Batman isn’t the hero we deserve.
I mean, think about it. The guy is a bored billionaire, driving around in his special self-driving supercar (essentially a Tesla), hanging on a wire outside apartment buildings, and spying on the unemployed people in Gotham (thanks for the layoffs, Wayne Enterprises!). When Batman isn’t beating these citizens up personally—using “less lethal bat-a-rangs” and military-grade combat armor—he’s ratting ’em out to Commissioner Gordon.
Screw you, Batman—and you too, Robin. Because we have a better pair of superheroes for the year 2020. The Beef Bros.
Beef Bros is a Kickstarter comic, written by Aubrey Sitterson and drawn by Tyrell Cannon. Both are indie comic veterans. Cannon is known for creating his own hulking superheroes, and Sitterson has edited at comic book powerhouses Image and Marvel. After being introduced by a friend, Sitterson and Cannon began exchanging emails. While searching for a new comic book idea, they riffed about a mutual interest: classic video games that were grounded in a very dated view on crime and punishment.
“We kept stumbling across side-scrolling, beat-em-up video games [from the ’80s and ’90s]. Final Fight, Streets of Rage, Double Dragon,” says Sitterson. “Those games are awesome . . . the only problem is that the base-level assumptions of those games are really ugly . . . it’s very much like this reactionary fantasy of a world where crime is so out of control and nobody is doing anything about it, so it takes the mayor to strip off his shirt, beat everyone up, and get his daughter back.” (Note: That’s literally the plot of Final Fight.)
What was born from those discussions was “a revolutionary, leftist take on superheroes.” Beef Bros. It’s a story about two extraordinarily ripped gentlemen (aka the Bros), fighting street-level crime. But instead of promising authoritarian justice by punching on problematic thug stereotypes, they serve the community to stop the real bad guys: murderous cops and unsympathetic landlords.
The aesthetic of the book is like a fever dream of late ’80s/early ’90s aesthetic, from bright neon colors, to one Bro’s Zubaz pants-inspired weight-lifting unitard. The other star of the show is the beef itself, the muscles upon muscles of the protagonists.
Cannon has a long history of drawing hyperbolic muscular forms, a practice he likens back not to ’90s comic books, but to Renaissance art and its obsession with the chiseled human body. “Superhero framing and nude art are, at their heart, the male or female form pushed to its limits,” says Cannon. “There’s all these different ways to show the human form, and I try to pull those into my influence. Otherwise, every page is just a guy with his fist toward a viewer. If you only look at comics, that’s what you draw every time. And that’s boring.”
These hyperbolic male forms then do terrible, terrible things to these newly defined bad guys, flipping the superhero motif on its head. “That’s been our goal, to take these things that work on a primal, visceral level—morality tales, distilled-down parable, and violence,” says Sitterson. “So it hits our lizard brain, and elicits an emotional response but in service of higher ideals.”
“This is not a meditation on violence,” he adds.
The script of Beef Bros is currently completed, and the first five pages have been arted. What remains is 27 more pages of sketching, inking, coloring, and lettering. And if the team raises enough money, they’d like to make a second issue.
So far, it’s found an audience, as the comic has raised over $20,000 and counting. That’s enough to green-light the first issue, but another $15,000 is needed for a second. Even in these highly partisan times, where defunding the police is packaged as a leftist ideal, the creators of Beef Bros say the comic has won over the begrudging support of many conservatives on Kickstarter.
“There are people much farther right on the spectrum [supporting it],” says Sitterson. “Beef Bros has an aesthetic, ethos, and thesis. It’s a fully formed thing. People might not fully agree with all of it, but there’s something inspiring to a piece of art that fully commits to the direction it’s headed in. And I think it’s clear to people that’s what we’ve done.”