Billy the Kid’s Old Timey Oddities and the Orm of Loch Ness
By Andy Mansell | Contributor Published: 07/05/2013 10:00 am EST
Publish date: July 3, 2013 Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
I smiled when I saw the title of Billy the Kid’s Old Timey Oddities and the Orm of Loch Ness and read the premise on the back cover—a story about The Loch Ness Monster and Dracula. I got excited. So I sat back with a cold beverage and dug into this four issue story arc.
With Kyle Hotz art, I see a lot of EC era Jack Davis in the execution, but the storytelling lacks any kind of subtle charm that pushes the humor above the gore. I am reminded of George Wunder, the man who had the unenviable job of following Milton Caniff on Terry and the Pirates. Wunder tried—probably too hard; he provided so much background detail chiaroscuro wrinkles in the clothing it made each panel too cramped and over-done.
The writing as well leaves a lot to be desired. Being new to the series, I did not learn anything at all about Callahan, the tattoo girl or the midget. These are “freaks” the way the Legion of Substitute Heroes are super-guys. There is no characterization. One has two heads, one has sentient (I think) tattoos and one is really small, but tough. In 200 pages, I know nothing about any of them. Should the reader feel empathy for their plight? We are given nothing.
Another important factor in horror comics is atmosphere. And again, Billy the Kid comes up short. Back in the day, R. Crumb summed up his dislike of Bringing up Father by saying, “I don’t smell the corned beef and cabbage.” Similar for me, I don’t savor any of the Highland breeze, nor the taste of the local grain (fermented)—all we get is the sight and smell of the haggis.
There are moments when the book really shows its potential. Reacting to a local holy man who is protector of the Scottish clan, Billy muses, “He’s actin’ up like that old Baptist preacher back home when I was a boy,” but nothing comes of it.
Worse, there is a long involved subplot that has a comical ending that (I assume) channels Kubrick’s version of The Shining. This finale made the entire book feel like a lightweight and pointless reading experience. If the creators were going for parody, it just doesn’t amount to anything worthwhile. As for the open-ended finale, Billy ends up in charge of his rag-tag bunch of misfits and I just don’t buy into it. I grimaced instead of smiled.
One has to wonder if either Eric Powell or Kyle Hotz were fans of the 1966 Horror/comedy classic Billy the Kid Meets Dracula:
THE WEST’S DEADLIEST GUNFIGHTER! THE WORLD’S MOST DIABOLICAL KILLER! The Newest in Terror-tainment! SHOCKORAMA! SEE THE GREATEST NAMES IN TERROR HISTORY…IN ONE BIG SHOW!
That movie, along with its campy co-feature Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter, were very silly and very low budget, and when you paid for your ticket and sat down in the second-run theater or drive-in, you knew what you were in for. Not so with this graphic novel. It can’t decide whether it’s a parody or a real horror story. The writing is not crisp enough and the laughs are strained, so it doesn’t work as a parody. The artwork is too busy to help with the dull storyline.
I will not be returning to see how Billy and the Old Timey Oddities make out in future adventures. It is too bad, the potential is there.
Andy Mansell lived in Chicago for over 40 years until his doctors advised him that he would die soon unless he got as far away from the land of Italian combo sandwiches and soft serve frozen custard. He is currently growing rather old rather quickly in Charlotte, NC as a member of the Waistline Protection Program. He lives for four things: his family, baseball, opera, and of course great comics. He is also looking for a ride back to Chi-town for just one more breaded steak sammich. He will provide gas, guaranteed. Contact him at this address.