On Sundays, Felan profiles his favourite comics and graphic novels from across the diverse medium’s history.
Might as well start with a recent discovery. James Stokoe’s Orc Stain is sort of my dream comic. A bizarre fantasy world (think Heavy Metal magazine) rendered in a style that’s simultaneously cartoony (think Sergio Aragonés or Lewis Trondheim) and obsessively detailed (think Geof Darrow), all in beautifully vivid colours. Nearly every object or machine looks like a weird organic creature – everything from belts to axes to treasure chests in this comic has a pair of bulging cartoon eyes. Make sure you click on the above image to see it full-sized, in all its densely-packed glory. This is the kind of thing I used to wish existed, and now it does. Thanks, James Stokoe!
Orc Stain basically asks the question, what if the vicious, teeming hordes of orcs that stain so many high fantasy worlds were actually as vicious and teeming as we are supposed to believe? Obviously, they would be unstoppable, and so the world of Orc Stain is populated almost exclusively with warring orcish tribes, having conquered and colonized every available inch of land. The orcs spend most of their time fighting and looking for the biggest penises to chop off (chopped-off junk, or “gronch” being the main currency in orcish society), but a new power, the self-styled Orc Tzar, is rising to unite the orc hordes in pursuit of power and domination.
Against this backdrop, the story follows the strange fate of one orc who’s a bit different from the rest. Less concerned with gronch than with just getting by, One-Eye has a special talent: he can find the weak spot in any structure and cause it to collapse with a single tap of his hammer (pictured above). As you can imagine, this makes for some really excellent page-filling spectacles of collapsing buildings. One-Eye makes his living as a safe-cracking thief (this being Orc Stain, the safes in question are built out of strange, giant animals), but when a prophet tells the Orc Tzar that One-Eye may be the key to his plans, everything goes gronch-up and One-Eye’s misadventures begin.
The real strength of Orc Stain is in the spectacular artwork, layouts, colours and lettering, but five issues in the story isn’t bad either (Stokoe is a one man shop, and does everything himself), and there’s lots of open threads to follow through as the series progresses. Orc Stain is published monthly by Image, and the first trade paperback, collecting issues 1 through 5 is available now in your local comic book shop.
For more information, check out Stokoe’s website, featuring a wealth of other free comics in addition to Orc Stain content (also the source of the above image): https://orcstain.wordpress.com/