The Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot
Written by Frank Miller; Art by Geof Darrow
1996 Eisner Winner for Best Penciller/Inker
I've been selecting books to talk about this week based mainly on picking out some lighthearted ones. It occurs to me, though, as I sit here flipping through The Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot that I haven't paid a lot of attention to the artists who have won the Eisners. The reason for this is that while I can tell what I like and can recognize how well an artist serves a story actually critiquing artists is beyond me. I can barely tell the difference between two inkers so getting much deeper than, "This guy's got a dynamic style that captures action well," just isn't possible for me.
The reason that this comes up is that The Bug Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot (which I'm shortening to Big Guy from now on) exists entirely as a showcase for Geof Darrow's artwork. Miller's story is barely a framework. It's a touch of fluff that acts as an excuse for Darrow to go crazy. The plot is paper thin and characterization is so close to zero that if you blink you'll miss it because this is a story about high tech fighting machines blowing up dinosaurs.
Here's the story. There's a lab and they accidentally make a dinosaur that spits stuff that turns people into small monsters. This giant dinosaur proceeds to rampage through Tokyo where the Japanese military is just as effective as it ever is against giant monsters rampaging through Tokyo. The government sends in a robot that looks a lot like Astroboy who can't beat it and then call in good old American know how in the form of a giant (but not as giant as the dinosaur) robot who shows up to kick ass.
It's ludicrous, over the top, and more of an excuse than an actual story. Miller plays it mostly straight so there isn't any winking at the audience to let them know that he's being goofy on purpose. This reads like one of those monster movies that are shown on Mystery Science Theater 3000 where people say the most terrible dialog possible with a straight face.
But enough about the Miller's writing. You won't be buying this book for it.
Darrow is known for his phenomenally over-detailed art. If someone is firing a gun that shoots a hundred rounds a minute he'll draw every one of those rounds firing and every spent shell that's falling. His character designs show every fold and crinkle in their faces. His cityscapes are heavily populated with modern life.
He goes crazy with this in Big Guy. There are huge double page spreads that you'll need to break out a magnifying glass to see all the complexity he packed into the images. The collected edition is oversized which helps you take it all in. This might as well be a poster book of Darrow's images.
And there isn't much more to say than that. If you like Darrow's art then you'll enjoy seeing him go crazy with this story and if you don't then Miller's story isn't even an interesting parody. For myself I think the weaknesses outweighed the positive and there's better books featuring Darrow's artwork.