The Twisted Side Of Hollywood Through The Eyes Of An Auteur – Oni's Hit Comes To Trade
By Cameron Hatheway
I knew I was in for something deranged when I first saw the cover of The Auteur. You start to feel incredibly uncomfortable if you look at it for too long, and need a nice hot shower afterwards. And yet, I saw Rick Spears' name on the cover and knew I'd be in for one helluva ride.
Spears' dark humor and creative stories have charmed me with his slew of creator owned titles over the years such as Teenagers From Mars, Black Metal, and REPO, but my first encounter with his work was his (still) unfinished comic The Pirates of Coney Island from Image with artist Vasilis Lolos. Ever since then I've been loyal to his work, no matter how off-the-rails things get. With The Auteur from Oni Press, things definitely go off-the-rails and into the psychedelic unknown, with tits, big black asses, and gore galore.
Nathan T. Rex is the epitome of everything wrong with Hollywood, and yet he thrives in the toxic environment as one of the best producers in the business. Unfortunately his latest movie franchise Cosmos is one of the biggest bombs in box office history, and Rex needs some serious mojo to resurrect his failing career. With the concoction of powerful drugs, desperation, and a studio of underlings, he's struck with the vision of his next project: Presidents Day, a back-to-the-basics slasher film with no CGI, only practical effects. Making his vision become a reality is a whole other problem, for no one else expects him to actually succeed.
Let's get one thing straight: Rex is a horrible human being. He's a womanizer, druggie, and at one point obstructs justice by buying off a jury to have a serial killer come work on set as a consultant. He could care less about who he killed, he just wants his film to be as realistically gory as possible. Turns out he has no control of the situation when his serial killer is let loose on the set, causing Presidents Day to change genres a few times as Rex has a nervous breakdown. There is a romantic subplot with Rex and a bootylicious afromama, but it's completely ridiculous from start to finish. She's his black white whale, yet he doesn't deserve her affections whatsoever.
James Callahan's artwork is simply phenomenal. At first I thought it was done by Ryan Ottley or Tradd Moore due to the intricate-yet-beautiful disembowelment scenes, but as it turns out Callahan is right up there with the gory greats. Luigi Anderson's vibrant colors add that extra "umph" to every scene, and especially shines whenever Rex is having a drug-induced vision. The duo of Callahan and Anderson brings the Gonzo touch to Spears' heavy-handed satire of Hollywood. While the story may be beyond ridiculous at times, it's the art that keeps your attention throughout.
The first volume, Presidents Day, collects the first five issues. In the back of the book is a cover gallery and movie posters of Rex's best and worst movies (also illustrated by Callahan). Spears and company plan on continuing the extremely fucked-up adventures of Rex in Hollywood at a later date to be determined.
The Auteur is nuts, pure and simple. You won't believe what Spears & Callahan throw at you, hell, you may even hate it, but you'll welcome it all in with open arms. Because Rex is the hero comics deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we'll boo him. Because he can take it. Because he's not our hero. He's a silent guardian. A watchful protector. An auteur.
The Auteur: Presidents Day (Oni Press)
Written by Rick Spears
Illustrated by James Callahan
Colored by Luigi Anderson
144 Pages, FC, $19.99
Cameron Hatheway is a reviewer and the host of Cammy's Comic Corner, an audio podcast. You can help produce his latest film on Twitter @CamComicCorner.