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Jazz Comic Book Gets Buggy

Steve Lafler’s Bughouse (Top Shelf Productions, 2000) is a “jazz-noir picture novel” about a jazz band by the same name that, well, hmmm, how do you say…I’ll let his publisher explain it to you:

“Set in an ‘insect noir’ Manhattan of the early ’50s, “Bughouse is built on an ensemble of characters, who are essentially human beings with buglike features. Tenor saxophone maestro Jimmy Watts leads his talented band of bugs from the swing era into the uncharted maelstrom of bop. And as he and his band mates claw their way to the top of the jazz world, they must fight the temptation to be consumed by addiction to a substance known as ‘bug juice’ (users of bug juice cook the drug over flames and suck it in through their antennae). Never has a more ‘human’ portrait of drug addiction been portrayed, and never before has the art of music felt more alive and real on the printed page.”

How about them bebopin’ arthropods? Bughouse was acclaimed throughout underground comics fandom, and it was named as one of “The Best Graphic Novels of the 21st Century” by

In Baja, Lafler’s latest missive about the Bughouse band, he concentrates on, well, ah, hmmm…let’s let the publisher explain again:

“Bones the bass player, youngest member of premier jazz band Bughouse, is on the lam from the law! Framed by gangster Johnny Muggles, Bones heads south to Mexico while things cool off in Bugtown. Intrigue, romance and some very funky rockin’ blues ensue as our man Bones hooks up with a group of Mexican musicians. Throw in a spooky local legend about a seductive sorceress, and you have an edgy and illuminating coming of age story for Bones the bass player.”

Lafler’s black and white drawings are appealingly scratchy, and his depiction of 1950s jazz life, as we’ve come to know it, has an edge to it that is softened with humor and pathos. Baja is available from any major bookstore or online retailer. Check out or for more info.

Originally Published