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What’s inside the short-box of independent and small-press comic books this week? It’s Elephantmen from Image Comics! Now, you might argue that Image Comics is too big to be considered “indie” or “small press” anymore, and maybe you’re right. But I remember when it was a start-up company with only a handful of titles, and one important thing remains the same: a focus on creator-owned projects.

Richard Starkings’ Elephantmen is one of several books that made me pay attention to Image Comics after having written them off years before as having better art than story, and too much focus on spandex-clad super-types. While that judgment might seem more accurate if you consider the quality I encountered in the earliest issues of WildC.A.T.s and StormWatch when Image began, even those titles became pretty awesome a few years later. So, Image can thank Richard Starkings for getting my damned attention, and I also thank Richard for the amazing tutorial he created that taught me how to letter comic books using Adobe Illustrator. See the Comicraft company website for awesome fonts, and that tutorial which is well worth the $10 if you want to learn how to letter digitally.

In the Unnatural Selection story–one of my favorites–Joe Casey and Ladronn created a gruesome future history for Richard Starking’s Elephantmen. A future where soldiers are bred from men and beasts, incubated in horrific labs, and indoctrinated as murderous slaves. Dig the following sample pages from Elephantmen: Unnatural Selection. We witness the birth of the starring character Hip Flask and the strange brand that gave him his name. Also, we encounter the brutal training and combat our hybrid heroes endured before they gained their freedom. One thing is for sure: mad scientists are jerks!

Collector’s Guide to Awesome Elephantmen Stories:
– From Elephantmen #0: Unnatural Selection; Image Comics.
Elephantmen TPB
Damaged Goods TPB
War Toys TPB
Unhuman: The Elephantmen Art of Ladronn.