DO YOU EVER JUST SEE A CUTE/HOT PICTURE OF YOUR FAVORITE ACTOR AND YOU JUST FLIP OUT?!? BECAUSE THEY’RE SO PERFECT AND SEEING THEM JUST REMINDS YOU OF HOW AMAZING THEY ARE AND HOW THEY DESERVE EVERY GOOD THING THEY GET AND MORE AND HOW EVEN ONCE THEY LEAVE THE SHOW OR THE SERIES ENDS YOU’LL STILL LOVE THEM CAUSE THEY’RE JUST SO MOTIVATIONAL AND PERFECT AND AMAZING
Indie comic creators have been making a big mark on the mainstream lately, what with the likes of American Barbarian creator tomscioli bringing infinitely imaginative, Kirby-esque style to IDW’s Transformers Vs. G.I. Joe, Copra and zegas creator Michel Fiffe lending his insightful take on superheroes to Marvel’sAll-New Ultimates, and a host of underground talents (including Fiffe, Jim Rugg and Farel Dalrymple) providing backup stories for Dynamite’s Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers. Now it’s Keenan Marshall Keller and Tom Neely’s turn, and they’re laying waste to the comics landscape with their new simian biker epic from imagecomics, The Humans. Keller is the founder of LA-based indie imprint Drippy Bone Books and creator of the psychotic sci-fi action odyssey Galactic Breakdown (aka Space Battleground 666), while Neely has instigated something of a phenomenon with his sublimely hilarious Henry & Glenn Forever (which imagines a tender domestic partnership between Black Flag singer Henry Rollins and Misfits founder Glenn Danzig, as well as their neighbors, a Satan-worshipping version of pop duo Hall & Oates). In The Humans, this terrible twosome takes the grimy excesses of Roger Corman’s seminal biker flick The Wild Angels and places them in a Planet of the Apes-like alternate reality where monkeys and gorillas have replaced humans.
After the success of The Wild Angels and Easy Rider in the late 1960s, the biker genre was wildly popular in cinema, spawning drive-in classics like Hells Angels on Wheels, Chrome and Hot Leather, The Glory Stompers and Satan’s Sadists, and in pulp novels, but with the notable exception of Marvel’s Ghost Rider (and Skywald’s slightly more adult Hell-Rider, though that only lasted two issues), never really translated to comics, in no small because the staples of the genre include violence, drugs, sex and generally antisocial, anti-establishment behavior, none of which were viewed particularly favorably by the Comics Code Authority. Fortunately, times have changed and now we can enjoy the anarchic bacchanalia of that bygone era without censorship or sugarcoating.
Though the ape aspect of The Humans is entertaining, it’s almost incidental, providing a neat hook for Keller and Neely’s superbly realized story about an outlaw motorcycle gang. Led by the enigmatic Bobby, whose sunglasses and stoicism recall Peter Fonda’s Blue in the aforementioned Wild Angels, the gang includes the soulful Marra (his name presumably a sly nod to comic creator Benjamin Marra (traditionalcomics), who also provided a pin-up for this issue), old timer Doc, druggy Nada and the ominous Karns. After the funeral of fallen club member Mojo, they find themselves locked in combat with rival gang the Skabbs, a crew so scummy they make the Humans look heroic by comparison.
Like the great biker films that came before it, The Humans is a comic for the rest of us, for fans of the Cramps and Russ Meyer movies, for trashhounds and scumfiends, for dirtbags and burnouts and weirdos, for outsiders and outcasts and square pegs of every caste, for those, to paraphrase Peter Fonda in the Wild Angels, who want to be free to do what they wanna do, to have a good time and read awesome comics without getting hassled by The Man.
Harris Smith is a Brooklyn-based comics and media professional. In addition to his role as a Senior Production Coordinator at comiXology, he edits several comics anthologies, including Jeans and Felony Comics, under the banner of Negative Pleasure Publications. He’s also the host of the weekly radio show Negative Pleasure on Newtown Radio.