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December 31, 1969

New Image Comics collection spans Pope’s early career

The formative years of Paul Pope‘s development into a world-renowned artist are on display in the new Image Comics collection THE ONE TRICK RIP-OFF/DEEP CUTS. The collection spans his early days as part of a network of self-published artists who didn’t fit in either the mainstream or the underground, to his stint in Japan as a budding manga-ka, to his triumphant return to American comics.

The 288-page hardcover collection, with an introduction by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s Charles Brownstein, will also have a limited signed-and-numbered edition.

The first half of the collection is the story “The One Trick Rip-Off” that was originally serialized in Dark Horse Presents in 1995-1996, updated with colors by Jamie Grant and Dominic Regan. In a heat-drenched Los Angeles, gangs with names like “The Paid-in-Spades,” “The Moolah Muthas” and, of course, “The One Tricks” battle for dominance with each other - and within their ranks. Tubby and Vim are in love and want escape, but they only way they know how is what they’ve learned in their world. So they set themselves up to be thieves stealing from thieves. And if they fail, it’s the end.

A ‘nineties West Side Story, with a touch of the surreal and supernatural, “The One Trick Rip-Off” represents, to Pope, a portrait of sorts of himself as a young artist.

“I would say in retrospect, the work in this book is strong,” Pope said. “It is early and rough in places, but I was young and I was ambitious. It is good to be generous to your early work as an artist since it is the path which leads you to where you eventually arrive. There is no nihilism in art. The only fault is in stopping.”

The “Deep Cuts” half of the collection is a remarkably diverse, probing, and experimental set of short comics. There are illustrations of Rimbaud’s poetry and ancient Greek tragedy; manga about curry-eating, troublemaking teenage girls; and paeans to love and sensuality and city life. These stories were created between 1993 and 2001, a period that took Pope from Columbus to Toronto to Tokyo and finally to New York City.

“These are the early steps of an artist struggling and striving to be better and to be accomplished,” said Pope of his early work. “I hope people enjoy this work. It is aggressive and it is punk rock, and that never goes out of style.”

Both editions of THE ONE TRICK RIP-OFF/DEEP CUTS will be in stores on January 16.