You know me. I hate comics. But because I'm the type who not only likes to pick at the scab, but jab at it with a fork for a while, I sometimes sneak into the comics shop. I say sneak in because I try to avoid making eye contact with comic shop clerks or patrons for fear that they might regale me with the plotline from the last 87 issues of She-Hulk. No matter how popular comics become, no matter how mainstream the fandom lifestyle, comics fans still behave like the loneliest people on earth. So I try to visit comic shops when they’re crowded, so I can slip in undetected, scoff privately at the unconsciously homoerotic fanboy pornography, and leave unmolested.
And that’s why I like Free Comic Book Day. The shops are packed with Dorkus Fanboyus in all its varieties, too busy with their debates about utility belt maintenance and zombie disposal methods to notice me laughing derisively in the corner. This year threw me no curves. As soon as I walked in, I heard one of the artists on hand to provide free sketches engaged in a loud argument about George Lucas’ skills as a director. In the back of the store, where the gamers converged, a bearded doofus in a bowling shirt with kung-fu dragons on it loudly exclaimed, “A teleportation pod is all you’d need to take care of those werewolves!” This species never changes, and I take some comfort in that.
I’m generally only interested in the moldiest newsprint available in these shops. So I’m usually digging through the dollar boxes, looking for comics from the Count Dante era (if you don’t get that reference, I doubt we can find much common ground in a discussion about super hero comics). Free Comic Book Day gives me the rare opportunity to engage with new material - specifically the new material publishers are most eager to promote with a free giveaway. So, assuming you comics fans are interested in the perspective of a hostile outsider, I thought I’d give my impressions of a few of the promotional comics I picked up today. Shops were limiting the number of comics patrons could snag this year, so I had to visit more than one of these dank pits to get a reasonably wide selection of free crap. Then I lost a considerable number of brain cells reading this junk. You’re welcome. Let’s look at my stash:
“Caught in a mysterious explosion, mild-mannered Dashiell James has become top NASCAR driver Jimmy Dash.” Is it just me or does that first line of this comic suggest that brain damage made the guy want to become a NASCAR driver? As it turns out, that explosion gave practically every character in the comic super powers, none of which are exhibited in stories where everyone just drives cars all the time. The main villain of this series, Jack Diesel, “had aquired (sic) the most powers of all.” Did this evil mastermind use his vast power to take over the world? Worse, he used them to “cheat in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races.” The bastard!
MARVEL SUPER HERO SQUAD ONLINE
The title here is pretty confusing since none of the Marvel Super Hero Squad use their PCs or iPhones at any time. Basically, the plot of this comic is just as stupid as a classic Stan Lee comic, but everyone has horrifically malformed bodies. When I was a kid, I always found efforts to make my favorite super heroes big-eyed and cutesy-poo to be extremely insulting, so I assume any self-respecting kid would today. Hideous, toy line tie-in deformities aside, this is actually one of the more coherent and inoffensive comics in the bunch. And one of the ads featured a cover illo I thought was kind of neat:
I got real confused when the art suddenly got better on page 9. Then I realized this was actually samples of five different Green Hornet comics. Which begs the question, do we need ONE Green Hornet comic? Especially one written by the staggeringly talentless Kevin Smith? The opening sequence features a device fanboys just adore: a hackneyed action sequence with dialogue that sarcastically points out how hackneyed it is. This, I suppose, takes the sting out of realizing you’ve just watched a guy in a cape beat up a group of stereotypical comic book thugs in a grimy alley for the four trillionth time. Seriously, gang, I’ve got nothing against the Green Hornet, but history has shown us, time and time again, that Batman’s infinitely superior car, costume, and ass-kicking renders GH completely superfluous.
The same goes for this desperate attempt to make The Phantom “extreme”…
...or this effort to encourage readers to wonder what the Black Terror might be brooding so intensely about after sixty years. (Can I just add that Alex Ross makes me physically ill? No? Okay, nevermind.)
While I’m scanning the ads in this one, what sort of aerobics dance is Red Sonja doing here?
Judging from the looks on their faces, that dump Kato is taking on the roof must smell pretty bad. Green Hornet is doing what here? Reaching for the throat of crime?
G.I. JOE #155
It takes an especially psychotic brand of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder to figure out what’s going on in this one...or to care. That’s assuming you’re over the age of eight, when keeping track of the subplots of 657 action figures seems dreadfully important. The fact that none of the characters in this comic have faces isn’t helping me give a shit, either. There’s an attempt to make the actions of these cartoon super villains politically relevant on page five, and I just find that adorable.
The creative team here is finding out the hard way that updating Richie Rich with robots, martial arts, and super villains just makes it exactly like every other kiddie property in the country. This is what Big Boy comics were like, fer crissake. The series is described as “a mix of James Bond and Indiana Jones (two TOTALLY different genres) with the bank account of Donald Trump.” Because nothing appeals to children more than billionaire real estate tyrants.
(I can’t bring myself to actually read the Kung Fu Panda comic on the flipside. I’m sure it’s excellent.)
STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS
“Senator Muggletop has escaped from Argtile Seven with secret plans for Princess Ummahooten’s Council of Drakuu, while Darth Ved has stolen the Grauvagnian Warships to rendezvous with General Zamplepants and blah blah blah blah blah……”
Don’t you wish Akira had the X-Men in it? Well, wish no more.
Like most modern super hero comics, this one is pulsing with so much pubescent testosterone the art looks like one, big, candy-coated erection. As if the grimacing, flexing, contorting, and tight camera angles weren’t enough to reveal severe sexual frustration, there’s this full-page introduction of “Carol:”
This is what fanboys think an adult woman in a white collar profession looks like. Why? Because their reference material for drawing women comes from All Anal Secretaries Part Six.
CAPTAIN AMERICA AND THOR
This is actually pretty decent. It made sense when I realized Roger Langridge wrote it, because I know him to be a sharp cookie. Really good art in this, too. It’s SO nice to see a modern comic without full-bleed panels for a change. Kid-friendly and fun, but with a backup story by some other creative team that’s completely illegible.
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN
Another case of hackneyed action scenes with dialogue sarcastically pointing out how hackneyed they are. But it bothers me less here because Spider-Man has always been a raging smartass (it’s no wonder he was my favorite growing up), and because, frankly, this whole comic is completely insane. Between the awkward distortions of the artwork - which I like a great deal - and the dopey, irreverent script, this book is like a weird fever dream. Take a lesson from this one, super hero writers. When your genre is essentially one big fight between super powered mutants, you can’t take this junk seriously.
And that’s my attitude overall when it comes to comic books. This type of super hero/sci-fi/phantasy stuff is monumentally stupid, and is only successfully handled by creators who can acknowledge that stupidity. This material is fine for kids – I’m all for youngsters indulging in fun fantasy garbage. But any grownup who reads super hero comics at the exclusion of adult reading material is an emotional retard, and way too much of this comic book porn reflects that retardation.
So I was happy seeing so many kids scamming some free comics, and relieved that a few of those comics seemed geared towards the youngsters in an entertaining way. But I’m still uncomfortable with kids being inducted into the comic shop cult, seeing all these warped, thirty year old junkies so desperately in need of fresh air and natural light. We really don’t need another generation of creators and fans whose only understanding of storytelling forms involves kicks to the head.
So next year, as a service to my community, I’ll be in the parking lot of Warp Five Collectibles with a shredder, giving these FCBD comics a chance to increase in value by destroying the bulk of their print run. The remainder of the worst offenders will hopefully be slabbed in lucite, never to stink up the culture with their inflated anatomy and flexing “intensity” again.