The Con Artist Aristocracy in Crime Webcomic ‘Suckers’

The “Suckers” crime webcomic at Trip City is served in spurts. In late 2012, Brooklyn, NY-based writer Eric Skillman began to tell the story of an inner city teen named Corey White who happens to get nabbed by the cops for a stick-up just after he turns 18. Subtitled “Lies My Mama Told Me”, “Suckers” has White already in prison at the onset of the comic’s second chapter, where he runs into the father he was pretty sure had been dead for years. The story sounds like it moves fast because it does — Skillman’s narrative packs three panels in per page at most, with only a handful of pages going live online for each installment. That’s a lot to sort out in such quick chapters, but it’s done well.

Eric Skillman’s black and white graphic novel noir Liar’s Kiss (Top Shelf, 2011) moves quickly, too. The book’s private investigator Nick Archer attempts to claw his way through an increasingly twisted state of affairs that involves murder, money, bullying cops, and serious drinking. It’s traditional detective fare to the core, but Skillman knows it is, and celebrates it with snappy self-awareness: “We seem to be off to a bad start here,” says Archer to the police. They’re dragging him from a crime scene exterior panel that’s indistinguishable from the facades of the stately South Brooklyn brownstones bordering Prospect Park. “You know how there are two kinds of detective stories? The kind where the P.I. is at odds with the cops, and the kind where they’re working together? I was kinda hoping this could be Type B.” Skillman’s detective story is definitely a recognizable “type” — Archer is a grizzled and steadily drinking familiar figure working a town obscured by a wealth of street shadows, with sunlight portioned-out by Venetian blinds and razor-wire lines from artist Jhomar Soriano. The back and forth cycle between washes of grey watercolors for flashbacks is a dazzling touch, too.

There’s a more polished aesthetic to “Suckers” compared to the scene-setting in Liar’s Kiss, and it owes to the work of Portuguese artist Jorge Coelho. He deals dust-ups or chase scenes as deftly as he does the more introspective sequences, such as the dialogues between Corey and his old man, Abe. One exchange unfolds against the clinical-pale blue walls of the prison’s hallways. “The con artist, boy, is the aristocrat of criminals,” Abe says. Coelho’s backdrops are highly detailed, from the first installment’s desolate cityscapes to the hardened facial expressions that dot the prison mess hall in the third chapter. In a recent post, the elder White and his son are slumped alongside each other on a glossy, mop-damp floor after Corey is beaten by another inmate. It’s too soon to find ourselves misty-eyed over the pair’s reconnection, but it’s a father and his son getting reacquainted in a correctional facility. There’s enough here to grab onto and see what happens next.

“Suckers” is running now at literary arts and comics collective Trip City. Eric Skillman’s ‘Liar’s Kiss’ is available in hardcover from Top Shelf.

Liar’s Kiss