Lily: When I Was Dead (TPB)
Publisher: Neko Press Comics
Writer: Butch Adams
Artist: Butch Adams
Cost: $12.99 (CDN)
I have three children at home. Lily, my middle child, is my four-year-old daughter who can be a little…challenging at times. She has recently been diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder, which I won’t explain here other than to say it makes her quite “quirky”! Maybe it is because she has special needs, but I have found that I think about her quite a lot. So whenever I am out and I see her name on a product or in a flower shop, I always feel compelled to own the merchandise with the same name. As a life-long comic enthusiast, it goes without saying that when I saw this graphic novel at my local comic shop, Lookin For Heroes, I had to buy it. I had never heard of the series before, nor was I familiar with the publishing company Neko Press, but the cover art intrigued me and I knew Lily would love the fact that her name was on the cover of one of daddy’s comic books. So, of course, I had to own it!
Lily: When I Was Dead is a trade paperback collection of all four issues featuring the title character, Lily. Creator Butch Adams is a monster enthusiast who designs creatures throughout many mediums. He is the head of Straitjacket Studios, and has published works such as Straitjacket Studios Presents and Tales of the Hip Hop Horror. The original telling of this story was published back in 2000 in the Butch Adams/Billy Martinez publication Straightjacket Studios Presents. The collected copy I bought (2nd Printing) was actually published in 2002.
Lily Raine is your typical teen aged girl who is equal parts sass and vinegar. It is tough to tell if she is a full time participant in the goth sub culture, or if she is just dressed like this because it is Halloween. Regardless, she takes her little brother Hank out trick-or-treating looking like, he so aptly puts it, “the illegitimate child of Marilyn Manson and Gene Simmons. Personally, I love the look! Lily and Hank break the cardinal rule of trick-or-treating and accept an offer from a little ol’ lady of cookies and milk inside her kitchen. Of course, she turns out to be some wacked out lunatic who is luring children for her even crazier husband, but believe it or not, this is not where Lily’s trouble begins. Thanks to a quick escape and horrific car accident, Lily and Hank are transported to a parallel dimension filled with fantastic creatures and bizarre cultures.
Much like in the Wizard of Oz (after large quantities of Absinthe!), Lily quickly finds herself a couple of companions who are willing to help her try and find her brother and get home. I quickly learned to love Otis, who is the nattering zombie Lily rescues from a cross and befriends on her journey. Lily overcomes many hurdles on her travels, most of which revolve around trying to convince the locals that she is not dead (or a ghoul-girl from Pogus Valley, as they like to say). Just when our heroine thought things couldn’t get any weirder, she finds her brother. However, she wasn’t expecting him to look like this!
Lily: When I Was Dead is a fun, relevant, and quick read. The script’s dialog gives the reader a real sense that Adams has a good feel for popular culture and its relevance to the lives of society’s younger people. Lily has a tough exterior, but it is easy to see that she is a sensitive, loving soul. This definitely makes her character easy to relate to. Despite the obvious connections to popular cultural icons like The Wizard of Oz, this book has enough “newness” wrapped inside of it to make it enjoyable and fresh. It can be a little gritty at times, so I wouldn’t recommend this book for young children. One thing is for sure, though; I could see somebody like Tim Burton making a movie out of this story some time. The strange world Lily and her brother find themselves in looks like something straight out of Nightmare Before Christmas!
Not only did Adams develop the script, but he also took ownership of the art duties. I’d love to chat with the artist, to discuss his process. It is tough to nail down his medium of choice, but it looks like a combination of drawings enhanced by airbrush via a computer. Regardless, the technique gives the black and white pages a dream like quality that borders on graffiti at times. Like a graffiti artist, Adams’s lines are very fluid and capture the forms with relentless ease. All the distortions simply add to the dream like qualities of this parallel dimension.
A quick search on my part turned up very little on Butch Adams and his creation, Lily. Here’s hoping this isn’t the last we see of Lily and her wacky entourage. The comic world needs more unwavering female characters who draw their strength from their own personal determination, rather than being bitten by radioactive spiders!