On Cow Boy

Cow Boy is an odd thing.

There is a seriousness in it that can’t be forgotten–a boy is rounding up his entire outlaw family and turning them in. He is a bounty hunter, and whether that job description came as a result of wanting to find his family again or not is something that is left unanswered in the comic.

There is also comedy. It is, after all, a ten-year-old boy hunting around the Old West. He is as much a being of the plains and hardtack, saddles and novelty steel worn on hips too round and weird to be real.

His name is Boyd, and as you will see, that isn’t his horse.

But beyond this weird, spatial talk that I’m throwing around up top, there is something amazing about Cow Boy. It manages to ride the line between seriousness, sadness, and pure comedy in a way that is rare in the comic book form. Comics have a problem when it comes to comedy–it requires timing, and in a 2D world where chronology is absent, it really does require a deft hand to make jokes work. Cosby and Eliopoulos, the writer and artist respectively, have a tight storytelling that genuinely made me laugh out loud and feel a quaint, small sadness at the same time. The comic is a gem in an internet world of shit comics produced for the web. They deserve to be celebrated.

Taking it one step beyond this sort-of review, Boyd is a fascinating character. Sometimes we are shown what he is thinking, but mostly only in moments where it drives the story or the comedic action of plot. There are several moments where Boyd sits on his horse, riding, and we are merely seeing the world as it is. We are presented with the image of Boyd, not the character or thoughts of him, and thus his most private moments are rendered absolutely opaque to us. The following page, my favorite in the comic so far, really shows this:

I know that any half-smart writing about the Western United States automatically draws comparisons to Cormac McCarthy, but come one, this is classic McCarthy stuff. There is a “simple aggression” in Boyd, but it isn’t something that we see in the comic. Instead, we see a calculating boy who constantly overwhelms the expectations of those around him, defeating small-town sheriffs and hooligans alike. The simple aggression is hidden from us, part of the opacity that surrounds Boyd. That final panel, where Boyd looks both sad and thoughtful, is one of the few moments where we see him as an actual child. A kid and a horse, laying down for the night, ready to do it all again tomorrow.

Boyd has a long life ahead of him.

Read the comic. Talk about the comic. Make people read it. It really is amazing, and we need more stuff like this.

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