Funrama is Ryan Kelly’s (Local, Three) self-published, black and white series of connected one shot superhero (sorta) stories. I bought issue one from him in 2010 but missed issue two, so it was pretty easy to catch up now that he’s releasing #3, Cactus Man.
Issue #1 introduced The Mutant Punks, a group of super-powered assholes who wreak havoc in Paris, The Mall of America and The White House. At the end of the issue it’s implied that they’re inter-dimensional travelers, randomly fucking things up wherever they go. Issue #2 gives us small town superhero Raccoon and her sidekick Flora, and the idea of Funrama, a dimension plagued by an unnamed threat that speedster Jaguar is recruiting heroes to combat.
Issue #3 tells the story of Floyd Macaloon, a union busting goon (think Pinkertons) in, what looks to be, 20’s-30’s Minneapolis. The meat of the issue is Macaloon's growing discontent with the things “Citizens Alliance” boss Briggs asks him to do. He’s willing to start some fake fights to make striking workers look bad but he balks at shooting unarmed picketers and vows to turn Higgs and his buddies in. His sudden streak of morality doesn’t please Higgs and Floyd soon finds himself beat to shit and dumped in a river.
Luckily he falls through a dimensional portal and ends up with cactuses for arms.
It’s a weird book.
All the Funrama’s have been a little off beat, to be honest. #1 and #2 had more humor in them, #3 is kind of somber. Floyd doesn’t crack wise and he’s not really a good guy, just a guy who draws his line at shooting random people. He’s written well though. His third act turn is believable and it’s not like he heroically saves a baby or something. He tries to stop the slaughter but he can’t, and at some point he apparently just leaves. As for the larger plot, Kelly is delivering parts of the overall “Funrama” story in bits and pieces throughout. Floyd comes across a circus poster depicting a number of characters from previous issues and some others, and becomes fixated on one. Later, after falling through the portal, he meets Jaguar who tells us/him a little more about Funrama itself. It’s a slow burn to be sure but it’s not annoyingly secretive.
So the story is interesting and well-paced but the real sell here is the art. Kelly is an excellent cartoonist. He excels at creating characters that convey their emotions through both thought and body language. Floyd starts out a cocky asshole who smirks and sneers his way through the incident on the picket line. Midway through he has slumped shoulders and vacant eyes, ashamed of what he’s willing to do. Kelly’s backgrounds are incredibly detailed, with both cityscapes and interiors receiving the same meticulous treatment. His tones and shadows deftly assist in conveying mood for both individual characters and scenes on a whole. Storytelling is clear and Kelly uses a few interesting layouts and panel transitions.
Kelly self-distributes Funrama so issues #2 and #3 (#1 is currently OOP) are available to buy from his website, where #1 is also free to read. All three issues are available to purchase digitally through the same site. Overall Funrama is a book that approaches the idea of superpowers through a very specific lens and with a drastically different tone than what you usually find from the Big 2. That unique approach and the beautiful art make both this issue and the series on a whole worth checking out.