Instead of a normal article, I’m going to repost an old Scanning My Collection article about this comic. It was written in the early days of this site, which tells you how much I enjoy the comic. I did fix the format to match my progression.
OK, it’s another comic book, but at least this time it’s not a Transformers title. :)
I first heard of James E. Schaad…actually, I thought I knew where. I could have sworn he worked on Robotech for the defunct Academy Comics, Ltd. However, I really can’t find any evidence to back me up, so maybe I picked up tonight’s entry based solely on the solicit. Now this strikes me as odd, because Against the Grain isn’t exactly the type of comic I usually pick up. As you’ve seen here, when it comes to my fictional choices I tend to go super heroes, science fiction, and the occasional adventure story. In fact, the only comic reference I can find for him is a story in Ninja High School called “Against the Grain”. I wish I had a memory that bloody worked!
At any rate, I’m glad I got it. Against the Grain is billed as a “slice of life” story surrounding a group of kids about to enter high school. The center character is Terry Galloway, someone I actually have quite a bit in common with except he’s a math geek and I’m more of the storytelling variety. Both of us were in love with a girl in high school and never had the guts to tell her. Heck, he even looks a bit like I do, except I didn’t wear glasses until maybe my late 20′s. So let’s look at the second story to surprise me by grabbing my interest. (The other is Oh! My Goddess.)
Against the Grain #1
Sterling Graphics: December 1997
Story/Art: James E. Schaad
Heck, I can let the back cover do that for me.
It’s not like I tell everything that happens in these comics. That’s as “Cliff Notes” as any of my synopses.
According to the front page, the title of the comic comes from the comic itself, not the story inside.
Incidentally, the title for Against The Grain came about when I repeatedly described my idea as “a comic that will run against the grain of the market.” So, coming up with a catchy title for the series was kind of like trying to find my car keys when they were already in my pocket!
Schaad wanted to do something different and reach a different kind of audience. (Kind of like some of Katz’s “American Original” ideas.) [UPDATE: Does anyone know if this is still a thing?] With the coming wave of anime and manga (cartoons and comics from Japan, since anime is just the short form of “animation” and “manga” just means “comic book”, essentially), romantic and “slice-of-life” comics were alongside super hero fights, robots, and numerous other genre, so Schaad thought this would be a good time to try something new. Sadly, it didn’t catch an audience at the time. However, with the potential success other self-publishers I’ve seen using the power of the internet, and many other genres being tapped, maybe it’s a good time to try again.
Yeah, I was in Terry’s shoes during my high school years. And in some ways I’m still like that, and I’m sure I was back 1997, only six years removed from my freedom from high school. So maybe it was the solicit that interested me. I’m always up for something different if it’s interesting. I remember looking for issue 2, but not seeing it solicited in Diamond’s listings.
This comic does exactly what a pilot should do and define the characters and situations. (All except Larry. The only thing we know about him is he’s a walking stomach. Maybe in a future issue we learn he’s on drugs or something.) Terry, the focus character, is a bookworm who just wants to get out of his hometown, and yet is totally in love with Leslie, a girl he meets at a roller skating rink. (Do they still have those?) Leslie, however, is in love with his best friend, Alex, who doesn’t seem that interested. In fact, in the flashback he’s skating with a girl named Stacey, and there’s an instant connection…until he bumps into another girl. So when did Leslie meet Terry’s friend, and when did they start dating? In fact, how did Terry and Alex, who seem almost polar opposites, become friends.
Actually, Terry has little in common with any of the cast, from what I can see. Ray loves working and riding on motorcycles, and Mary Lou (or just Lou) loves Ray. Ray, however, is still pining for Alex’s sister, who moved away when their parents divorced and now has a boyfriend. It’s like Dawson’s Creek, if they replaced the angst with whimsy. In other words, minus the suck factor. :)
While trying to figure out where I saw Schaad’s work previously (since it obviously isn’t Robotech), I found his website. Seems he does have a second issue, and both of them are available to order. Issue three is also partly started as a web comic. And apparently, Larry isn’t even worth a mention, but Stacey is, and there are a few other people not featured in this comic. I’m not sure it is my kind of thing now, but it’s still a good example of how comics can be more than super heroes, sci-fi, wacky comedies, and horror. Maybe it’s your thing?
To this day I’m still disappointed that the comic didn’t continue. I still enjoy issue #1, and would have liked to have seen more. I still recommend picking it up if you prefer a “slice of life” comic to the stuff I usually review.