SCUD, THE DISPOSABLE ASSASSIN by Rob Schrab (Image / collected)
Among the big indie comics of the 90’s (like Jeff Smith’s Bone and Terry Moore’s Strangers in Paradise), there is a nice little footnote in writer/artist Rob Schrab’s Scud, The Disposable Assassin. Born of all things, by being dumped by a girl, this book around the latter half of the 90’s became a big indie success, spawned a video game, and was even optioned for a big Hollywood movie. But by the time the new decade rolled around, any new Scud issues had disappeared from comic shop shelves. Once again, heartbreak was behind this, but we’ll get there.
Scud is set in a rather out-there world where you can buy assassin robots to do your dirty work like people buy sodas from dispensers outside a supermarket (literally, Scuds are lined up in giant dispensers). One such assassin is sent to kill a rather nasty creature, but discovers by accident that like all Scuds that once he completes his task, he will explode. Rather than die, Scud wounds the creature enough to have it hospitalized indefinitely, albeit a monthly cost. So Scud is forced to take jobs (the killing kind of jobs) to keep the creature alive, and himself.
It’s through this setup that we get to explore this very insane world that Scud exists in. We meet everything from robot gangsters (who would be spun-off into their own book, written by future Community creator Dan Harmon), a devil worshipping Benjamin Franklin, and a kid (Drywall, who got a one-off spinoff of his own) who is literally a walking version of Felix the Cat’s magic bag.
The stories themselves often went into more absurd tangents, like Scud’s brief ownership of a werewolf’s arm, going into space (and both those cases happened in the same story!), and even an apocalyptic scheme by angels to destroy the Earth. Scud even found love with a beautiful assassin, Sussudio, during its run. But by the 20th issue (which itself was a really brutal cliffhanger), its creator had suffered another personal heartache that put the series into cold storage. It’s not that Schrab wasn’t working in that time (eventually working on the Heat Vision and Jack pilot, which lead to creating the Channel 101 website with Harmon, among other credits), but it wasn’t more Scud. That changed around 2006, when Image wanted to reprint Scud, and Schrab felt he could come back and finish the story. Of course by then, he was working full-time on The Sarah Silverman Program as a writer/director, so finishing what ultimately became a four issue finale took some time. But by 2008, the end of Scud was published, and now the series is finally complete.
The thing about Scud is that its not the sharpest and cleanest made book ever, but it makes up for that in sheer chutzpah. The artwork isn’t the most realistic stuff out there, but its vibrant and peppy in a way few comics were (and are) at that time. It feels like a product of its time, and yet, a great push to fledging comic book creators that the impossible is possible when it comes to getting your stories out there. The whole history (both in the book and in its creation) of Scud is a firm reminder that you gotta deal with some heartbreak and heartmending along the way, but the end result is worth it.
NEXT ISSUE: We get into the messy and unforgiving world of espionage with a tough British lady spy in Greg Rucka’s QUEEN AND COUNTRY!