Imagine a psychedelic space adventure featuring graffiti art from the trendiest neighbourhood in town: that’s GalaXafreaks.
It’s a comic book set in a distance galaxy, starring a cast of aliens who look like they leapt straight out of a line of skate-stickers, whose creatively off-the-wall character designs and vibrantly luminescent colouring couldn’t be more eye catching if the floppies came packaged with battery powered neon lights.
“Cool” seems like a very generic word to use in a review, but I can think of few other books that would be better suited to the title. It’s no surprise that Andrew Pawley, the series creator, is also known for his album art illustrations, which utilize the same kind of uniquely weird images.
Incidentally, Spaceface are a Memphis psychedelic rock band. Go check 'em out here.
Not only are Pawley’s designs bizarre, but they’re given an added edge by toying with the macabre. GalaXafreaks is a comic suitable for all ages, but many of the characters have features which, in a different context, might be considered quite gruesome. Captain Yeah, the comic’s hero, has an exposed skull for a face; other characters have protruding eyeballs, and my favourite character design so far, Acid Baff, is… well, I’m not really sure how to explain why he’s gory, but the poor dude looks like he lives in constant pain.
"Please... kill... me...."
So how can the comic be suitable for all ages with all this going on? Well, the characters are abstract enough to avoid body horror territory. The GalaXafreaks manage to reach that sweet spot where they’re not quite scary enough to be Soccer-Mom Fodder, but just subversive enough to pique the interest of that dark part of a child’s mind which keeps them watching ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’, even after that intense bit with the boat ride.
Imagine this, but with Gene Wilder singing about hurricanes and hell and then just kinda screaming for no reason other than to TERRIFY CHILDREN.
But it isn’t just the art that pushes the envelope. Previously GalaXafreaks were mainly short strips without much of an ongoing story arch, but in GalaXafreaks: Darkvibes #1, we’re introduced to an antagonist who, in the crazy world of The GalaXafreaks, has the closest thing to a real world parallel in the form of the leader of a zealous mega-church leader. While he’s not specifically named as such, and he’s still a weird looking alien, the analogy is clear. The mystery of this fanatic’s true agenda, combined with his status as an authority figure, makes him all the more sinister.
Introducing a more serial plot for the series could be a really great thing for the series, because although its premise is rooted in psychedelic surrealism, it’s also an adventure story. Understanding what poses a threat to Captain Yeah, and the rest of the GalaXafreaks, is important in establishing stakes in the plot, and the characters are abstract enough that the ‘rules’ are a little muddy. Are they as mortal as you and I, or are they tougher than the average human? Perhaps they are as vulnerable as us, but they have different criteria for what constitutes as danger? I’m looking forward to future instalments of GalaXafreaks: Darkvibes, and hoping that they answer these questions.
Andrew Pawley, the series creator, is crowdfunding the second issue of GalaXafreaks: Darkvibes on Kickstarter, right now! Head over there and give it a look, but be quick, because there’s only a few days left in the campaign.
News about the comic, the website, and other generally relevant ramblings.