Written by Patrick Cline
Art by Matt Rooke & Stephen Sharar
Lettering and Colours by Jon Scrivens
Published by Dead Universe Publishing
Toots Malloy is a hard playing blues saxophonist who plays cool clubs at night and also kills people as a ninja with skills after closing time. He works his way through a series of missions, all the while arguing the virtue of blues over the evils of jazz. An anthropomorphic tale of red dressed femme fatale rabbits, sax playing lions, ninja marmosets and piano playing hippos, this is the first issue in a proposed series from Dead Universe Publishing who are based out of the self-same named comics shop in Aylesbury.
The book – which is getting its release at this weekend’s London Super Comic Con – works as a cliché relishing driven noir story with a violent martial arts twist that doesn’t take itself too seriously and has some really fun moments. Mostly told in black and white, it looks and reads like an anthropomorphic Richard Stark novel (but with more lions). The art by Matt Rooke and Jon Scrivens plays out really well and throws in little shots of striking colour that give moments a real edge.
The first issue is made up of the ongoing main story and a back up eight pager telling the origins of the sax playing assassin. This works well, although I would rather have seen this worked into the main story and it’s placing was a little confusing at first to me as a new reader. But this is a small niggle and it represents part of the bigger story arc for the Blues Ninja that will hopefully play out further over the following issues.
Stephen Sharar’s art style is very close to Mike’s elsewhere in the book and this keeps a consistent style throughout.
I reached out to Pat Cline to ask how the project came together, he kindly spoke at length about its origins and mood. Have a read.
“Long story short, Toots Malloy was originally a name I had in mind for when I won the lottery and could buy my daughter, who is monkey obsessed with her own pet marmoset. A marmoset who, because I’m a man-child, could be trained to fart on command. Hence, Toots.
“The name sounded like a pseudonym for some old school jazz or blues musician, and being an aspiring writer specialising in outrageous and half-assed ideas, I ran with it. Toots became a marmoset who played blues saxophone by night and played the part of ninja-vigilante by later night. He was joined by a whole cast of other anthropomorphic characters, forming the other members of his band, the Guys ‘N’ Ties (a shoutout to my artist, Matt Rooke, co-creator of Apes ‘N’ Capes with Bounce Comics), as well as giving our protagonist a target for the first issue and a femme fatale feigning damsel-in-distress for readers to wonder about during the gap between issues.
“Matt and I spoke at length about the tone of the story; what we wanted, how it needed to look and feel, and how we were going to achieve it. The idea of using blues as a theme immediately evoked feelings of old-school noir for the both of us, which set the bar for the art-style, the color style, the lettering fonts, etc.
“The finished comic has been over a year in the making and has already managed to pull in quite a few admirers from early releases of teaser images, as well as a youtube released trailer featuring images and concept art from both Issue #1 and the first appearance of Toots in an eight-page short story titled, “They Call it the Blues”.
“The eight-page short was published in Michigan in the US by an independent comic group called the Michigan Comics Collective. Through Matt’s initial concept art and finished images, Stephen Sharar (the artist for the short) was able to capture the same feelings of noir while utilising a style all his own with its own allure. The story was picked up for worldwide release through Diamond distribution as part of Indie Comics Magazine issue #9 alongside other creator-owned short stories in a similar one-and-done eight-page format. Indie Comics Magazine #9 will be released in comic stores worldwide in April, 2015.
“For the release of Issue #1, we’ve chosen to attach the eight-page story as a back-strip featuring one page in full colour, as well as attaching a pin-up art piece by Matt Rooke. We hope for Issue 2 to not be long-delayed, and we aim for the second installment to finish the story we’ve begun while also opening a world of opportunities for further adventures for our sword and sax wielding little primate.”
Here are some preview pages.
• Toots Malloy: Blues Ninja Issue 1 will launch at London Super Comic Con 2015
• You can find Stephen Sharar on Twitter @StephenSharar
Many thanks for reading.