The One-Trick Rip-Off

Paul Pope has always been something of an artist’s artist, which is why a collection of his work selling for three times the cover price yet you can still rarely find any of the comics he’s created on the shelves. He first appeared in the mid-nineties, with his weird sci-fi tale THB, about boarding schools and giant genie-like creatures that spring into action with the addition of a drop of water. At the same time, he was starting to work on Supertrouble for manga publisher Kodansha. Supertrouble never really appeared, and THB trickled out spordacially, making it hard to collect for even the most dedicated.
Heavy Liquid

Sporadic unavailability of his work has been something of a trademark. In 2007 he curated a retrospective of his work, called Pulphope, which quickly became impossible to find (pro tip: do not look at prices on eBay if you’ve ever given a copy away, it’s sickening). Thankfully for those of us who want to own one, Legendary Comics are issuing a new version with additional material in March. In addition, Image are republishing The One-Trick Rip-Off (originally published by Dark Horse) with Deep Cuts, a collection of Pope’s mid-90’s work (including Supertrouble). Some more recent work will appear in June, when DC finally collects their artist showcase Solo series as a hardback (all of the artists covered in this series are worth looking into).

Paul Pope's Joker from SOLO

So why should you grab an opportunity to pick up Pope’s comics while they’re (hopefully less temporarily this time) about? Because his art is unlike anyone else working today. His brushwork is wildly kinetic while still brilliantly precise. Even when he’s writing weird sci-fi, he still writes people well (most of the time). Because even when he’s not at his best, he’s still more interesting than a lot of stuff on the shelves. And because, after years of dallying with the mainstream, it looks like he might be big enough to make a dent under his own name. Good as Batman: Year 100 was, it needed Paul Pope more than Paul Pope needed it.

At the very least, check out the frequently-in-print 100%. A series of interweaving stories based around the lives of a group of people working in and frequenting a bar – hardly the most original idea, but so deftly handled that it deserves to be read. So do.