Bigfoot Bill: Shadow of the Mothman: Crowdfunded, crowd-pleasing cartooning at its finest
I pretty much had no idea who Doug TenNapel was until last year.
I had certainly enjoyed his work, though: Earthworm Jim was one of my favorite games as a kid, even though I didn’t know a thing about the man behind it. The gameplay was good, the music was great, and the imaginative aesthetic of Jim’s world drew me in.
Fast forward to 2018, and I found out about Doug’s Indiegogo campaign funding Bigfoot Bill: Shadow of the Mothman, a book that promised the same sort of goofy, whimsical, cartoonish adventure that I had loved in Earthworm Jim. I pledged for a hardcover, and then proceeded to (largely) forget about it until a few days ago when it arrived in the mail.
Shadow of the Mothman introduces our protagonist, Bigfoot Bill, a resident of Los Angeles’s Crypto-Zone. What is the Crypto-Zone, you ask?
In other words, it’s a prison for mythical creatures of all shapes and sizes.
The story of Mothman is propelled forward by Bill’s desire to escape and find his family. Along the way, he is either aided or hindered by numerous fellow prisoners, and in the end must confront the terrifying Mothman and prevent him from bathing the world in darkness. That may sound like heady stuff, but in practice, TenNapel’s tale is a ridiculously funny tour of a gallery of freakish creatures. There’s nothing deeply philosophical about it, but beneath the silly dialogue and inter-dimensional poop chutes, there’s the simple, relatable story of a misunderstood person desperate to find his way back to a world that wants him. The gags may make it hard for adults to get all that emotionally vested, but I suspect younger children will feel Bill’s plight more acutely.
The visual storytelling is simple, but very effective. There’s a confusing moment here or there, but by and large, TenNapel’s experience is obvious, and my first read through the book was pretty speedy.
But how about the real story?
I’ve contributed to a few crowdfunded comics in the past few years, and this was by far the best experience, without question. TenNapel provided informative updates along the way, and the book didn’t take all that long to get out once the campaign was over. There were a few neat stretch perks, as well.
But as nice as all of those things are, it’s the book itself that knocked my socks off. I love physical comics, and I would rather spend money on a book I like than read it digitally for free (and I have plenty of opportunities to do that as a member of the press). As a physical object, Shadow of the Mothman is beautiful. Just look at that cover:
I would pay what I paid for this book if it were a paperback, because the quality of the work inside is first-rate. But TenNapel took things to the next level, delivering something that stands out on my shelves of mainstream comic trades. This thing is meant to be special, and it absolutely is. And, bonus of bonuses, it’s in a generous, 9x12 large format, so the artwork is huge and in your face.
The bar is set
This is what a crowdfunded comic should be. In exchange for your money and faith, you get a superb product that exceeds expectations and delights in unforeseen ways. This is an incredibly entertaining story, with fantastic characters and expert cartooning. And it’s all wrapped in a package—in an experience—that more than rewards you for your patience. If you missed your chance at this first installment in the adventures of Bigfoot Bill, it looks like TenNapel may be offering it again as a perk in his next campaign. I suggest you stay plugged in, and when the time to pledge that new campaign arrives, give him whatever he asks and get your own Shadow of the Mothman—you won’t be sorry.