“He just got Schitt-faced!”
A throwaway punchline to a champagne-bottle-in-the-face action sequence via ’80s movie sensation Jack Schitt. Creator Gordon Johnston’s self-published Hot Schitt is something of a curiosity. Describing itself as the “comic book adaptation of the trailer of the hot film” it’s as tactile a reading experience as I’ve ever covered in this column. The comic is a witty parody of a certain era of tacky crime thriller films, starring the requisite violent maverick cop with a line in self-referential puns and brutally dispatched opponents. But presentation is every bit as important to this offering as content.
Hot Schitt is packaged in a retro plastic VHS box complete with inlay sleeve and accompanying badges. The comic itself is published in landscape format with the cover resembling a videocassette; the contents of which it purports to depict. Even the casing has one of those “bargain bin” style stickers on it noting its knockdown price of £3.99 (or 3 for £10!).
A clever and attention-grabbing item then with which the reader interacts with on a physical level that could never be replicated by digital delivery. But, apart from its appeal to nostalgists or pop culture historians, does the actual comics material stand up? Perhaps surprisingly, given that most of its 20 or so pages are concerned with expletive-based defecation-related wordplay, it’s fair to say that the joke doesn’t actually outstay its welcome.
“You don’t know Jack Schitt!”, “Schitt happened” and so on punctuate the book as each vignette of Jack’s exploits bringing down the mob, irritating his superiors and generally acting as a law-enforcement loose cannon comes to a close. While Johnston’s art has occasional lapses in anatomy and visual characterisation, his page structures and panel layouts show are inspired in the manner in which they take full advantage of the landscape size to give a cinematic feel to events. His fondness for depicting cars bursting in and out of panels is a particularly strong example. There are also notably clever uses of panel placement that play with multiple perspectives of the same event and amusing uses of symbols within word balloons that emphasise the atmosphere of violent slapstick that the book radiates.
Theme tune lyrics, mock award listings and associated merchandise advertising are some of the extras that further bring Hot Schitt‘s cinematic age to life. This isn’t the deepest or most profound piece of comics craft I’ll review on Broken Frontier this month but that’s entirely the point of it. It perfectly embodies the ephemeral nature of the era and genre it sends up with a knowing wink and an air of fond familiarity.
Hot Schitt is available online here priced £3.99.
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