Cocopiazo could have been dire. From what I can ascertain, Cocopiazo seems to be about the art of writing. Sure, series creator Daniel Warner can put main character/lush John Victory into limbo, having Death and Job try to put one over on Victory by proving how unsuccessful Victory will be as an author (he writes one book that goes into the bargain bin, if you’re wondering). There can be asides to the world of “creative writing” and just how much mental masturbation there is out there. Sex and art can be writ large as a story arc. None of this matters if the comic books are unfocused, creatively bankrupt and generally awful.
Cocopiazo is not awful. Sure, the comic book is essentially concepts with some semblance of plot to keep it coherent, but the only time it ever really seems to veer into dodgy surrealism is with the denouement to Issue #3 – how does John Victory get out of limbo? Well, limbo disappears, and…uh…oh look, Jose the Birthday Monkey! Even given the nature of the series, it seems like a hasty wrap-up. Maybe I’m wrong – John Victory doesn’t seem to be any good as a writer, and the monkey seems to be his creation. Either I’m not reading enough into Cocopiazo or Daniel Warner rushed to make deadlines. That sort of ambivalence makes Cocopiazo what it is.
Frankly, what Daniel Warner’s doing is difficult to pull off with some semblance of quality. Matt Howarth could do it, but his Bugtown was a literal city of anarchy and Warner’s not doing science fiction. Even so, Cocopiazo‘s rambling quality works as what Warner says seems to ring true. Cocopiazo is firmly within the realm of the alternacomic but manages to say something about the nature of writing, and something meaningful at that. David Warner doesn’t seem to be afraid of even picking himself apart, and isn’t afraid of throwing in some violence without it being a sop to male audiences. He’s appropriating Satan, Cthulhu and other mythic figures as characters, but they aren’t there merely as exercises in divergent characterization. Warner’s artwork is stylized without being off-putting, and his dialogue is intelligent without being disingenuous. That Daniel Warner can be intellectual without seeming up his own arse gives me hope for the future of independent comic books.
Cocopiazo is one of those comic books that I wish there was more of. I’m not averse to superhero comics, and the independent comics scene in general has always been hit-and-miss. Cocopiazo isn’t perfect by conceptual design, but it’s genuine. I guess all comic talents play with reality to some extent, but Warner reminds me of a Howarth or a Sam Kieth in that his playing on more than one plane of reality is truly notable. I don’t know how the comic book world is going to take to Cocopiazo – The Maxx managed an MTV series, but it was as much a superhero comic as a look into the psyches of its characters. Those Annoying Post Bros. and Savage Henry enjoyed good runs, but they aren’t much more than footnotes to the 1980s independent comics scene. I think Cocopiazo is with the right company, and it doesn’t surprise me to see why Slave Labor Graphics picked this series up.
It’s hard to say how much this comic book is going to make or how much influence it will have in the long run, but Daniel Warner is going to be around for a while. Daniel Warner’s using Cthulhu as a bellhop and it doesn’t look forced or stupid. For that alone, Warner deserves a damn medal.
Howard the Limbo hotel bellhop from Issue #2 makes his expository dialogue.
Jose the Birthday Monkey appears (Issue #3). This is representative of the ending to the “Screwdriver” arc. Accomplished or just badly surreal? It’s hard to tell.
The “highly sensual, almost sexual” cliché at work (Issue #4). This leads, of course, to sex.