Long Beach Comic Con Spotlight: Sam Spina’s Hilarious and Fantastic Tarn

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Oh, where did the weekend go? It’s early Monday morning, and as I wake from my short overnight nap, I think about the fast-paced, sensory-overloaded past two days at Long Beach Comic Con. Generoso and I will be providing our overview of our visit to our first major comic convention for Forces of Geek later this week, but for this week’s review, I wanted to select something from the many goodies we picked up over the weekend.

We spent much of our time at Long Beach in the many rows of Artist Alley, which reminded me of my beloved Hub Comics’ consignment section but scaled to a glorious giant’s size. Toward the end of Saturday, after attending panels and snaking through a majority of the tables, we stumbled (yes, actually stumbled because we only had a little under three hours of sleep from the night before) upon comic book artist and writer, Sam Spina.

Sam’s table included multiple standees of his characters and his table contained a dozen or so books in a varying array of colors and images, making our selection a difficult one. After deciding on a couple of items, a package of shrink-wrapped mini-comics caught my eye, and we added it to the modest stack.

Simply and elegantly packed with a cover card and a sticker, The Complete Tarn collection contains five sequential issues where four independent storylines in four separate issues crash into each other in the final one. Mr. Futts, Pigboss, Sans San, Mr. Harland all live in their own worlds until they all meet on the maiden voyage of the Titanic 2, a mammoth airplane flying to Brazil. Each character in some way is on the run from his own reality, and, in turn, the trip on the Titanic 2 most certainly allows them to depart from their existence. And, throughout each of these character’s worlds, looms the presence of Tarn’s head executive, Bich Bird, an omnipresent force throughout the series.

Cover Card for the 5 issue collection of Tarn

Part one introduces Mr. Futts who loves to eat butts; yes, that rhyme brought both me and Generoso laughter for well over an hour. In contrast to the struggling existence of Mr. Futts, part two presents Pigboss, an arrogant, self-obsessed, demanding celebrity with a highly successful police show on television. Across the Pacific Ocean in Japan, in part three, Sans San cannot get his life together. He has trouble starting and keeping any job he receives, and fortune always seems to run far away from him. In part four, we meet Mr. Harland, an egomaniac airplane builder and descendant of Edward James Harland, the founder of the firm that built the doomed RMS Titanic. Mr. Harland has built the Titanic 2, and despite all warnings from safety inspectors, the airplane will make its first flight on a course from Tampa Bay, Florida to Brazil. Finally, in part five, Bich Bird, the ruler of the Tarn corporation and really the universe of the Tarn series.

While each Tarn issue focuses on a completely different character, each packs no less amount of entertainment and outrageously funny dialog and scenarios. Spina’s absurdist and outlandish sense of humor shines and slaps you in the face throughout the concise and efficient series. Fully contained and realized, Tarn represents the pinnacle of how a developed mini-comic concept can come to outstanding fruition.

Tarn was exactly what we hoped to find at the Long Beach Comic Con. Completely devoid of pretension and filled with strange, bright comedy, Tarn has a distinctive and impressively spirited and succinct visual and narrative style that never becomes too self-aware of its humor and weirdness. Each issue stands alone as a solid piece of work, but together, the five issues create a perfect start to finish series that leaves no plot or character holes. While it may be considered as a sketch or a short exercise in plot development, Tarn exhibits Spina’s strength and surgical preciseness as an illustrator, storyteller, and humorist, revealing why it is of no surprise that he storyboards for the The Regular Show, a fifteen minute cartoon of pure whimsy, imagination, and fun.

The Complete Tarn demonstrates the effectiveness of minimalism and deliberate construction in funny comics. Despite its laconic approach, these wildly playful comics are as satisfying to a reader as butts are to Mr. Futts.

The Complete Tarn is available via Birdcage Bottom Books.

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