The Backstagers #1 (of 8)
Written by James Tynion IV
Illustrated by Rian Sygh
Colors by Walter Baiamonte
Letters by Jim Campbell
Review by Joey Braccino
“If they eat the props, the actors will probably kill us and roast us alive. Or worse. They might actually come down here and talk to us.”
Enter Jory, stage right, the new kid at St. Genesius Prep, an all-boys high school. His mom needs him to find something to do after school since her new job has long hours. That’s basically the instigating event that triggers the rising action of the play. The solution: DRAMA CLUB STARTS TODAY!!! Scene: Jory shows up to the auditorium, eager and anxious to participate and maybe find his niche, but the superstar McQueen brothers (they get all the leads in all the shows and all the drama club members positively adore them) mistake him for a member of the backstage crew and send him on a mission down to the theatre basement to retrieve a missing tiara. And hilarity ensues.
The Backstagers is the latest addition to BOOM! Studios absolutely stellar BOOM! BOX line of whip-smart, super-fun, not-quite-all-ages comic books like Jonesy, Giant Days, Goldie Vance, and, of course, Lumberjanes. Once we get down into the bowels of the St. Genesius auditorium, rising talents James Tynion IV and Rian Sygh absolutely let loose with the characterization and the fantasy and the imagination as Jory meets the diverse stage crew members and explores their crazy Chocolate-Factory-rabbit-hole of a backstage. What starts as a fairly realistic high school set-up quickly turns fanciful as Jory learns that the backstage is literally infinite and filled with strange twists and turns, unmarked doors, and wild creatures.
And take it from someone who has done A LOT of theatre, both on-stage and backstage—Tynion has got the character models down pat. I know divas like the McQueen brothers. I know lighting guys like Beckett and charming set designers like Hunter and demanding managers like Aziz. They’re all turnt up to eleven obviously as they chase down the bizarre purple-and-pink rodent-esque friendos running around the basement, but still, Tynion’s clearly been there.
It’s funny to think of BOOM! as having a “house style,” but now that we’re several books deep into the BOOM! BOX imprint, it’s clear that for this type of comic, Rian Sygh and Walter Baimonte are absolutely perfect. Reminiscent of the aforementioned Jonesy (Caitlin Rose Boyle) and Teen Dog (Jake Lawrence), Sygh and Walter deal in bright colors and cartooning to make for a wonderfully energetic and vibrant visual experience. Add Jim Campbell’s expert shifts in lettering (when things get WEIRD, so do the letters, man…), and the whole team captures the wonder-emporium feel of the backstagers base(ment) of operations perfectly.
One final personal note: for me, theatre has always been about teamwork and collaboration as much as it is about storytelling. The Backstagers tells the story of a crew of high school kids working together to do something magical. In this case, yeah, it’s thwarting an infestation of oddly-colored mice-creatures, but it’s a metaphor for what backstage crews and casts do all the time: work together to do something extraordinary and, in the process, find a family. Jory wants to fit in, and I think the Backstagers are gonna welcome him with open arms.
BUY! Look, I may be a little biased here because the two things I nerd out about most in this universe are comics and theatre, but The Backstagers sings with heart and humor on every single page. The diversity of the cast, the quirkiness of the concept, the dynamic visual style—it all comes together to make for an absolutely astounding reading experience from cover-to-cover. I couldn’t recommend this book more. Check it!