Rich Tommaso is one of the hardest working cartoonists in American comics today. When you pick up a comic created by Tommaso, you know that every bit of work on those pages was crafted by his hands. From script to colors, he is engaged with the entire process, working tirelessly to deliver his stories just as they were conceived.
The stories created by Tommaso reflect an incredible variety of genres and tones. While many comics creators tend to be pegged for the one thing they do best, Tommaso defies definition in this regard. He regularly tackles a wide array of stories, including horror, crime, thriller, and even funny animals. There’s really no guessing what his next project might look like.
Given his incredible skill set and range, it’s no surprise that Tommaso has found a comfortable home at Image Comics. Starting with Dark Corridor in 2015, he has continued to publish all of his new works at Image. Dry County, his fourth new series at Image Comics, will debut this week. It tells the story of an amateur detective in 1980s Miami, promising plenty of neon lights and drug cartel-driven crimes. Before diving into the newest work from Tommaso, we wanted to take a quick look back at his seven best comics to date. These aren’t ranked as they’re all so different, so click ahead to see the best of Rich Tommaso from A to Z.
8 ½ Ghosts is a great example of what Tommaso can accomplish with a single issue, packing plenty of story and ideas into a handful of pages. This horror story pulls from an ample array of sources combining classic haunted house motifs with some great elements of modern filmmakers. It centers on a director who is failing to produce his own horror film before he comes across a genuinely haunted house. Of course things don’t turn out as he expects, but that’s where the real fun and creativity of Tommaso’s hand comes in to play. It’s an excellent short story that packs more into a single issue than many modern comics contain in graphic novel-sized editions.
This self-contained volume began on Kickstarter before finding a home at Fantagraphics where it is still in print. The Cavalier Mr. Thompson traces its roots to Tommaso’s love for American crime fiction with the titular character roughly based upon the novelist Jim Thompson (The Killer Inside Me). Thompson arrives in a small town and puts their local hotel detective to the test as he starts to stir up trouble. There are already plenty of conspiracies awaiting his arrival as well, and it doesn’t take long for worlds to start colliding. The result is an absolute page turner of mystery. If you’re a fan of paperback mysteries stacked with characters (and bodies), then this is a comic for you.
Clover Honey was the first book-length work published by Rich Tommaso, and it will soon be reprinted at Image Comics for a much-deserved second life. This debut set up several tropes that Tommaso has continued to revisit across the years, including mob ties, Gen X characters, and mournful misunderstandings. It’s the story of an aspiring hit woman given a chance at her dream job when a family member gets into a spot of trouble. Clover Honey features many of the trademarks of crime novels with ample irony in its conclusion. There’s also horse racing and gunplay galore in this tale that many readers will get to discover for their first time very soon.
Tommaso’s Image Comics debut is also his strongest crime-related work to date. Dark Corridor runs further down the rabbit hole of conspiracy than anything else he has created so far. Set in the fictional Red City, the comic follows various gangsters and criminals as they watch the power structure of the city set on fire by a mysterious band of assassins. Each issue of Dark Corridor delivered a gripping tale unto itself while building on a bigger mystery that explodes by the end of this seven-issue collection of tales. Every installment of Dark Corridor packs a punch, and Tommaso does an incredible job bringing all of its plot threads together in a simultaneously satisfying and harrowing fashion. It was certainly a great start for his current career at Image.
Another preoccupation in Tommaso’s work is the state of Florida—a land filled with the weirdest ghost stories and crimes, as well as an intriguing landscape. This early horror story published by Dark Horse makes Florida out to be the most terrifying state in the union as alligators, zombies, and plenty of other ferocious creatures line up to take a bite out of the living. It’s as strange as it is creepy, bringing the Sunshine State to a new dark life that’s equally fun and terrifying. The Horror of Collier County remains one of Tommaso’s oddest works to date and is overdue for a reprinting.
She Wolf features the most psychedelic influences of anything Tommaso has created in his career so far. The elevator pitch remains somewhat straightforward: It’s the story of a young woman discovering she is a werewolf and finding out there is an entire world of supernatural beings. However, the storytelling transforms that coming-of-age story into something requiring much more interpretation. Readers are left to question what is dream and what is reality as the protagonist remains unsure of what’s happening and devils infiltrate her world with their own twisted desires. She Wolf is an aesthetic achievement requiring at least two reads to fully appreciate.
Spy Seal is currently on hiatus following the completion of its first story, “The Corten-Steel Phoenix”. However, it’s expected to return following Dry County, and that’s new good news for comics fans everywhere. Spy Seal is one of the truly great debuts from Image Comics in 2017, delivering a unique level of fun. It’s a funny animals story that delivers some of the best-plotted spy action in comics today. There’s a real joy to watching these quirky character engage in spycraft and shoot outs. Tommaso has brought new life to the genre in the initial issues of Spy Seal and we should all hope there’s more to come.