Though technical difficulties may have gotten in the way of our usually scheduled programming yesterday, this maverick comics blogger won’t let something as arbitrary as an alliterative blog series title stop her from showcasing yet another worthy webcomic. Tracy Jennifer Butler’s Lackadaisy follows a group of rum-runners and hooch-slingers in the waning days of their speakeasy, the titular Lackadaisy, in Prohibition era St. Louis. Built in the cathedral caves beneath his innocent café, Lackadaisy was founded by Atlas May, but after his untimely (and suspicious) death, it passed hands to his young, former-dancer wife, Mitzi. Oh yeah, and everybody’s a cat.
But Mitzi’s struggling to keep the business afloat. Competing gin joints in St. Louis are drying up her supply lines, and a schism with her late husband’s former colleagues means her errand boys are in danger. Enter reckless Rocky Rickaby, a violinist in Lackadaisy’s house band and irrepressible admirer of Mitzi. He’s desperate to do her a good turn, even if it means crossing paths with some trigger-happy moonshiners who’re none too pleased that Rocky’s encroaching on their territory. Rocky, however, is miraculously unperturbed and approaches his new job with breathless enthusiasm, a gleeful (if inept) disposition for violence, and a remarkable gift for poetry.
Meanwhile, Mitzi’s seeking funds to support her failing business from a handsome bachelor, who also happens to be the wealthy, local quarry mogul; her taciturn bodyguard, who bears the scars and creaky knees of someone too-long on the job, grimly faces a future of wiping down the bar and serving patrons; Rocky’s crack-shot but otherwise innocent cousin, Calvin, finds himself mixed up in the liquor running business; and a pair of violent, bayou-bred voodoo acolytes, Nicodeme and Serafine, bring their gruesome work ethic to bear on St. Louis’ network of bootleggers. It’s a heady brew of shifting allegiances and desperate power plays, and Butler neatly weaves them all together to evoke the dynamic landscape of the period.
Butler’s fine-lined, sepia-toned artwork beautifully captures the visual style of the Jazz Age, from the gracefully arcing lines of decoration to her characters’ fashion to their choice of cars to the locations of sooty, smoke-stack filled St. Louis, most of which are based on period photos of historical locations. The dense speech bubbles, too, recall the iconic fast-talking movies of the period, packed with lyrical phrases and dry humor. It’s unusual to find a webcomic as devoted to turns of phrase and buoyant vocabulary as it is to a careful line or wash of ink, and Butler excels in both. As the story has progressed she has started adding more color, too, which adds yet more depth. Just check out this luminescent scene of an impending storm!
With such detail-oriented artwork and storytelling, it’s not much of a surprise that Butler updates a little less frequently than other webcomics we’ve showcased here, but the density of each scene, in both the words and painterly illustrations, makes the waiting game totally worth it.