Pullbox Reviews: Mad Gasser of Mattoon #1 – Murder & Mayhem for fun & profit…

It’s just a couple heads a week. That’s what the Gasser thinks. Simple. Well… as simple as decapitations go.

In the mid-1940’s more than two dozen people were found gassed in their homes in the town of Mattoon, IL, in a span of just 14 days. No one was ever caught. 

What better role model for a sociopath in central Illinois?

While the world sleeps, a bizarre figure lurks in the shadows. Easing the window up, he reaches out as his partner in murder releases sleeping gas into the home. Slipping through the window, they loom over the unconscious form of their target.

A blade is drawn… prepared to strike.

At the last second, their victim stirs… the blade falls.

Not a perfect strike, but the harvest continues.

Titles like Mad Gasser of Mattoon are tough to describe. The first thing I have to tell you is that this is shaping up to be one bloody ride. The second is that if you’re looking for a comic with stalwart heroes righting wrongs and defending the weak, this ain’t it. Finally, I’ll just say that everything you’re expecting to see in a comic about a deranged serial killer who talks to a World War 1 gas mask, toss that right out the window.

Creator/writer/artist John A. Rodriguez (JAR) is a longtime friend of thePullbox and a really nice guy. I’ve met him on a few occasions, we’ve chatted a bit, and he just seems like a cool dude. So when he shot me a copy of his creator owned, self-published comic, I was not expecting the Mad Gasser. Honestly, I have no idea where this came from… but if creation is all about taking elements of yourself and pouring them out onto the page, I guess it could explain Rodriguez’s next level chill. Anything dark and sinister he might have had lurking under the surface has found its way into this book.

Artistically, I can’t say enough good things about Rodriguez’s talent. He’s got a style that’s totally his own, with a range that covers pretty much any style of work you can think of. I’m a fan. From a design standpoint, Mad Gasser is… eclectic. It’s bizarre, reading a book that teeters back and forth between relatively realistic looking people to heavily stylized, more cartoonish characters. It’s equal parts off-putting and interesting, and it got me trying to find the pattern or hidden meaning behind the choices. For all I know, it doesn’t go any deeper than crazy random happenstance… I dunno, maybe Rodriguez just got bored drawing regular folk and decided to toss in some Mad Magazine characters. It doesn’t matter because I want to keep reading to find out one way or the other.

Rule number one of making comics: Make people want to buy your second issue. The first issue is great, without a doubt, but repeat business is always the more telling indicator of a title’s success.

Stepping beyond the pretty pictures… okay, maybe “pretty” isn’t the right word cuz this comic’s pretty messed up… JAR is skipping the tedium of the origin story, getting right down to the meat and bones. The lead in to his new book is a partial decapitation! Sure, the bulk of this first issue is devoted to establishing some important facts, without a lot of time devoted to fully introducing our main character. But let’s be honest, the guy’s a serial killer who gasses his victims before chopping their heads off. I’m not really sure how much more of an intro we really need aside from some tantalizing hints at a backstory. What we do get is some interesting filler hinting at a bigger picture, that there’s an entity or organization employing the Gasser… and potentially others like him. Kinda looking forward to seeing what that’s all about.

(Refer to the above mentioned rule number one of making comics…)

There’s a lot to build on, and JAR has left himself plenty of room to maneuver as he starts a new title with a helluva lead in (again… a friggin decapitation on the third page!). And then he leaves us with the right questions, the kind that can pull readers back for a second issue. It looks like this might be a good comic to fill the Dexter shaped hole in all of our lives.

Final Score: 9

Variant cover by Camron Johnson
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