By Ben Boruff
There is something charming about B movies. Equipped with the narrative absurdity of movies like Birdemic and the visual gaudiness of films like Alien vs. Ninja, most B movies offer a buffet of hardheaded protagonists, haphazardly choreographed fight scenes, and one-liners growled through bared teeth. B movies are unapologetic, and they tend to wave shaky middle fingers at anyone who suggests that they should be better in any way. This Kesha-esque we-are-who-we-are mentality is an admirable quality in an era of frantic focus testing and arguably formulaic superhero films that pander to the lowest common denominator of AMC patrons. Appreciating a B movie requires more than suspended disbelief: it requires wholehearted submission to simple pleasures. To call Little Man in the Big House the comic equivalent of a B movie is to ignore some of the comic's understated perfections; however, this short comic from artist Paul Tucker and writer Ryan K Lindsay contains a fast-paced, simple narrative that captures the best of B-movie culture. Little Man in the Big House is fun to read and fun to view—and that's all some readers want. The protagonist of Little Man in the Big House is Macbeth, a size-shifting "problem solver" who becomes a prison security guard to protect his family's anonymity. Like Spider-Man, Macbeth worries that public acts of heroism will eventually create an unsafe environment for his loved ones, so he switches to a less complicated line of work—or so he thinks.
Macbeth, as a character, is largely unrelated to Shakespeare’s Macbeth, but there is one comparison worth noting: both Lindsay's Macbeth and Shakespeare's Macbeth are fueled by single-minded vigor. Once Shakespeare's Macbeth decides (or, more accurately, is persuaded by his wife) to become king, he allows that goal to overtake his mind. No other thought matters. The Macbeth created by Tucker and Lindsay works the same way: his actions are driven by relentless pragmatism. Macbeth's worldview seems to divide people and situations into two categories: problems and solutions. He is direct and efficient, like a size-manipulating version of James Bond.
Paul Tucker’s artwork is captivating. Dark shadows and vibrant colors collide to create a dizzying visual experience. In several panels, Lindsay gets out of the way, eliminating dialogue and allowing Tucker’s roller coaster of thick lines and 80s-style coloring to tell the story.
Little Man in the Big House has its flaws, but it is entertaining. The dialogue is cliché at times, and some of the characters are cookie-cutter versions of tired archetypes. If you want to wrinkle your brain, look elsewhere. But if you want to read about an Atom-like hero who attempts to smother a prison riot, read Little Man in the Big House, which is available for free online.
Little Man in the Big House
Writer: Ryan K Lindsay
Artist: Paul Tucker
Publisher: Four Colour Ray Gun