The Fuhrer & The Tramp
Writer: Sean McArdle & Jon Judy
Art: Dexter Wee
Design & Lettering: Sean McArdle
Covers By: Dexter Wee
Publisher: Source Point Press
Available: Issue One available March 25 from Source Point Press, comiXology, Amazon and your Local Comic Store
Out this spring from Source Point Press is (finally!) a print copy of Sean McArdle, Jon Judy and Dexter Wee’s alternahistory webcomic romp, The Fuhrer and The Tramp. Those long-time Pullboxers among you may recall Paul having reviewed the series way back in the halcyon days of 2018 (find his review here); in the event you, as a thoroughly well-informed reader, care to witness as we both wax poetic about the same piece (as opposed to, say, reading comics yourself, or even a really great piece on how to plan the perfect con experience), here’s my two cents…
So, what do you get when you throw a genocidal dictator, a leggy genius femme fatale, a dashing action hero lothario and the greatest slapstick performer of the 20th (or any other) century together in an alterna-historical plot to end the Nazi threat forever? And then pepper in some seasoning of a young and completely badass (you were right, Paul) future Dracular/Saruman, a polio-affected president, a—sorry—the sultry jazz-blues singer and a future time-traveling doctor? You get a helluva good time, is what you get.
It’s 1938, and the Nazi occupation of Europe is well underway. While America has yet to become formally involved, a strong press for our engagement is on…and just because we aren’t formally involved, doesn’t mean we aren’t makin’ some hay, so to speak. Wheelchair-bound president Franklin Delano Roosevelt, via undercover agents Hedy Lamar and her handler, swashbuckling star (and lascivious ne’er do well—but it’s a cover, I promise!) Errol Flynn, commissions comedic film maker extraordinaire Charlie “The Tramp” Chaplin to make a film encouraging the American people to get involved in the war effort overseas. Chaplin (who actually made such a film, The Great Dictator), soon finds himself drawn into the effort as much more than a simple auteur.
Cue cinematic theatrics and hifalutin hijinx. Rinse and repeat for five glorious issues of rising tension and escalating stakes.
McArdle and Judy put together a whopper of a tale, playing with history to wondrous effect and using just enough legitimate fact (which Paul enumerated in his review) to quell even the most stringent suspension of disbelief. The characters sound like they’ve been dropped right out of the tail-end of the Great Depression, the dialogue as fitting of its setting as any historical piece I’ve read in the fairly extensive past. Every player feels and sounds authentic, or at least as much as my 47-y/o mind can envision them, at any rate. A truly enjoyable lark.
As fun a concept as McArdle dreamed up, it falls flat if it doesn’t translate to the page artistically: if Charlie Chaplin looks like “generic curly dark-haired male,” if the action comes off stiff and ponderous, if the slapstick lacks any slap or stick. Good thing, then, that McArdle is pals with Dexter Wee, because none of that applies. Wee captures the essence of each of the figures and maintains them throughout, in and out of traditional costume—which to me is beyond impressive: one thing, to replicate an image of an actor or actress who has appeared in print thousands of times before; another thing altogether to portray that same figure as they may have appeared off-camera, having just jumped out of the shower (or clearly needing one), sans makeup and costume.
And the action—wow. Wee’s ability to capture the differing—and defining—movement styles of the varying figures: Chaplin’s caper-esque physical comedy, Flynn’s debonair grace, Lamar’s feline elegance, the Nazis’ goosesteps, is phenomenal, and really, really makes the comic work.
This achievement is all the more remarkable for its lack of color; other than covers, the entire series is in black and white (like the movies of the era: full-color paintings for the marquee posters, while the action itself is all b&w). Wee employs such effective use of shading and shadow, though, that I believe the piece actually works better in black and white; I’m going to credit the creators with having made the conscious choice to have done so—again, we’re speaking of a comic “film” of the tail-end of the 1930’s, before Technicolor came in and ruined everything. Really fine, fine stuff. (Edit: I’ve now been made aware that the print version will actually be in full-color. I’m curious to be sure, but I’ll cop to having reservations about that choice…)
We always, at the Pullbox, do our best to make sure the unnoticed get notice as well: in our case, the letterers. Well in this instance, in complimenting the letterer we happen to also be discussing the layout editor and chief writer as well. Nevertheless, Sean McArdle does his passion project proud: the lettering is well-constructed, well-placed and fluid throughout.
I’ll say this for Source Point Press: their talent acquisition folks are top notch. Seriously, go take a gander at their website (sourcepoint.press): it’s literally littered with fantastic up-and-coming writers and artists, series that had been web-comics or digital-only formats or available only via creator-generated Kickstarters and the like, but which are now part of a growing cadre of diverse and fascinating titles (which tend to trend toward horror, pulp and sci fi). Like TKO, they’re another indie/small print publisher that needs to not be ignored; I really don’t feel I can overhype them enough.
So, enough of my babbling. Get yourself over to sourcepoint.press or comiXology or any of the other usual suspects, and get your copies of The Fuhrer and The Tramp ordered…and while you’re at it, check out some of their other titles as well (I reviewed the first issue of The Misplaced a while back (read it here), and really haven’t seen anything by them that wasn’t worth the coin. I will definitely be stopping by their table at C2E2 (booth 707) and doing some shopping. Enjoy—and see you at the con!
Review by Andy Patch, thePullbox.com