Stray Bullets, David Lapham’s enigmatic, brutal and heartbreaking comic about the web of crime, murder and abuse that surrounds several generations of lowlifes, is back. Now coming out from Image, the first 40 issues of the book are available today digitally via the Image Comics website, Comixology, the Image Comics iOS app, and Android, Android, Google Play, iBooks and Kindle.
And on March 12th, the entire series thus far will be reprinted in a 1200 page Stray Bullet Über Alles paperback collection; the same day will see publication of the long delayed single issue Stray Bullets #41, which rounds off the storyline from 2005. As if that is not enough, a brand new Stray Bullets mini-series will also launch that day, Stray Bullets: The Killers.
To pave the way for all this, the first four issue of the digital edition will be free until March 12th giving new readers a chance to see what all the fuss is about.
Stray Bullets ran for 40 issues between 1995 and 2005, racking up a bunch of awards and something of a legendary reputation. Published by El Capitan, a company run by Lapham and his wife Maria, the mostly black-and-white comic jumped back and forth following interconnected storylines over several decades. While each issue was a self contained gut punch—the world of Stray Bullets is one where evil is rewarded, goodness is punished, and innocence exists only to be destroyed—over the years, several recurring characters emerged, including Virginia Applejack, a young girl from a warped family who witnesses a murder and becomes emotionally scarred by what follows, even as she imagines a fearless alter ego, superheroine Amy Racecar, whose triumphant adventures form a counterpoint to the often grim goings on in the “real” storyline.
Although Stray Bullets was a self-publishing success, the Laphams drifted away from it when they started a family, and David has been working steadily ever since with such books as Young Liars for Vertigo and the upcoming kids book for Dark Horse, Juice Squeezers. Despite the long break from the series, Stray Bullets was never far from Lapham’s mind, he told PW. “Taking a break gave me the opportunity to work on a bunch of different characters and books that I grew up with. It was a tremendous amount of fun, but it was never Stray Bullets...”
While the desire to bring the book back was always there, it wasn’t until Image entered the picture that everything fell into place. “Over the years we've had great offers from other companies,” said Lapham. “What set Image apart was its history, and how that is shaping its future,” said Lapham. “Image understood that independence was at the core of Stray Bullets and it could only exist as a complete El Capitán production...cover to cover, unedited, uncensored, no peanut gallery....aside from an elegant, little Image ‘I’ on the cover, what fans will be getting is 32-pages of us.”
Lapham is resisting the urge the change anything for the compendium or the digital release, although finding the digital files wasn’t always easy—when the book came out in the 90s, everything was archived to film. Luckily, he still has most of his original art, however putting together the digital edition look “a lot longer than expected.” As for the contents, “Looking back at the original run, I'm kind of intimidated by my younger self. I know more now, I write better, I draw better, but those comics have a simplicity and honesty and power that only comes from just doing it from the gut. I don't think I'll change one thing for the Über Alles edition. I'm letting the past stand as it is.
“One of the elements of this that is so exciting is to bring everything I have learned since going on hiatus, the ways I evolved, to the [new book],” he continues.
The Killers minis series will be the first of a number of new Stray Bullets minis. “While the new material presents new stories and themes, lots of new characters, and some old characters, like every arc of Stray Bullets, it fits into the larger tapestry. There's not this Star Wars-like continuity where I'm searching for sequel ideas. I just have more stories to tell. Specifically, Killers is about all kinds of killers from the traditional noir hit man to the more horrifying kinds of everyday people among us.”
Lapham notes that although Stray Bullets had mostly stand alone issues, people are still daunted by an issue 30 or 40 and think they have to read everything else first. Hence the free digital sampling and the renumbering with new mini series. “Stray Bullets: The Killers #1 is new reader friendly because it says #1 on the cover,” he points out. In the mean time, new readers can catch up with the first four issues digitally starting right now.
With Stray Bullets coming back, one of the lynchpins of 90s comics is finally available for new generations of comics readers. And Lapham couldn’t be happier. “It’s been surprising how exciting this is to come back to. “