07 January, 2001
Bruno the Bandit by Ian McDonald
"Bruno the Bandit" is one of the most consistently engaging and entertaining comic strips I have read on the internet, and considering what I see in the papers lately, it may be one of the best comics out there today. Perhaps I'm prejudiced because I know the creator personally; perhaps I'm skewed towards it because I have a taste for sword and sorcery; maybe I'm just reacting to the heaps of mediocrity which I see making its way into syndication on a regular basis. I really don't think so, however. If I have any bias here, it is that I have known and followed this strip since its humble beginnings; I have previewed it, critiqued it, analyzed it, torn it to shreds, but most often and most important enjoyed it. After putting that much effort into it, how can I not admire it. And I assure you that any effort I have put into it has only been one tenth of one per cent of the amount of blood, sweat and india ink that the creator puts into it.
You see, as I mentioned earlier, I know the creator personally. I have studied art with Ian McDonald, we have worked on projects together, talked out ideas together, drank together and he regularly kicks my ass in chess. If there is one thing I know about Ian, it that he cares about this strip. "Bruno the Bandit" is not just some product that he is hawking for the bucks and the party girls; Bruno is where he lives. When I read a good Bruno story, I know that what I'm getting is the result of a lot of thought and hard work, not to mention the enjoyment the creator gets just from doing th work, and all that shows in the end result, as it should. It's the real thing, baby.
For any who might not know of it yet, "Bruno the Bandit" is the story of a muscle-bound ne'er do well in a mixed-up fantasy world where wizards, elves, barbarians and incredible monsters interact with daytime TV talk shows, promotional book deals, political scandals and personal computers. The title character has a smart-mouthed microdragon of dubious loyalty for a sidekick; his father is a one-armed curmudgeon who would sell him down the river for a chocolate eclair, his mom is the Original Warrior Hottie, and his uncle has been on his deathbed for several decades now. His enemies inclue the Danny DeVito-ish King Xerxes, a wizard of questionable talent who gets his spell books from the Home Shopping Channel, a bartending lord of the undead and a peroxide blonde She Goat With a Thousand Young. Not that Bruno himself is any "hero" by conventional standards....he steals anything that is not nailed down (although he rarely gets to keep it), drinks and womanizes in a fashion that would make Conan blush, and has been known to snack down on fricasseed unicorn steak. He has at various times been a thief, a brigand, a member of the Imperial Guard, a bestselling author, a plaintiff on a television courtroom drama, a woman (?!), a illicit chess player, and the founder of a Church to protect baby seals. That's quite an impressive resume for someone who usually doesn't have two sovereigns to rub together.
"Bruno the Bandit" is the finest blend of action, adventure, intrigue and flat-out funny since the last good "Stainless Steel Rat" novel. It has the writing of a prankster, the artwork of a craftsman, and the soul of an original. On top of all that, Ian has managed to keep the strip on time for over 1,000 strips now, which may make him one of the longest running comic strips on the internet today (correct me if I'm wrong).
Now, if all that doesn't get you interested in reading the strip, I don't know what will. What do you want....half-naked warrior babes? Madonna-clone fame vampires? Sarcastic allusions to popular figures, and a reworking of the JFK scandal? OK...that's all in there too. Now go read the darn thing. There are two fine collections of strips available, "Bruno the Bandit" and "Bruno's Most Wanted" (see cover above). You can order both online at Plan Nine Publishing for a few measly sheckles each ($12.95 USD per book), and while you're at it, you can pick up the Plan Nine 2000 Annual. Or, if you're more frugal, you can read his stuff online at www.brunothebandit.com, although while you're there you can feel free to give in to the temptation to pick up one of the fine T-shirts available there, and get yourself a Bruno the Bandit original in the bargain. Sweet!
(And if you're really interested, you can even check out my guest run on the strip, my Sandman-parody story, The Lair of Morpheum, or some of the items I've done for his fan art page.)
Well, what are you waiting for? GO!
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