Here’s a comic that’s a little different. We’re going off Tapastic to review a classic-style strip. It was an honor to review this one, as it’s a project FILLED with passion, and you can tell how that spills out onto every page.
Title: Johnny Bullet
Creator: Herve St. Louis/ Toon Doctor
Johnny Bullets’s Three Minutes
Johnny Bullet is a 1970s drag racer who drives muscle cars. It is a Web comic strip published every Sunday.
Johnny Bullet leads many lives–drag racer, stunt driver, car fan, and part time detective. One day while shooting for a new movie, Johnny’s mechanic and long time friend Doug knocks him out and takes the car in his place, only to wind up dead. Along with his agent Sergei and crew member Donnie, Johnny solves mysteries and tries to figure out who killed Doug.
The cool thing about this comic is how it’s presented–as a weekly strip reminiscent of Sunday strips like Prince Valiant or Dick Tracy. Each page is five standard panels that tell chunks of the story at a time. Sometimes, this works really well. Other times, each strip doesn’t have enough to carry it or cuts off awkwardly. It’s not bad to limit the number of panels you’re using, but pacing is important. Things seemed to be glossed over in a way that makes it come off as cheap.
The story, as a whole, has a lot going for it! There’s racing, the glitz of 70’s movie making, the undertones of an unrequited love, and a dangerous mystery. In lesser hands, this could have ended up a big mess, but here it is masterfully executed and balanced in such a way that, even with the threads still left open, I know they will be resolved.
Score: 8 points
The art, especially the scenery, is really rad. It’s all stark black and white with some nice hatching work to give texture. There’s a lot of cars around, and they are lovingly rendered. On top of this, everything is very clean and neat. It’s really easy to see what’s happening and when. Herve’s got this great style that’s loose and relaxed while also being really tight, and definitely reminiscent of classic cartoons, but with a nice dose of modern originality.
Score: 8 points
I mentioned in a previous review how character stereotypes and not necessrily bad. Here’s an instance where they are used incredibly well. Johnny hasn’t said much about himself, Sergei only makes a couple of appearances before jetting off to parts unknown, and Donnie has only had a few lines herself–but I feel as if I know these characters already! Already I can infer many things about our hero without having been told much. Playing on stereotypes can be tough, especially when you’re trying to make them feel unique and individualized. Plaything them off successfully here is something to be applauded indeed.
In the art category, I talked about the scenery and cars in Johnny Bullet, but in comparison, the characters look a little rough. While they do contrast nicely against the backgrounds, there are times when they look a little stiff. In the flashback scene, I was having trouble keeping track of who’s who since a lot is going on. And when Donnie changes her hair, she looks like a completely different person. It’s hard to tell the age of the characters at times (Johnny is 16 in the flashback?!) and sometimes they have this odd, off focus stare that can be off putting.
Score: 6 points
Johnny Bullet isn’t just a cool retro-inspired comic–it’s a passion project. Herve does all the work himself, and he’s in grad school. For his PhD! In every entry, the authors talks about how much he loves doing this comic. You can tell how much he loves it from how the pages look and feel. That’s a very real and potent thing, and I thank you for sharing that with us.
Overall Score: 22 points