Review: Little Man in the Big House

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.

Score: 3/5

Little Man in the Big House
Writer: Ryan K Lindsay
Artist: Paul Tucker
Publisher: Four Colour Ray Gun

Review: Deer Editor #1

By Ben Boruff

Deer Editor is smart—deceptively so. The tablet-view comic, which is about an anthropomorphic journalist named Bucky, is peppered with a number of obligatory deer-related puns, but Deer Editor does not limit itself to Popsicle-stick humor. Bucky, the Hartigan-esque editor of the crime beat, is more Spider Jerusalem than Jimmy Olsen. His tie is always loose; he uses profanity; and he believes that his goal as a crime journalist is, in part, to "keep people out of the dirt." Writer Ryan K Lindsay and artist Sami Kivelä do not fully expose Bucky's form until the sixth panel, and the delayed reveal is worth the wait: Bucky has the charisma of a veteran me-against-the-whole-damn-world superhero. The fact that Bucky is a deer is not just a gimmick. In one scene, Bucky breaks through a car window with his antlers. But even if Bucky did not use his unique physical characteristics, his special affiliation still provides a physical representation of Bucky's social isolation. He is different than those around him, and he wears that difference on his sleeve (or, rather, on his head). Bucky is a victim of prejudice—he even receives hate mail and death threats with bigoted jokes on the envelopes—but he focuses on finding truths and exposing criminals. He is a hero, and he rises above the small-mindedness of those around him. The depictions of prejudice are subtle—much of the story centers on a murder mystery—but, as a whole, they exist as an undercurrent of targeted discrimination that flows throughout the narrative, a current that Bucky must swim against while he attempts to save lives.

The characterization of the comic’s protagonist mirrors the crime mystery that dominates the plot: Bucky, as a character, is also an enigma. Smashing the O-Line, Seijun Suzuki’s 1961 film about newspapers and drugs, features two characters: Nishina, a morally upright reporter, and Katiri, an unprincipled, results-driven journalist. Bucky seems to embody both journalistic mentalities, like a personified woodland yin and yang of newspaper ethics. He is willing to get dirty, but his actions are fueled by sympathy for those around him. Like an antlered version of Edward R. Murrow, Bucky is determined to use his talents to better the world.


Though the story seems rushed at times, the dark scenes and clever inner monologues overshadow most pacing issues, and the black-and-write art highlights the compelling gravity of the comic's narrative. Similar to David Aja's work on Hawkeye, Kivelä's thick black lines and dark shadows add to the noir elements of the story, making Deer Editor a graphic, deer-journalist version of Carol Reed's The Third Man—and John Doe is Bucky's Harry Lime.

I read Deer Editor shortly after watching the producers of Spotlight—the biographical film about the journalists from The Boston Globe who exposed sex abuse in the Boston area by Catholic priests—take home the Oscar for Best Picture, and I believe that, though Spotlight deals with some heavier issues, audiences today appreciate the relevance of both stories. Maybe that appreciation is fueled by pervasive cynicism and a widespread belief that the inveterate criminals of today need to be exposed. Maybe we see ourselves, on some level, as investigative antiheroes, flawed individuals who search for truth, so we relate to characters like Bucky. Whatever the reasons, Deer Editor is a fun, meaningful read, and I recommend it.

Score: 4/5

Deer Editor #1
Writer: Ryan K Lindsay
Artist: Sami Kivelä
Publisher: Four Colour Ray Gun