On this macabre Monday, I am continuing my look at comic books that are good for Halloween reading.
Spoilers from here on out, juggalos.
The issue I have selected for today is Insane Clown Posse number 1.
Chaos Comics published this book in 1999. Written by Jesse McCann and illustrated by REB, this issue was released to coincide with the duo’s new album, The Amazing Jeckel Brothers. The back cover features a full-page ad for the album.
“The Upz & Downz of the Wicked Clownz” is steeped in the mythology of ICP and the joker card albums. Starting off, an abusive husband is brutally murdered by the first card, The Dark Carnival, and there are a handful of other prologues featuring the joker cards slaying other abusive, manipulative people.
This is an interesting aspect of ICP’s music that never gets discussed. With the gruesome and gratuitous imagery of their lyrics, there is an underlying morality. The people who are being killed are “wicked” and often are taking advantage of others. It’s understandable that this is never picked up by their detractors, because you actually have to listen to their music to discover this. Here, in this story is the same twisted sense of morals.
Eventually, we get to an origin story for our titular duo. Shown in flashback, before their time as face painted rappers we all know and love, we are introduced to the Inner City Posse. For this segment of the story, the protagonists are drawn with their faces in shadow, so the reader never gets to see their “real” faces. While, I don’t think they have ever denied their time as this prototype “ICP”, it’s surprising that their first foray into comics would acknowledge this period, considering their popularity at the time.
Later, the duo is transformed by the Spirit of the Dark Carnival into the Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope that we are all familiar with. For the rest of the issue, we are shown the further exploits of the wicked clownz as the enforce the will of the Dark Carnival and more joker cards appear. (Coincidentally, in the order that the accompanying albums were released.) Finally, the posse rides off into the night and the reader is promised the debut of the Amazing Jeckel Brothers in the next issue.
I’m a fan of the Insane Clown Posse, but the comics never lived up to the music. There was always a sense of “they almost got it” and that’s present in this issue too. From the story to the art, it was never quite as good as I wanted it to be. It may have been the decision to stick so closely to the mythology of the Dark Carnival like the music, but it would be hard to produce an ICP comic without it. Having said that, they did do two movies that did just that, Big Money Hustlas (a blaxploitation style film), and Big Money Rustlas (a western). So, it’s not impossible to imagine a new type of tale featuring the rappers.
Coming off of their hit release, The Great Milenko, this was probably the greatest time of pop culture exposure for the rap duo. (At least until their understanding of magnets came into question years later.) With the amount of ICP merchandise that was released around this time, a comic book was inevitable.
While this comic may not be for everyone, the Insane Clown Posse is not for everyone either. You don’t have to be a juggalo to enjoy this issue, but if you are, you’ll probably be into it.
Come back tomorrow (painted fingers crossed) for another comic book tale for the Halloween season!