There are very few titles of comics that I would honestly say you “must read.” The reason being that there are so many comic genres most people still just expect superheroes and so dubbing anything “must read” usually falls on deaf ears. If you’re one of those comic book readers that still hasn’t discovered the wonderful medium waiting for you outside of capes, tights and leather then let me recommend you start your journey with Big Man Plans #1. Creators Eric Powell, who illustrates the series, with Tim Wiesch take full advantage of the medium. If you’ve read Powell’s The Goon then you already know what he’s capable of, but with Big Man Plans he and Wiesch truly and honestly craft a story that could only be told in a comic book. This is not a love note to Hollywood asking them to make this into a film. Nor is the story a literary work that was dying for added visuals. Everything about Big Man Plans is a comic book and it starts with the premise.
All I need to tell you about the issue is the beginning. It starts in a bar with a man reading a letter and the reveal is that he’s a midget. Now hold on before you go jumping down my throat this story is happening in 1979 so that is what he’s referred to as. Frankly I would feel like a douchebag if I sat here writing little person over and over especially when there’s nothing politically correct about this story. It’s hardcore and in your face the entire time. I forget which comedian said it, but Powell and Wiesch make “midget” a tough ass word.
Now our main character, let’s call him “Big Man” since we don’t know his name and everyone in the story uses some kind of joke or derogatory term towards him, he’s sitting at a bar reading a letter. It’s clearly not a good letter because the look on his face is grim. Two idiots at the bar make every joke they can think of about him and they’re all pretty pathetic. He orders a stiff drink and the bartender gives him a kid’s cup. He drinks it anyway and puts some money under the cup and basically doesn’t give the assholes the satisfaction. Outside he runs into a kid that instantly starts harassing him about his size. Inside the bar the bartender lifts the cup and out pops a live grenade and at the same time Big Man rocks the jaw of the mouthy kid with a big explosion happening behind him.
Don’t let the over the top violence fool you, there is a story here. The first issue is for all intents and purposes an origin issue. We learn everything about Big Man’s life and frankly… it’s all fucked up. All of it and it’s made him the hardest mother fucker ever. Sprinkled throughout the issue is his journey towards revenge. We don’t have the details yet, but that’s why I’ll keep reading. I want to know who has pissed him off and what he’s going to do about it.
Aside from the subject matter being box office poison, the biggest reason this story only works as a comic book is the artwork. Powell’s style is all over the book and the man knows how to work a page. Since the first issue captures all of Big Man’s life we see him as a child grow into a man and it’s an incredible transformation that only Powell could nail. It’s amazing to see this happy child turn into a hardened killer. In my opinion it’s the way he illustrates the eyes that depict this transformation the most. I always hate it in movies when they say something stupid like, “you have cold eyes” because it’s never something they actually capture on film. In Big Man Plans, Powell captures it to the “T.” Big Man’s eyes are those of a killer, but we see how he got there.
This story is incredible. It’s not just the art. It’s not just the hyper violence. It’s not just the story and character. I know you’re expecting me to say, “It’s all of those things”, but it’s more than just that. It’s all of those things working in perfect tandem at 100% capacity. There is no weak link or loose thread because this book is tight.
In modern comics it’s rare to find a story that’s not trying to be another medium or get into another medium. Simply put it’s hard to find a comic that just wants to be a comic. If you’re looking for that then you “must read” Big Man Plans.
You can also hear me talk about the book on our comic podcast the CBMFP