Free Inside Package: James Sturm’s The Cereal Killings (1992-95)

« You cannot work with men who won’t work with you. » — John Harvey Kellogg

Before he created his justly-celebrated The Golem’s Mighty Swing, wrote the mini-series Fantastic Four: Unstable Molecules, or co-founded The Center for Cartoon Studies, James Sturm (b. 1965) committed to paper and ink a mind-expanding, if little-noticed, saga entitled The Cereal Killings, complete in eight issues and published by Fantagraphics between 1992 and 1995. Sturm valiantly struggled through ocular problems during that period, undergoing no less than three retinal operations, leaving him with one good eye.

The Cereal Killings no. 3 (Sept. 1992), colours by Mark Lang. Hey, I’d pay good money to see The Screaming Ernies perform. I’d settle for a t-shirt!

Sturm dug well beyond the shallow pun of the title and implacably hauled it to its logical conclusion. TCK has been likened to a Watchmen with a cast of funny animal cereal mascots, and that’s not that far off the mark. But beyond its conceptual debt to Alan Moore’s superhero deconstruction, Sturm’s story actually takes aim at more adult concerns and issues, made all the more harrowing and poignant by how psychologically credible his cast of cereal pitchmen and acolytes is. Corporate malfeasance, petty theft, betrayal, bitterness, grandiloquence, blind ambition, dementia, remorse… and wisdom. You name it, it’s all there, in a gripping, kaleidoscopic and haunting narrative.

Sturm, Fantagraphics & Co. made splendid use of the entire, (actual) ad-free magazine to flesh out the concept. This is Mark Lang’s gorgeous depiction of The Scarecrow and Carbunkle. These are our good guys, appearances notwithstanding.
Issue 3’s back cover provides a helpful look at our cast of characters.
This is the cover of TSK no. 4, featuring Schmedly the Elephant, who wishes he *could* forget. Colour by Mark Lang.


A crucial flashback scene from the eighth, and ultimate, issue (Jan. 1995). It would appear that The Scarecrow is a stand-in for cereal giant Kellogg’s founder, John Harvey Kellogg.

« It’s the present! It’s nostalgia! It’s a crispy non-sweetened comix story that doesn’t get soggy in milk! And remember — product is sold by weight, not volume. Some unsettling may occur. »

The series has never been collected or reprinted, so you’ll have to do the work… I think I noticed a torrent file somewhere. Sturm at one point intended to issue a revised collected edition, but has apparently changed his mind since. That’s no way to treat one’s masterwork, neglected as it may be.


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