You know how I feel about Christopher Mills from my write-up of Perils on Planet X on Monday. I told Christopher recently through the power of Facebook, and meant it, that if we lived closer, we’d probably be best friends. To recap: anything that Christopher Mills writes, edits, or otherwise has a hand in creating is likely to get my stamp of approval.
Now, let me take this opportunity to tell you a little about Rick Burchett. If there were a movie made of my life, I would get the actor Stephen Root to play Rick, and my instructions to him would be simple: “You are incredibly, incredibly talented, but you are also the single humblest person on the planet.” This is true: if you try to compliment Rick, as Greg and I do every week during our weekly phone call, that compliment will instantly find itself sucked into a black hole of diffidence and disappear forever. There is no form of praise that Rick will not somehow diffuse, deflect or defer into an argument of, “Well, I could’ve done it better like so….”
Greg had been discussing the idea of doing a webcomic for awhile before the groundwork for Lady Sabre was laid. The initial plan was a different story, different characters, with a different artist. That artist had a commitment, and so one day I got a call from Greg that the webcomic was going in a different direction, and that Rick would be onboard to illustrate. I try my damnedest to supress my fannish tendencies around my professional partners, but sometimes it’s difficult. But this is also true, though Rick doesn’t believe me: when Greg called to tell me Rick was going to be drawing the webcomic, I’d just finish purchasing a run of his work on Blackhawk, and that stack of comics was literally sitting in front of me as Greg broke the news.
Rick drew the picture of The Question that for many years was my avatar on every comic book forum on which I was a member. The series it was taken from, Huntress: Cry For Blood (written by Greg), was one of the comics that got me back into reading during college. When I met Rick in person for the first time at New York Comic Con (when we also met some of you), like a fanboy, I brought comics for him to sign. I get to see his art in high-res every week, and I’m still astounded by the privilege that luck and circumstance has afforded me.
I’m not doing a good job of supressing my fannishness right now, but that’s OK. What I’m trying to get across is that long, long before Lady Sabre, I was a big fan of Rick’s. If you only know Rick from our webcomic here, you’re missing out on a wealth of quality storytelling. One such effort, a webcomic-turned-paperback for which I long advocated, has been re-launched again as a webcomic updating every Monday: Gravedigger. I will forgive you if you stop reading now and just follow that link. Go ahead.
If you still need the hard sell, Gravedigger refers to “Digger” McCrae, a professional criminal in for a heist that doesn’t quite come off as planned. I haven’t checked with Chris or Rick, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the Parker novels, or at least the John Boorman adaptation Point Blank were an influence on the book. Digger could be the founding member of The Sons of Lee Marvin. Digger’s world is populated by characters who operate in the grey zone of morality. Personal codes don’t necessarily reflect a traditional sense of right and wrong. Some betrayals are more severe than others.
In any other story, Digger would be the villain — a cold-hearted sum’bitch who pulls no punches — but through the first-person, boiled-harder-than-stone narration, we’re invited inside to live out our tough-guy fantasies vicariously as Digger charges violently through a series of double and triple crosses with his eyes fixed on the ends that best serve him.
As I said, this first story, “The Scavengers,” first appeared as a webcomic, and then was published by Rorschach Entertainment. That edition has gone out of print, I believe, and I cherish my copy. If you’ve never read Gravedigger before, this is an excellent opportunity to get in on the ground floor with an exceptional crime comic.
If, like me, you’re already a fan, the exciting news is that, after “Scavengers,” Chris and Rick will also be serializing the sequel, “The Predators,” which I’ve been wanting to see since it was first hinted at a few years back. The first Digger story features a very clean style, similar to Rick’s work for DC. The sequel, however, sees some experimentation with grey values, evoking the feel of 70s-era Warren magazines (like Blazing Combat #3, which is maybe the best single issue of an anthology comic ever made). I’ve purposefully resisted asking Rick to share this one with me, because I want to enjoy the comic as it comes out. But every time I see the previews, I get a little impatient.
What the heck are you waiting for? Go read Gravedigger!