In the opening pages of newly-released comic Thud from artist Bryan Odiamar, a semi-autobiographical and intensely relatable tale (to late-stage millennials, anyway) unfolds: Our main character spends his youth drawing comic book characters and worlds, excited about the things that sprout from his brain. Meanwhile, the authoritative figures in his life point out such an activity’s inherent financial flaws. In other words, the big, bad world crushes a young lad’s dreams of artistic stardom and freedom. But so it goes, and life goes on after the jump.
As an adult, our hero still sketches, but sporadically. Then the accident happens. After he’s hit by a city bus, our hero awakens in the city of Oakcago. There, he’s Thud, a super-rad mashup and amalgamation of Odiamar’s favorite comics as a kid with a bit of himself thrown in. There he has the power to grow into a massively musclebound crime-fighting, paleta-purchasing machine—there, every nerdy fantasy comic fans of a certain age ever had comes true. You’ll find hints of the Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles from Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, a dash of character design a la Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, a nod to Marvel’s golden years and a little bit of Todd McFarlane’s Spawn meets Mark Millar’s Kick-Ass for good measure. You’ll find whispers of video game culture and a distinct note of The Maxx, plus nods to catchphrases, hidden easter eggs, in-jokes for nerds and...well, there’s just a whole lot going on with Odiamar’s first published work from Florida’s Scout Comics, and it is excellent.
“I was trying to figure out how to translate how I feel,” Odiamar tells SFR. “A lot of it comes out of when I was small, when I used to draw a ton. As I grew, I still created, but less because of life’s distractions. What happens in Thud isn’t necessarily what happened to me, but it’s a similar thing that a lot of creative folks go through—choosing between creating and eating.”
The son of Filipino immigrants, Odiamar (who goes by Peabe, pronounced “pea-bee”) grew up in Chicago where, he says, he attended Columbia College as one of the last classes to graduate with undeclared degrees. He picked up design skills while in school, though, and today works for internet music streaming giant Pandora. When COVID-19 first struck, he tells SFR, the itch to draw more often reappeared. That was also when he and his wife and daughter took a look around Oakland, where he’d lived for over a decade, and decided it was time to move on. Last September, Odiamar and family wound up in Santa Fe following a nationwide road trip that he describes as “looking for home.” They’ve been here since.
“It all started clicking,” he says of the move and of finally publishing Thud. The first chapter dropped a mere couple weeks ago, and there are seven more waiting in the wings with an ultimate trade publication (or, in non-comics parlance, a collection of all the single issues) to come. “I was confident in my own style of drawing, but otherwise I can’t think of anything other than the pandemic that got me to finally do it.”
It’s a good time, too, in the comics world. In seeming parallel to the rise of Christopher Nolan-esque grit in superhero film and comics (h/t to Alan Moore, though), darker stories became weirdly ubiquitous. Thud, however, is light and breezy while maintaining a mature level of humor based in good-natured satire of the comic book canon. “It’s slobberin’ time!” Thud growls as he leaps into action against a cadre of ski-masked villains, lampooning Marvel’s The Thing without mocking the beloved Fantastic Four enforcer. And then, later, in a short page-long one-off printed toward the back of the book, Thud grapples with a too-small pizza and the errant pepperoni that plops onto his superhero duds. It’s a testament to Odiamar’s illustration and humor skills that such a small moment feels so funny and so real; he wrote and drew and digital-inked the entirety of Thud.
“I wanted to put in these moments, because, when I was a kid, I thought it would be funny if random things happened,” Odiamar explains. “When I was a kid, I’d think ‘Is Batman really hopping from action thing to action thing with nothing in-between?’ I like to fill in the moments in-between. Like, maybe he was really into pizza? I find the humor in the regular.”
In the end, Odiamar says, he thinks of it almost like a high-five to his younger self. Twelve-year-old Peabe, he points out, “probably thinks I’m super-cool.” It’s also a testament to his role as a father and his evolving and maturing abilities. Crafting subtle humor in the bombastic world of comics isn’t so easily done.
“I remember being that kid who was so serious,” Odiamar concludes, “and now, looking back, this stuff, comics, they’re ridiculous, but in a great way. I’m very excited for [Thud] to be out, and I’m hoping I can continue the story.”