking forward to seeing Tim Skinner solicited in Previews they’ve learned from Diamond that they won’t be carrying it, which is a real shame – it means it’s harder for readers to get their hands on it. Luckily you can order it direct from the Moonface site (for a mere £3 for a full colour, 36 page comic) and the guys will be selling it at this May’s Bristol Comics Expo and if you want a bloody good laugh delivered by guys who clearly know and love the medium but recognise how absurd and in need of some lampooning it can often be then you’re going to want to pick this up.