“COPRA” is a 24-page monthly comic, full of handmade goodness, and a force of nature. And it proves that sometimes the best thing to do is to do it yourself. That is what Brooklyn cartoonist Michel Fiffe has concluded. He is on a quest to create something different and compelling. It is a journey that began with aspiring to the work of Steve Ditko and led to a deeper understanding of Ditko and beyond and…”COPRA.”
Working at a breakneck pace, Michel Fiffe is currently doing what he can, with all his heart and talent, to bring you the very best in monthly original superhero comics. If you like the more balls-to-the-wall offbeat stuff, you’ll love this. Think “Suicide Squad,” for instance. Or “Doom Patrol.” Well, that’s some DC Comics. On the Marvel side, think “Doctor Strange” or…well, you get the picture. Fiffe is after carving out his own niche within that wonderful world of ragtag heroes taking on sinister forces.
Fiffe is aware of what he’s trying to conjure up. The world of independent alternative comics and mainstream superhero comics are two separate worlds that, over the years, have made some very compelling interconnections. The term, “fusion comics,” was coined by Frank Santoro to define this melding of indie with superhero. Fiffe writes about it here.
As a fusion cartoonist, Fiffe rides the new wave with just the right understated gusto. Characters, for example, in his hybrid of indie and superhero are decidedly uncharismatic. They are everyday people, at their core, rather than glamorous and sexy. You might think of Peter Parker, for instance, as being a classic everyman but no, he’s not really. He’s just too likable. He’s just too cute and well put together compared to what’s possible. This is not to needlessly slam Spider-Man since the love for the guy remains for Fiffe and, most likely, for you, dear reader. It’s more a desire, I think, to subvert expectations and insert something raw and new that motivates Fiffe.
Art is a complicated thing. It is not delicate. It is not aloof. Art is heroic and dramatic as well as purposeful. Fiffe is answering that call. “COPRA,” I suspect, is intentionally messy and cluttered. Just like a house packed with housemates, and their uninvited friends, creating confusing and frustrating chatter, random and unfiltered, so goes “COPRA.” This comic welcomes that mundane reality. The characters are constantly bickering like malcontents, like run of the mill housemates. No one stands out. The plot takes on that shaggy dog vibe too. It can be hard to follow all the way and that, according to your taste, can be fascinating or not. Too much text crammed into too small spaces doesn’t help the cause either. That said, I tend to want to fall in with being intrigued by it all.
Basically, you’ve got a bunch of the most strange and unlikely heroes doing battle with another bunch of the most strange and unlikely villains. That alone, can be a lot of fun. Yes, this comic has a certain something about it. I was about to say, “energy,” but it’s of a subversive kind. These characters, this plot, the action, the ass kicking, all move at a snail’s pace. Is it offbeat simply for the sake of being offbeat? Well, try it on for size and see what you think. The lack of clarity will prove a stumbling block. Based on his observations on the back page of “COPRA,” Fiffe states that he’s not afraid to run with an idea and just go with, not edit himself. To create on the fly is like walking on a tight rope..without a net.
Getting back to “fusion comics,” Marvel and DC Comics, to their credit, have brought in cartoonists from the “underground” and put them behind the wheel of some awesome stuff. It doesn’t get any better, for instance, when DC Comics gives Paul Pope the keys to the Batmobile. One of the most notable experiments was some years back when Marvel Comics did a remake of “Omega the Unknown” with Farel Dalrymple as artist and novelist Johnathan Lethem as writer. Most unusual and yet it has become an accepted practice to mix things up, from time to time, when finding talent for mainstream superheroes. Maybe it is just a matter of time before Marvel and DC Comics come calling Fiffe. Frankly, it probably won’t be soon but you never know. Whatever the case, Michel Fiffe should come out alright.
In conclusion, “COPRA” is a highly imaginative and daring comic. The plot remains too insular, seeming to follow its own internal logic. It should be opened up more for readers. I am betting that will happen. And I welcome your viewpoint if you believe that to already be happening. Experimental comics are a unique nut to crack. That said, I also believe this comic deserves a continued look. Who knows where “COPRA” or Michel Fiffe, for that matter, will be in a few years. No doubt, it will be some place interesting.
Visit Michel Fiffe’s site here. You can order copies directly through Fiffe. And to make it more fun, let your comics shop know about “COPRA” if they haven’t gotten the word yet.