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Cow Boy: Cosby and Eliopoulos Jaw about a Boy and his Horse

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Fun for the whole family, Nate Cosby and Chris Eliopoulos’ Cow Boy is a rootin’, tootin’ good time!

If you have kids, you’ll want to pay attention. It’s not every day a high quality book hits your local comic shop that is appropriate for children and adults alike. Despite a soft trend by major publishers in recent years to produce comic books for youth readers, most direct market outlets and bookstores are still overrun with stories aimed at more mature audiences. It’s fallen to smaller publishers like BOOM! Studios, IDW, and Archaia Entertainment to fill the all-ages vacuum left by a market that’s grown old with its audience.

This month, Archaia releases the hardcover graphic novel Cow Boy: A Boy and His Horse by writer Nate Cosby and cartoonist Chris Eliopoulous, a book designed specifically to target the all-ages niche. Cosby, a former editor at Marvel, who contributed to the success of series like Pet Avengers and Franklin Richards, believes the time is right for smaller publishers to step up to the plate and develop properties that reach beyond the traditional market.

“You need to give kids something to read, so why not make it adult enough for their parents to enjoy? This is a staple of the film industry (Pixar films are the best example of this) that’s been pretty much forgotten or ignored by a lot of companies, who tend to toss out a few “kid” books as lip service, then focus on catering to their hardcore audience.

“But several companies, and Archaia in particular, recognize the amazing value in generating interest with both new and old readers. Archaia’s Mouse Guard, their Jim Henson property books, Jim McCann & Janet K. Lee’s Dapper Men…the books they put out show a commitment to reaching out to a different audience than those that’re already buying comics every Wednesday. That’s what got Chris and I excited about bringing Cow Boy to them. We’re in great company.”

For Eliopoulos, whose career has been influenced primarily by comic strips, the desire to produce material his children can read without fear or worry, has been long-standing. As a company dedicated to publishing high quality books for a variety of different audiences, it just made sense to bring Archaia Cow Boy.

“Archaia and the people there really seem to be carving out a niche for high-quality books that reach out to folks who normally don’t read comics. They are as committed to Cow Boy’s success as we are. The fact they asked us to contribute to the Free Comic Book Day book proves it. I think parents want material for their kids to read and they can instantly look at an Archaia book and know it’s quality,” explains Eliopoulos.

Set in the Wild West, Cow Boy draws much of its inspiration from Cosby’s youth reading his father’s old western novels. Making the genre relevant to an all-ages audience while challenging was well worth the effort, according to Cosby. Young bounty hunter Boyd Linney’s quest to round up his outlaw family come heck or high water taps into a number of themes inherent in all good children’s literature, without talking down to the parents reading along with their kids.

”I wanted to use the genre to explore bigger themes of childhood, family, and growing up. Being a kid isn’t always great, it can be a weird, scary time, and the adults around you, even if they’re well-meaning, might not be telling you the full truth about everything. Boyd’s story is about him tossing off the evil of his family and choosing his own path…and that path is riddled with the adventure and excitement that comes from exploring the unknown.”

Armed with naught but a pee-shootin’ stick gun, Boyd pursues his good-for-nothing family with a combination of boyish moxy and an iron will forged in the fires of his lonely, latch-key childhood. It’s not all good-natured western hijinks though. There are lessons for Boyd to learn as he navigates the pitfalls and dangers of the adult world. His noble intervention on behalf of a runaway slave only complicates matters for the man, who now has to hightail it out of town or face retribution for his role in Boyd’s thrashing of his attackers. It’s a sad, hard lesson for a boy bounty hunter to learn, that serves as a counterpoint to the book’s otherwise boisterous appeal. Cosby handles the scene with craft and sensitivity, refusing to condescend to child and parent alike.

It’s a scene that also underscores Eliopoulos’ virtuosity as a cartoonist. While the rest of the graphic novel bounces along with a simple, robust enthusiasm, Eliopoulos’ ability to convey complex emotion in a handful of lines really shines here, as the realization that he’s hindered more than he’s helped this man, dawns on Boyd’s young features. According to Eliopoulos, it was his collaborator who threw down the gauntlet, forcing him to push the boundaries of his art.

“All my prior work comes out of my love for comic strips, which tend to be very static. Nate threw down the challenge on this book to push me beyond that—to open up and think of this like a movie. I went kicking and screaming because it was out of my comfort zone. But Nate was always full of encouragement and kept telling me he knew I could push things. He sent me soundtracks and movie recommendations and I really tried to give it an old western movie feel, though my passion for westerns pretty much ends at Back to the Future 3.”

Be that as it may, Cow Boy is as packed full of action and adventure as any of the old yarns of yesteryear, thanks to a posse of top-notch talent, who provide five short interludes separating the chapters of Boyd’s quest for justice. “We figured that it’d be fun to break up the chapters with little stories, to give the reader a richer experience, kinda hearkening back to the Looney Tunes shorts that would run in between movies at the theatres way back in the day. We got crazy lucky that some of the most talented creators in comics agreed to contribute. Roger Langridge, Brian Clevinger, Scott Wegener, Mitch Gerads, Mike Maihack, Colleen Coover…I really couldn’t ask for a better group of people to make some comics,” Cosby raves.

But what does the future hold for young Boyd Linney? As he rides off into the proverbial sunset at the end of A Boy and His Horse, he’s only managed to rustle up two of his outlaw relatives. Surely this can’t be the end of his noble quest?

”Nate just wants me to keep drawing horses,” jokes Eliopoulos. “I love these stories, so as long as people buy, we’re gonna be doing more.”

“We’re already working on the long-term plan for Boyd,” promises Cosby, “and the first book is riddled with nuggets of what’s to come. Boyd’s got a BIG family, and they’ve all got justice coming to them…”

Cow Boy: A Boy and His Horse, Nate Cosby (W), Chris Eliopoulos (A), Archaia Entertainment, $19.95. Released March 28, 2012.

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