THE ADVENTURES OF SIMONE & AJAX #1 and #2 reviewed

Comic book writer & artist Andrew Pepoy is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to fund a new collection of stories from his creator-owned series The Adventures of Simone & Ajax.  Simone is a beautiful, intelligent but very impulsive redhead with a knack for getting into trouble.  Ajax is her best friend, a diminutive brontosaurus who is often skeptical of Simone’s efforts to find adventure & excitement, often providing wry commentary on their experiences.

The Adventures of Simone & Ajax has previously been described as “the look of an Archie comic but the sensibilities of a Marx Brothers movie.”  That’s an accurate assessment.  Pepoy’s stories deftly blend pulpy adventure, screwball comedy, and goofy satire.

The art style Pepoy utilizes on Simone & Ajax reminds me of Dan DeCarlo’s work, existing as a sort of midway point between his risqué Humorama cartoons and his all-ages Archie Comics art.  I mentioned this to Pepoy, who acknowledged his fondness for DeCarlo…

“Dan DeCarlo is my #1 influence, so, yes, there’s going to be some of that look, inspired by his work on Betty & Veronica and Josie, but also his 1950’s work on Millie the Model, Sherry the Showgirl, Jetta, and others.”

Pepoy has been working on Simone & Ajax on and off for three decades now.  The pair made their debut in 1990 in a short story he did for his college arts magazine.  Their official comic book introduction was in 1995 when they appeared in a back-up story Pepoy did for Rob Walton’s Ragmop published by Planet Lucy Press.  Since then Simone & Ajax have appeared in several issues of their own series, as well as in comic book anthologies Negative Burn and Tapestry Anthology from Caliber Press, Arrow Anthology from Arrow Comics, and Even More Fund Comics from Sky-Dog Press.  A full list of their appearances can be found on the official Simone & Ajax website.

I asked Pepoy what was the inspiration behind the creation of The Adventures of Simone & Ajax

“Simone & Ajax evolved separately but eventually came together. Ajax was created when I did a painting in college that just seemed to be missing something, so I added this tiny, green dinosaur in a corner, and that made the painting work, and I named him Ajax, making the mistake at the time that it was Ajax, not Atlas, that supported the world and my painting. Ajax stuck.

“Simone evolved from doodles in my notes in my statistics class. There was a cute girl who sat next to me the first few weeks, and she inspired the doodles that eventually evolved into Simone. The girl dropped the class after a few weeks, but again the drawings stuck.”

I had the opportunity to preview the first two stories of the four brand-new chapters of The Adventures of Simone & Ajax that Pepoy is running the Kickstarter to publish.  As with previous Simone & Ajax stories, I found them to be funny & enjoyable.

“Hi-Seas Hijinx” starts off when Simone trades some of her old comic books for a small boat and a treasure map.  Before you can say “Shiver me timbers” Simone has decked herself out as a pirate and dragged Ajax off on an impromptu sea voyage in search of buried treasure.  Soon enough the duo has run afoul of stormy weather, hostile island natives, and actual sword-wielding pirates.

“Tremblin’ Tumbleweeds” has Simone & Ajax back in the time of the American “Old West.”  There’s no explanation of how they’ve gone back in time: they’re just there.  I say just roll with it since it makes as much sense as their other ridiculously bizarre adventures.  The ever-enthusiastic Simone dons a sexy cowgirl outfit and is ready for excitement.  Unfortunately, poor Ajax inadvertently gets on the bad side of local outlaw gunslinger Black Clarence.  Sharpshooting and shenanigans very quickly follow.

Pepoy does really good work on these two stories.  His art is cute and sexy.  There were some genuine laugh out loud moments in these stories.  Pepoy also does his own lettering, and by hand, as opposed to computer lettering.  It gives the dialogue and sound effects a nice organic feel.

The coloring is courtesy of Jason Millet.  Having seen some of Pepoy’s black & white artwork for these stories helps me to appreciate how much of the mood and humor is conveyed by Millet’s coloring.

Both stories feature cameos by the lemmings, a running gag of Pepoy’s throughout various installments of Simone & Ajax.  Why lemmings? As explained by Pepoy…

“They were originally part of a gag on a Christmas card I did about 1991, and, much like Simone & Ajax themselves, they somehow stuck and took on a life of their own. I used them in the 2nd comic book story I did with them and continued to find ways to incorporate them.”

I am definitely looking forward to reading the other two brand-new Simone & Ajax stories that Pepoy has created.  I hope the Kickstarter campaign is successful, and I encourage everyone who is able to support it.

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