Those of us who seriously follow the comics medium are always mindful of homegrown stuff. There’s a select group of us rooting for the indie cartoonist making it happen against all odds. As a cartoonist, I have a few more layers of empathy. I don’t need a work to fit any particular theme or agenda. I just need it to grab me. In the case of the book we have before us, I sense a kindred spirit right away. Damien Shanahan created a character in his youth and developed that character and his world. In the process, Damien Shanahan grew as a person, an artist, and so on. Sort of like Woody, from Toy Store, Pizza Man sat on a shelf for a while. But then Damien Shanahan got a craving for pizza again and the cheese was, once again, bubbling hot. The crust was crispy too. And it all led to “Pizza Man: The Supreme Collection.”
Shanahan has done a lot of smart things with his Pizza Man over the years and that is reflected in the book. He knows how to keep it fresh. He begins the book with a new story that showcases his current art and writing skills. He knows how to bring the reader in. He kicks off with an informative introduction and also provides further explanation at the start of each section. He knows how to keep it moving. I think Shanahan does a great job of presenting his older work in the best light. And he knows when to share in the fun. There are some awesome pieces here with other artists drawing Pizza Man and the gang.
Pizza Man brings to mind Flaming Carrot and other parodies of the superhero genre. There have been parodies for as long as there have been superheroes. Funny thing is that even your most unconventional superhero is liable to get complacent and start to act too much like a traditional superhero. In that regard, Shanahan demonstrates a keen sense of humor and dedication to remain as weird as possible. I really enjoyed the new work that begins this book. He has Pizza Man and his sidekick, Mozzarella, posted at a booth at a comic book convention. These guys aren’t creators. They’re fictional characters. They have no vested interest in being at a comic book convention. So, whatever onlookers have to say to them, it really doesn’t mean a thing to them. If only it could be that easy for cartoonists.
In the course of all his adventures, we don’t dwell too much on how Pizza Man became Pizza Man. It’s nothing as dramatic as surviving some freak accident at a pizza parlor or escaping from some pizza planet. He just is what he is. That’s what I like most about Pizza Man. Shanahan seems to be comfortable to keep things simple while also playing up the absurdity of being a superhero. This is just the sort of vibe that a lot of comic book publishers find very appealing. And that should bode well for the future of Pizza Man.
I’m sure this book will be fun for both fans of superheroes and fans of superhero parodies. It will be of keen interest too for anyone interested in the storytelling process as Shanahan does a great job of documenting his creative journey. This collection was the result of a successful Kickstarter campaign. You’ll want to seek it out as it becomes more available.
Keep up with Damien Shanahan and Pizza Man right here.