Steve (Stevil) Lowes’s Hard Core Pawn is a collection of short poetic stories engaged in political debates about inequalities and exploitation. If you know what political economy and critical approaches to economic discourses and politics are about, this what this comic presents using chest pieces as pawns and characters.
I like to tell anyone who will hear it that comics came from the tradition of cartoons and caricature to be forms of expressions that the king’s fool would adopt. The King’s fool was thought to be crazy and the only one who could criticize his power. Criticism of power, hence is something that comics have inherited although many of them seldom enact or celebrate this legacy. Cartoonists are the king’s fools, regardless of what any ignorant reader who supports Comic Gates says.
Cartoonists were always political, and Steve Lowes’s is as critical as they come. If you have read Marxist literature, you will quickly see where he comes from. It is not Marxism in the sense that he wants to save the proletariat and topple power. What Lowes is involved with is traditional criticism. It is surprising that his work seems so odd and unique. There should be thousands of Steve Lowes making comics today, but we do not see them. Many cartoonists, even those who try to be aware of current issues, do not criticize anymore. They leave the likes of Lowes as the rare cartoonists not afraid of being the king’s fool.
And here, Lowe plays with the king and the queen extensively. All of his characters are chest parts. Some are black, some are white. His is very literal in his metaphors. Nothing is hidden nor hinted at. Even when he borrows from existing literature and poetry, his message is clear without any compromise. Hence Hard Core Pawns is easily transferable to an audience outside of comics. This comic could find itself easily in any critical literature course in a university. It summarizes many postmodern problems quickly in a few pages.
But this comic should perhaps be read by other comic readers to remind themselves that comics are not about fantasy or impossible premises that sound cool for a concept to spin a series that could be sold as a property and the next Hollywood film or Silicon Valley game. This is not Lowes’s intent here. No adaptation of his work seems in the plans. He just criticizes and uses his voice and his pen to chart a commentary on us. This is what cartoonists were supposed to do everyday.
You can purchase print, deluxe, or digital versions of Hard Core Pawns #1 at Lowes's publishing imprint, Heavy Manners.