If I recall correctly, it is Scott McCloud who, when asked "how do I get into the comics business" likes to respond with something along the lines of "Get two pieces of paper. Fold in half, staple, draw some pictures. Then go and sell it."
His answer is one of those nifty responses that answers the question perfectly, and in doing so, makes the asker realise that in fact they have asked a question based on some very poor assumptions. Of course, what many people intend to ask is more along the lines of "How do I get into to Marvel so that I can draw Wolverine?" The corresponding (poor) assumption is that such an ambition should be the most desirable goal for a young aspirant.
For some comic wannabe's, the idea of drawing some worn-out old stereotype pop-favourite icon for a megacorp like Marvel is as lofty a dream as they can possibly conceive of. Fortunately for us, there are others out there who set their sights much higher, striking themselves the target of creating something fresh and original, without the backing of a commercial SuperHero(tm) factory and marketing machine to support them.
Which brings us at last to Barry Ween, Boy Genius, and the artist/illustrator Judd Winick who created him. I have perhaps some inking of just how hard it must be for an independent creator to invent a new comic character, produce stories, and have them printed. Even more incredible is that Judd's work was so popular that the managed to have not one but four (so far) TPB's produced that compiled his comics into bookshelf format.
Of course, you start to see just why Winick managed to achieve so much when you actually read Barry Ween's Adventures. They are by turn offensive, hiliarious, outrageous, even more offensive, suddenly deeply moving, and then hilarious again. The back of the books feature lavish (and much deserved) praise by characters like Peter David, Brian Michael Bendis and Garth Ennis, all of whom are fans of Winick's work. So at least when you read Barry Ween, you can rest assured you're in good company.
Of the stories themselves, they concern Barry Ween, a ten year old with an IQ you probably couldn't even spell, and a laboratory that would make Dexter green with envy. Together with his rather dim friend Jeremy, and the occasional assistance of the lovely "she is not my girl-friend!" Sara Tan, Barry mixes it up with genetic mutation, the space time continuum, alien species, the FBI, the CIA, the MIA, the WHO and pretty much anybody else. Though naturally pretty mild, Barry has a mean streak for those who cross him. As he so accurately tells the black-ops T.I.M.M. group who kidnap Jeremy, "You guys are fucking with the wrong ten year old!"
In summary, Barry Ween is brilliant. Not for kids, certainly, but brilliant. Sure, the art is black and white, but after the first couple of pages, you'll start to wonder what the whole big deal about color comics is anyhow - the art is much cleaner without the color. The simple fact of the matter is, Barry Ween is just plain better than 90% of what the big comics houses produce. Sure, I'm a Marvel zombie, and I buy whatever has Spidey's face on it, but there's also a part of me that really enjoys good comics, and really loves to see independent comic creators succeed. Go treat yourself to some Barry Ween, and you'll probably find you feel the same way.
As a footnote, I need to thank Mike Serrico of Phoenix Comixs in Redford MI. Mike packed up a bunch of Marvel books for me, and threw Barry Ween TPB 3 into the box as a freebie. Ignorant git that I was, I flicked through, saw it was black and white, and tossed it on a shelf "for later, much later". In fact I almost discarded it unread, figuring I didn't have time to read "amateur comics". Jeez, what a dick. Fortunately, I did find time, and boy am I glad I did! So, "Thanks Mike."
Next Month: "Even More Fund Comics".