The first thing that hits you about Mike Allred is just how much the guy loves his wife.

From the pages of Mike's brilliant comic, Madman - where we're treated to mutually smitten exchanges between the cleverly named Frank Einstein and his paramour Joe in the course of their dating- awhile-yet-still-head-over-heels-about-one-another relationship - to the doey-eyed, "I'm-sincerely-interested-in-what-you're-saying-don't-get-me-wrong-but-I'd-rather-be-at-
home-with-my-wife-right-now" manner in which Mike holds a conversation, the impression I always get is that - to Mister Allred - all the comic-book glory, all the acclaim, all the movie deals, just don't add up to being in the arms (and betwixt the legs) of Mrs. Allred (Laura to the fans, Mom to the kids).

That's what I admire most about Madman and Mike himself: love and romance inform his work. There's passion in the pages of this comic, friends - and not just the kind of passion where some goofball in a cape wants to tell his secret identity to some hotty with enormous breasts who writes for a major metropolitan newspaper, yet won't allow himself. No, I'm talking about the kind of passion that the lovestruck feel about life that makes them more apt to examine the unexamined - whether artificial intelligence is actually existence, what lengths one will go to protect one's beloved... chestnuts like those. It's all over the pages of Madman every month, and - call me old-fashioned - but I think it's because Mike digs on his lady - so much so that he got himself a job where she can not only work beside him but also enhance his work in the process.

Mike and Laura are a team - which may sound corny to some. But sweet Christmas, look at the results: consider for a moment how damn sumptuous the colors in Madman are. You'd be hard pressed to find another color scheme like it out there in the field. It lends towards the book's very singular feel, and I'm a huge fan (so much so that we used issue ten's color palette for an entire set in our recently wrapped, third film Chasing Amy). As jealousy-inspiring and creative as Mike is, Laura's panache with the four colors make me wish I viewed the world through her eyes.

The other thing I dig about Mike and Madman is how film-savvy they both are. I'm not talking about simply lifting a line of dialogue from a well-known or revered flick (although Mike's not above that: see the Brooklyn-accented Mighty Myron the Robot and his very "Pulpy" riff in issue nine). No, I'm talking about homage to genre and history . The story are in issues six through ten is laden with classic sci-fi, B-movie conventions, (the Blob-like Puke, the shrinking Frank, time travel, beings from other worlds, and - of course - robots, robots, robots). This is an artist who knows how to invert , update, revamp, and put a hipster spin on such hoary movie cliches and also appreciated their relevance and contribution to the early days of comics as well.

But the intrinsic tie to pop culture (specifically pop-film culture) doesn't end there. Mike's somehow managed to work in a Doctor Strangelove shot, John Woo action (complete with his own variation of Chow Yun Fat), Elmer Fudd dialects ("...west and wewexation at wast!"), John Wayne (via the presence of the Big Guy), and even Clint Eastwood. The fact that it never interrupts the story or takes the reader out of it in the process is true testimony to Mike's skill. Many people have pointed to the oftimes philosophical nature of the book. It is refreshing to read real thoughts coming from what are essentially cartoons - I agree with their accolades. But for all the philosophizing Frank does throughout his adventures, Mike never lets us forget that - first and foremost - this is a comic book: a four color romp through a world so unlike our own, a sense-stimulating tour de force that allows us to escape from the humdrum of the daily grind. And in reading it, we have nothing to be ashamed of.

And there is no shame in the pages of Madman. Whether it's quirky or hysterical visual treats (Frank in a cardigan, the near-chewing off of Mattress' nose, the briefly glimpsed, ultra-cool, black Madman costume). or truly original story points (Joe's concern that Franks' being "used" by Doctor Flem, Mott the Alien taking offense to being rushed off the phone, the "death" of Marie the handy robot and her counterpart Warren's reaction to it) - the world, I daresay, is a better place because madman exists.

And while none of this is lost on Mister Allred, I still believe that he's not nearly as impressed by all of it as he is by Mrs. Allred.