The Indie Corner: James Stokoe

Published on February 28th, 2013

JamesStokoeGalactusHello everyone I’m Matt Dunford and welcome to the indie corner here at Comic Impact. This being the first installment of the Indie Corner you probably have some questions about who I am and what this section is all about. First and foremost my name is Matt Dunford I am a lifelong comicbook fan, UC Santa Barbara graduate, I worked as an editor for Semantink Publishing then later worked as Senior Editor for Keyleaf Comics, I like comics, coffee and corgis and that’s my life story. Next question, what is the Indie Corner? Here in the Indie Corner I will be talking about small press books, creator owned properties and comics that not published by Marvel and DC. As much as love superhero comics from the big two there are many creator owned books that should be experienced by more readers. All too often these books start small and grow their fanbase from good reviews, award nominations and word of mouth. So here I am talking about my favorite indie books in the hopes that you will indulge in reading material that I have enjoyed.

This being our first installment of the Indie Corner I would like to talk about the works from James Stokoe. Question: Who is James Stokoe? Answer: James Stokoe is my favorite artist working in comics today. He is not “one of my favorite artists” he is my hands down favorite artist in comics today. I have no reluctance at all when I say he is my favorite, he may not be your favorite but all comicbook fans have their personal tastes and opinions and this is mine. My introduction to his artwork came in the summer of 2010 when Bleeding Cool put up a massive illustration of Galactus drawn by an artist I have never heard of named James Stokoe. That drawing measured 4 square feet, and Stokoe mentioned it was just a warm up drawing that he did before he got into his real work. I immediately set the Galactus image as my desktop so that I could soak up every last bit of detail, but I still have a long way to go with that one. Needless to say I was pretty blown away his stuff. In this article I am going to talk about his body of work, which includes Orc Stain, Godzilla: Half Century War, and Sullivan’s Sluggers.

Orc Stain

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 In December of 2010 when all of their big comic review sites were making their Top 10 Comic lists for the end of the year a certain book called “Orc Stain” kept popping up in most of them. Reviews were very solid for this book and when I learned that the Galactus guy was drawing it I bolted over to my comic store and snapped up all 5 issues. After reading Orc Stain I was a changed man, I shouted its praise from the rooftops. VIVA LA GRONCH! VIVA LA GRONCH! I became an overnight Orc Stain fanatic. The world of Orc Stain is bright, vibrant, animated, violent and grotesque. If I were to liken it to a certain artistic style, it would be Dr. Seuss meets Jim Henson meets Geoff Darrow. The orcs in Orc Stain differ from those that you would find in Lord of the Rings, they are the dominant species of a war-torn world ruled by an evil despot known as the Orktzar. The Orktzar receives a prophecy that will only attain world domination after he has control of the Ganga-Gronch, however the prophecy decrees that only a one-eyed Orc can unlock the gronch that so desperately seeks. This leads into the main character, an orc named One-Eye (due to the fact that he is missing an eye). Eye-One is a thief with the ability to unlock anything, and as a result of this half of the Orktzar’s army in hell-bent on capturing him and bringing him while hilarious insanity ensues. If you haven’t read Orc Stain you a probably unfamiliar with the word “gronch” and yes it is what you think it is. The “gronch” is in fact a male orc’s reproductive organ. In this world the gronch is everything, orcs fight each other and degronch each other and wear the gronches for clothing, they use them as belts, hang them from the walls as a status symbol of war. And if all that isn’t gross enough when a gronch becomes petrified they cut it up into small pieces, dip them in wax, bake them and use them for their currency know as “chits”. Yeah it’s pretty twisted but you can’t help but laugh. One of the most appealing (and disgusting) things to me about the world of Orc Stain is the technology and architecture. Nearly everything utilized in this comic is based off of a living creature that does its bidding for their orc master, sort of a twisted Flintstones world. A world at war, a hero on the run and gronches, what’s not to love? I highly recommend Orc Stain to all readers; issues 1-5 are currently available in trade paperback collection from Image Comics.

Godzilla: The Half-Century War

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 I can’t say that I’m the biggest Godzilla fan in the world, but when I heard that James Stokoe was going to be writing and drawing a Godzilla title it quickly became my most anticipated comic of 2012. Upon reading the first issue of the mini-series I was blown away by the incredible visual energy I had come to expect Stokoe but now I got to see it on a destructive monster level. Godzilla: The Half-Century War starts off in Japan in 1956 when Godzilla makes his first landfall. The story centers on an army grunt by the name of Ota Murakami who takes action against Godzilla and manages to save the lives of thousands while endangers his own. Ota becomes an unexpected hero with an unexpected obsession of ridding the world of Godzilla. You would expect this book to be a maelstrom of monster destruction but you get a great sense of character development from Murakami and his crew as decades of Godzilla hunting drive these characters from their humble beginnings to the war torn men they become as the years of monster hunting wears on. This shows how immensely talented Mr. Stokoe is because honestly I could care less about Godzilla, it’s never been a franchise that I had much interest in but Godzilla: The Half Century War is the book I have been the most enthusiastic for every month. This was the craziest, most ridiculously entertaining comic that I had the pleasure of reading in 2012 and I believe that Stokoe deserves and Eisner Nomination for Best Limited Series and a hands down Eisner Award for Best Penciller for this book.

Sullivan’s Sluggers

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Stepping up to the plate for our first section of the Indie Corner is Sullivan’s Sluggers by Mark Andrew Smith (Popgun, Amazing Joy Buzzards, New Brighton Archaeological Society) and James Stokoe. Sullivan’s Sluggers is a horror graphic novel that started off as a Kickstarter project asking for $6,000 to fund the cost of production, however the outpouring of support by fans allowed Sullivan’s Sluggers to raise nearly $100,000 in funds, which allowed this graphic novel to be upgraded to the oversized, slipcased, glossy print masterpiece that I was able to read. Sullivan’s Sluggers is a horror comic based around a minor league Baseball Team coached by Casey Sullivan, a washed up major league player who finds himself in a perpetual state of regret and self loathing. Sullivan’s team is invited to play ballgame in a small town called Malice. As the story proceeds Sullivan goes out of his way to invite a major talent scout to check out Duncan his young promising talent, the game starts off in a back and forth exchange between the two teams until the sun goes down and all the people in the town of Malice transform into grotesque man-eating monsters. The strength of this book is from the hilarious, energetic and crazy ass visuals that James Stokoe brings. I don’t think that any other artist out there could have come close to the gut-wrenching brilliant horror comedy seen here. If you were lucky enough to grab a copy of Sullivan’s Sluggers from the Kickstarter you are in for a treat, if not then happy hunting on eBay.

So we reached the conclusion of our The Indie Corner with Matt Dunford. I have spoken about my love for a Canadian artist who draws monsters, orcs, and giant monsters. I hope my love for James Stokoe will be passed on to you and I hope that you will be turned on to his works. So go out and read his comics, spend all your money on his original art and become as big a fan of him as I am. For Comic Impact this is Matt Dunford signing off.

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Uncle Dunfy (Viva la Gronch)
MattD@comicimpact.com