L.I.F.E. Brigade was a 1986 comic book series by artist and writer Craig Stormon, and the flagship title of indie publisher Blue Comet Press. It was about a group of space mercenaries who gained mysterious superpowers and returned to Earth only to find it destroyed, so they waged war against the aliens who forced the entire planet into reverse evolution. You might recognize that as three too many premises, which is usually a sign you need a good editor. Unfortunately Craig Stormon was also the owner and editor of Blue Comet Press. Oh, and L.I.F.E. Brigade stands for Last Individuals Fighting Evil (on Earth) Brigade.
Another pair of eyes might have come in handy on that one, Craig.
Despite owning every step of the process, writer and artist Craig Stormon’s L.I.F.E. Brigade would be canceled after just two issues by editor and owner, Craig Stormon. Following an impassioned plea by superfan Craig Stormon, Blue Comet Press brought creator Craig Stormon’s L.I.F.E. Brigade back for a reboot. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to win over the publisher, Craig Stormon, who canceled the revamped series after a single issue.
I worry you hear all that and think, “he started a vanity press then quit after he found out it was hard – I’ve had friends who were ‘writing a novel,’ I know how this goes.” No, Blue Comet Press published several titles, many of which ran longer than L.I.F.E. Brigade. It had other artists, writers, employees! I’m gonna go out on a limb here and guess none of them were paid on time. Let’s recap: L.I.F.E. Brigade was launched as the premier title of a new indie press where the creator had complete control over the company, and it was still shitcanned twice in the span of three issues.
That’s because Craig Stormon never met an idea that didn’t need six more ideas, a tangent, a manifesto, and an apology. He was a prolific builder of worlds both stupid and insane.
Let’s start with the first issue of L.I.F.E. Brigade’s letters section.
There shouldn’t be a letters section in the first issue.
There were no letters to answer yet, and the whole thing only spanned half of the inside front and rear covers, yet Craig still managed to go off topic every single paragraph. He used this small space to solicit fan art, try to hire the fan artists who did not and never would exist, tried to bribe them into existing, named and shamed a fellow comic artist who didn’t deliver on promised work, told a story about how he did such a bad job one time his employer didn’t use any of the art despite paying him for it, plugged his sign company, yelled at nobody for saying he had it too easy, laid out four different business plans and asked for fan input on them, bragged about his art style despite showing us his art style on the next page, humbly praised his own work ethic, thanked his family, his publisher (Craig Stormon), and the non-existent fans of this again first issue, talked about a cool party he went to one time, reviewed a bar band, explained the comic you were currently reading, plugged some other artists, defined what it means to be a professional (do what Craig Stormon says), ran through his resume again, and took about six “anyways” to reroute himself onto the topic at hand, which was Craig Stormon.
We are on page zero. We haven’t started yet. We’re on the inside cover, and already this is a one-sided conversation with a bus maniac. If you’ve ever been cornered by an oversharing public transportation lunatic and pulled the stop cord early, opting to walk four miles through a bad neighborhood rather than hear another word about 5G, this isn’t the comic for you. If you looked that bus maniac straight in the eye and said “I’m having trouble visualizing this, could you draw me some pictures?” I have such good news for you.
The art sucks so hard that it rules, actually. It’s not just bad, it’s bad in an iconic and interesting way. Perspective, proportion, coherency, troubling Native American space women and their prominent nipples – these are all things Craig Stormon thinks can get fucked. Especially that last one. Windraven had nipples built into her space suit so aliens could tell when she’s interested, and her secret? She’s always interested.
I love it. I’d genuinely hang this on my wall and get a little uncomfortable every time I had to explain it.
L.I.F.E. Brigade is paced exactly like a trapped subway conversation: As soon as you catch the beat of the madness and start to dance to it, Craig blows up the whole disco and walks away whistling. Here, meet the Ray Gun Kid – he shoots like he gets mad: Fast, and for no apparent reason.
Sure, of course, short-tempered ray gun scientist. Let’s hear more about that-
No, it’s time to jump to Captain Long John Lazer – which is exactly what I’d name the well-hung captain in a porno parody of L.I.F.E. Brigade – thinking about how young and fine this dude is, even though only 1/3rd of his face is visible.
We were already heading down a wild road with an insane gunfighting lab tech, then we jumped the guardrail and went offroading with Captain Long John Lazer, casual fan of space mouths. You’ll never get your feet from one panel to the next. It’s like how Kubrick designed the set of The Shining so the audience couldn’t grasp the geometry of the hotel, only here every door opens onto a bear blowjob.
I kind of get it with Ray Gun Kid though. Early in the comic he stumbles across a robot and sprints in with the exact enthusiasm of a 10 year old finding a weird moth.
It’s absolutely adorable. Laser pistol wielding super scientist, quick to anger but full of child-like earnestness? That’s the main character in a Kindle Unlimited romance with seven thousand four star reviews. I don’t know that my first thought after meeting him is “I wonder where he got that mouth? Humm?” But I get the appeal.
My favorite thing about Craig Stormon, aside from that he’ll cancel himself twice if he doesn’t deliver to the exacting standards of Craig Stormon, is his pacing. He illustrates every single awkward silence, even if it kills the momentum of a radical robot discovery.
It gives L.I.F.E. Brigade the vibe of new roommates taking a roadtrip together too soon in the friendship. Nobody is fully comfortable now that they don’t have a space to retreat to, and Brenda forgot to pack a bra.
It turns out the robot is actually a mechanical body separated from a brain that needs all the same medications as Craig Stormon. The Atomic Oracle uses every part of the speech bubble to introduce itself, explain that it’s invincible, that its brain is detachable, that it invented itself four different ways, and that sometimes it worries about itself. You can actually see Ray Gun Kid contemplating the stop cord here, even if it means walking home through the warehouse district at night.
Now that we’ve introduced our characters, it’s time to introduce our characters again! First up, the Ray Gun Kid. He’s… a ray-gun kid! You remember that, you met him twice already!
Furious, fair-mouthed laser boy! One time somebody said he missed and he cried! He cried! Until they took it back!
Here’s Blue Comet, or Tim Buck, no preference, but maybe Tim Buck, probably just Tim Buck, sorry!
Tim Buck is the only human shooting star with social anxiety, and I love him for that.
Windraven is a double psychic Native American, which according to 1980s comic book stereotypes means she’s triple psychic and can maybe turn into a bear if she gets mad.
And as for Captain Long John Lazer, he was just born a freak. You and Ray Gun Kid already knew that, but a different kind of freak!
Nice. Say what you will about Craig Stormon, but he knows how to introduce a ragtag crew of space mercenaries for the second time. One panel, in and out, just like Captain Long John Lazer and the mouths of his crew. No filler in this-
Oh, okay. So he was born with a laser beam eye. That’s almost an origin story. It’s the same cheat code Stan Lee used when he ran out of synonyms for radiation and invented the X-Men. Got it, time to move on-
Okay, we really get it. It’s because of the laser, not herpes, and if Tim “Blue Comet No Sorry That’s Dumb Just Tim Buck” Buck says otherwise, it’s because he’s jealous of all the attention the new guy is getting. Long John Lazer must be captain because he owns the ship. His team is an awkward meteor, a triple psychic, and a tech genius gunfighting mouthboy, while he can… shoot a laser out of a face that’s allergic to lasers.
Oh shit, I’m leaving out The Atomic Oracle. Oracle has his own mission and concerns, and he needs the help of L.I.F.E. Brigade to-
Craig took a whole panel to draw Oracle totally dumbstruck that the group of superpowered mercenaries who just rescued him now want to hire him to rescue them. It’s like an episode of The A-Team if Hannibal, Face, BA, and Murdock rescued a plucky young woman whose family business was being destroyed by a corrupt mine-owner, then handed her a gun and told her she’s the only one who can clear their names.
That one no-dialogue panel implies about thirty seconds of offended silence, but after Oracle recovers he agrees to join the team. He’s not yet complete, so the Brigade sets out to help him find his core. If you start to feel bad for Tim “I Said Blue Comet As A Joke” Buck, just know that he does it to himself.
Now that Oracle is whole again, the team takes care of those space pirates who tried to bury him as treasure – I never told you about that, don’t ask, it doesn’t matter, they’re going to explode.
You know Tim “Just Tim, Can We Stop Talking About The Blue Comet Thing?” Buck hated himself for this. He got carried away being part of a fun group activity for the first time and made himself the center of attention, now he’s got a new shame to revisit instead of sleeping.
I didn’t cut any meaningful action, there’s no big fight with the space pirates. The first issue of L.I.F.E. Brigade spends twenty pages reintroducing each character and their favorite mouths, the whole crew hides in a cave for a while, then suddenly they remember there’s a conflict outside and explode it.
Finally we can return to Earth, which you’ll remember, but not understand, is being reverse-evolved by aliens!
Hahaha shut the fuck up, Tim. This is why everybody RSVP’d ‘YES!’ to your party but the servers at Outback Steakhouse sang you “Happy Birthday” alone again. Tim “I Actually Never Even Said Blue Comet” Buck sees his mother has backwards evolved into a pterodactyl and thinks it’s an excuse to talk about the liberal agenda.
There’s something I assume is a spaceship dogfight, but remember Craig Stormon’s brain has five different inner monologues and they all hate each other.
Sweet nesting sound effects inside of nested bubbles. Good job, Artist Craigs #1 through 4. Bad job, Craig Wrangler #5.
Hold on, we forgot to introduce our characters for the third time.
Then it’s, holy shit, it’s time to hide in a cave again?
All we’ve done is say hello and wait in a cave, multiple times! Craig Stormon’s whole life is caves and greetings, they’re the only experiences he has to share! This is a story by a little boy who’s only ever called for help from a sewer. But wait, there’s more! There’s a mini bonus-story at the end about a problematic duck I won’t post here because it’s racist in a way I don’t have words for!
But wait! There’s even more! There are many pages of pin-up art I won’t post here because it’s starting to feel like booing at the Special Olympics!
Find out what’s going to happen next time in L.I.F.E. Brigade Issue #2! Will our heroes continue hiding in a cave? Yes! Will they briefly consider fucking and then never mention it again? Yes! What about the awkward silences? Yes! Or will this be the end, will the entire comic be abruptly canceled?
Yes, you knew that part! It’s the Craig Stormon Rule of Threes: anything worth saying is worth saying three more times. But will L.I.F.E. Brigade get canceled next issue?!
This article is thanks to a hot Hot Dog Tip from Mo, who basically works here.