The Soulsearchers and Company series is a comedy/horror/fantasy comic book from Claypool Comics ran from 1993-2007, with a total of 82 issues, 1/2 of a Free Comic Book Day flip book, and two trade paperback compilations with new covers by Amanda Conner (one inked by Steve Leialoha , one a painting).
Soulsearchers and Company began as a transplant. Richard Howell and Peter David had put together a series concept for Marvel Comics featuring a team of ghostbusters led by two already-extant, already-married characters. (Comic Book Resources says Hellcat and Hellstorm, pointing out Howell had already written a pilot for this in Marvel Fanfare.) Marvel passed on the offer, so Richard and Peter refashioned the cast to make the property creator-owned, then began it from scratch, at Claypool The group's members included: the fiery former Olympic gymnast Bridget Lockridge; her foil (and eventual husband) Baraka, the fire demon from an Arabic Hell, the apprentice witch Kelly Hollister; Janocz, a shape-changing gypsy boy; Peter P. Peterson, an accountant with a magic bag (out of which he can produce—apparently—anything); and the business' original leader, the acerbic talking prairie dog Arnold Stanley. In later years, the centauress Hot-2-Trot would join the ranks, then leave. Also signing up was Gabriel, a local Mystic Grove boy who was gifted—by Nadine the ditzy angel—with a gun that disabled evil supernaturals.
Naturally, a concept like this required some specialized art to make it work, and Richard and Ed were each delighted to recruit the then-lesser-known Amanda Conner (whom they'd known for years). Amanda's big breakthrough was still a few years away, but she sharpened her skills markedly on the Soulsearchers and Company feature, bringing a complex sense of fun and a multiplicity of tone to the series' many demands.
Over the years, the Soulsearchers and Company feature shifted art teams frequently, eventually showcasing the talents of not only Amanda and Jim but also Dave Cockrum, Marie Severin, Dan Spiegle, Gordon Purcell, Neil Vokes, Al Bigley, Kim DeMulder, and Chris Marrinan , among others. As the series progressed, it stabilized artistically with a lengthy run by John Heebink and Al Milgrom , then a slightly shorter one by Joe Staton and Milgrom. Amanda Conner remained as cover artist for the series' entire run, mostly inked by Steve Leialoha.
Over their fourteen-year run, the Soulsearchers discovered plenty of amusing weirdness in their path, including: The Grand Guignol and his Pinocchio Patrol, Sleep-Wanker the master of daffy dreams; the roving gypsies of Pastramia; the Toadies and their cult of Drek; the Scream Queens; the time-warping Apocrypha; authoress Ramona Cleff; mad sorcerer Willem Haggard (Arnold's original partner in SS & Co.); and the Ex-Nihilio, Lucifer's executive board. They participated in a cat-and-mouse game with the spy queen Offa Trollez, investigated a monastery full of mimes, got in between a pair of warring angels (Nadine and her nasty sister Vanessa), found the underground laboratory in which a Mad Scientist was creating dinosaurs, fought the greedy pig Sooey Generis, got outlawed from Mystic Grove, battled the Witch-Tracker, attended a snooty, aristocratic British (also cursed) house party, and ran afoul of the Cantrip mob family of half-demons.
Tropes used in Soulsearchers and Company include:
- Accessory-Wearing Cartoon Animal: Arnold Stanley is a prairie dog wearing a collar and necktie.
- And I Must Scream: In #1, Grand Guignol is transformed into a plush toy when one of his spells backfires. He is then collected to be used as set dressing on one of the kiddie's TV programs that he hates so much.
- Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: In #4, Kelly's attempt to remove Janocz's curse accidentally transforms her baby sister into a 50 ft. monster with the personality of a toddler that goes on a rampage through Mystic Grove.
- Anvil on Head: In #3, Barak stops the bickering Dweeb and Sleepwanker by using the rules of the Dream Land to conjure up a pair of anvils that then fall on their heads
- Burn the Witch!: In #2, Janocz's tribe attempt to burn him at the stake for being a cursed shapeshifter, in accordance with ancient gypsy law.
- Captain Obvious: Spoofed, and combined with Department of Redundancy Department, in # 11, where the opening caption reads: What if Soulsearchers And Company talked like 1960's Hanna-Barbera heroes?Janocz: Kelly! A giant tentacle is going to grab me!Kelly: Oh no! Janocz is being grabbed by a giant tentacle!Giant tentacle: Ha ha! I, a giant tentacle, have grabbed Janocz!
- Conveyor Belt o' Doom: In #4, Bridget's extendible pole gets caught in a bottle recycling machine and she is almost dragged to her death.
- Dark Age of Supernames: Parodied in #6 when the team temporarily become '90s antiheroes. Bridget becomes 'Deathstaff', Baraka 'H.O.T.T. Blood', Janocz 'Animal Attraction', Kelly 'Tink', and Peterson 'Kitchen Sink, the Number Cruncher'.
- Deal with the Devil: In #6, a demon transforms the team into '90s antiheroes and presents them with a contract to make their new identities and popularity permanent in exchange for their souls. Their new personalities are inclined to sign, and it is down to Arnold to save the day.
- The Ditz: Kelly is undoubtedly helpful, cheerful and well-meaning. However, she is also far from the sharpest tool in the shed. In her background, it is stated that one of the reasons Arnold keeps her employed is that she usually forgets to ask for her salary.
- Don't Go in the Woods: In #5, the woods outside of Mystic Grove are magically transformed into fairy tale forest, with all of the attendant threats: including the cannibalistic witch from Hansel and Gretel.
- Dream Land: #3, Dweeb (a parody of Dream from The Sandman (1989)) hires the team to discover who is interfering with the town's ability to sleep, and there fore dream. To investigate, Baraka (who is a demon and does not need to sleep) has to enter the dreamscape of Bridget, the strongest willed member of the team.
- Erotic Dream: While exploring Bridget's dreamscape in #3, Baraka discovers a portion of her mind featuring an erotic dream concerning him.
- Fairy Tale Episode: In #5, the woods outside of Mystic Grove are magically transformed into fairy tale forest, with all of the attendant threats: including the cannibalistic witch from Hansel and Gretel.
- Fallen-on-Hard-Times Job: When the Soulsearchers temporarily split up, Peterson earns money by exhibiting Stanley as a talking prairie dog.
- Forced Transformation: Arnold Stanley was transformed into a talking prairie dog by an Evil Sorceror.
- Genie in a Bottle: Baraka is a Arabic fire demon (also known as a djinn) who dwells in a bottle. However, he is also a slob and whenever his bottle gets too dirty, he moves into a new one.
- I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: The team is based in the unpromisingly named Fear City.
- "King Kong" Climb: In #2, Janocz transforms into a giant ape, grabs Kelly and starts climbing a partially constructed skyscraper. Kelly's response is to use her magic to summon toy aeroplanes to ineffectually swoop him.
- Mirrors Reflect Everything: In #1, Kelly hoists a mirror in front of Grand Guignol as he is attempting cast a spell on her stuffed toys. The spell bounces off and turns Guignol into a stuffed toy.
- Nasal Weapon: Evil Sorcerer Grand Guignol commands an army of wooden puppets knowns as the Pinocchio Patrol. He murders Colonel Klinkers by having the puppets surround him and tell lies until their sharpened wooden noses grow long enough to impale him.
- Objectshifting: Grand Guignol is transformed into a plush toy when one of his spells backfires, leaving him to be used as set dressing on one of the kiddie TV programs that he hates so much.
- Our Genies Are Different: Baraka is a Arabic fire demon (also known as a djinn) who dwells in a bottle. However, he is also a slob and whenever his bottle gets too dirty, he moves into a new one.
- Paperworkaholic: Peter P. Peterson, Soulsearchers and Company's accountant, is an absolute whiz with paperwork, and, at times, it seems this is the only thing keeping the company afloat.
- Perverse Puppet: Evil Sorceror Grand Guignol uses an army of magically animated marionettes called the Pinocchio Patrol, who murder their targets using their sharpened wooden noses.
- Playing with Fire: Baraka is a fire demon from the Arabic Hell, whose powers allow him to create, control and manipulate fire.
- Poor Man's Porn: In #3, one of the videos in Baraka's Porn Stash is an aerobics tape.
- Porn Stash: In #3, Bridget storms into the office in a bad mood, causing Baraka to desperately attempt to conceal his porn stash.
- Repetitive Name: Peter. P. Peterson
- Ruritania: Pastramia: a land primarily inhabited by picturesque tribes of roving gypsies.
- Self-Deprecation: Claypool Comics was always a small and rather obscure publisher, which is something this comic would often make fun of. One recurring theme was how difficult it is to get the books, even when you try to order it directly from your retailer.
- Shout-Out: This comic is full of pop culture spoofs, which is no surprise, considering that was part of Peter David's Signature Style at the time.
- Take That!: #6 is an issue long 'Take That' against The Dark Age of Comic Books and Image Comics in particular.
- Torches and Pitchforks: In #2, the gypsies gather up torches and pitchforks and go to confront the monster that has been terrorizing their tribe. And then turn tail and run when they catch sight of the actual monster.
- Underboobs: In #6, Bridget (along with the rest of the the team) is transformed into a '90s Anti-Hero and gains a costume that exposes a generous expanse of underboob.
- Unwilling Suspension: In #5, Kelly and Janocz and tied back to back and hung from the ceiling of the witch's cottage.
- Waxing Lyrical: When Dweeb and Sleepwanker play 'the Oldest Game' in #3, it devolves into this:Sleepwanker: I am darkness and utter annihilation! And what'll you be then, huh?
Dweeb: I am hope.
Sleepwanker: Well, I'm Crosby! Not to mention Stills, Nash and Young!
Dweeb: I am the walrus, goo goo joob!
- When Trees Attack: In #5, the Soulsearchers are attacked by grove of sentient, semi-mobile trees known as the Parliamentrees when they are travelling through the fairy tale forest
- Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe: Baraka talks like this whenever he is attempting to pick up chicks; generally to the annoyance of his teammates.