This week we see the welcome return of the modern pulp-comic classic, Stray Bullets, by David Lapham. In light of this momentous occasion, it seemed only fitting to celebrate the career of Mr. Lapham in honoring him as Comics Brewmaster of the Month!
I first became aware of David Lapham’s work on the short lived series from Jim Shooter’s Defiant Universe, Warriors of Plasm. I still go back and marvel at the level of detail in all of the colorful, oozing artwork that graced those comics. It seems like an odd mix now, looking back, combining Jim Shooter’s cosmic, supernatural stories, and sense of style with Lapham’s skills as an artist, but it worked. Before Warriors of Plasm, David Lapham cut his teeth working on many of the core Valiant titles in the early 90’s for Jim Shooter, notably his work on Shadowman, and Harbinger. I’m sure those years with Shooter must have been a roller coaster ride of highs and lows, seeing the market expand so rapidly, then suddenly imploding in the mid-90’s.
After Defiant closed down, Lapham exhibited great courage in self-publishing his dream project, Stray Bullets, at a time when the comics market was shrinking after the speculator bubble burst. I was lucky enough to have a local comics shop owner save me a copy of Stray Bullets #1 the week it came out, because he liked it so much, and thought of me. I recently went back and reread the issue, and it just struck me how perfect the whole comic was in the way that every little detail from cover design, narrative construction, execution of the art, creating a cast of characters who’s stories would intertwine in future issues, and the sort of personal throwing down of the gauntlet, creatively, all in that one issue! Of course, it should be noted that David Lapham didn’t take this new venture on alone, as his wife, Maria, is the Publisher of El Capitan, and has been with him, helping him make this series a reality the whole time. In fact, I have fond memories of seeing them both out there tabling each year at San Diego Comicon putting in the time and hard work it takes to promote a self published book, so the original vision of the project may stay intact for it’s readers.
The last issue of Stray Bullets to be published was #40 back in 2005. Lapham decided to put the series on hold, so he could focus exclusively on work for hire jobs, because it was a more reliable way to earn income for his family. As sad a day it was to Stray Bullets fans, it lead to a fertile period of David Lapham’s career, working on popular character comics, like Daredevil vs. Punisher: Means & Ends for Marvel, and new original work like Young Liars for DC/Vertigo. Interestingly, Young Liars used a similar story structure to Stray Bullets, having each issue focus on a different characters’ story that tied through a common theme/setting. In recent years he’s done a substantial amount of critically acclaimed work for Avatar Press, including Crossed: Family Values, Caligula, and my personal favorite, Dan the Unharmable! Also, as suggested to him by a friend, Lapham has thrown his hat into the all-ages ring with his currently running Juice Squeezers from Dark Horse. I could totally see that series on the big screen(or maybe small..?), so if any Hollywood producers out there are reading this, you’re welcome! Same goes for Stray Bullets as I recently wrote about in my Small Press Saturday: Top 5 Small Press Comics That Should Be Adapted by Hollywood article.
Now nearly 10 years later, the final issue of the original Stray Bullets run is coming to comics shelves with issue #41 hitting this week from Image Comics. Along with that will see the release of the next chapter in the Stray Bullets saga, Stray Bullets: Killers #1 and for those looking to get caught up on the whole Stray Bullets story in one affordable book, we have Stray Bullets: The Uber Alles Edition TP all coming out the same day, this Wednesday, March 12th! Wow! That is certainly reason to rejoice!
If you are new to Stray Bullets fret not! Mr. Lapham is generous enough to offer the first 4 issues to read for free on his website here.
Also, as part of this celebration of all things LAPHAM, I’ve assembled a spiffy cover gallery of David Lapham’s early covers here.
A recent interview covering the return of Stray Bullets by Comic Book Resources here.
So, let us all raise a glass to the CT Comics Brewmaster for the month of March, 2014!! Mr. David Lapham! “cling””cling”
The photo of David Lapham was borrowed from his Comics Vine page.