Beard: Not exactly your grandfather’s super heroesWritten by Jim Beard | | firstname.lastname@example.org
We always hurt the ones we love — super heroes and their adventures have been parodied and satired right from their very inception. Famous examples of such skewering abound, like legendary cartoonist Shelly Mayer spoofing the long underwear crowd with his long underwear-wearing Red Tornado in 1940 and MAD’s daring to tug on Superman’s cape with its infamous “Superduperman” drubbing in 1953. But, perhaps it took modern creators to truly vivisect our colorful heroes and produce caricatures that are both illuminating and disturbing.
Monarch Cards & Comics’ Ed Katschke has two favorites from among recent releases. “Before his popular Batman work, comic legend Grant Morrison and illustrator Frank Quitely collaborated on a strange little project called ‘Flex Mentallo.’ ” he reports. “The series was designed as a parody/homage to the old Charles Atlas comic strip that ran ads for comics for decades. Indeed, the likeness between Flex and Atlas’ ‘Muscle Man of the Beach’ was so similar that this new reprint volume took years to be published due to trademark infringement issues! Morrison and Quitely deliver a truly bizarre comic book opus, one that is whimsical, eerie, and weird on top. Morrison does his usual brilliant job of subverting traditional comic book tropes and Quitely’s expressive and oddly beautiful art complements Morrison’s vision exquisitely. Certainly not for everyone, but worth checking out if you need a dose of sublime comic fantasy … with characters in tights.”
Next up is the return of “Supreme.” “Back during the wild and wooly days of the 1990s, Image Comics made it their business to try and outdo Marvel and DC with a raft of characters directly based on mainstream favorites, but made over in their own hyper-kinetic and violent style,” says Katschke. “ ‘Supreme,’ based on Superman, was one such concoction. The fact that ‘Supreme’ started out as an unpleasant and violent version of Superman makes his eventual transformation into his current incarnation all the more ironic.
“Alan Moore took over the character in the late ’90s and remade the title into a nostalgic love letter to the innocent and wacky Silver Age stories of the ’60s. The title eventually wound down due to financial problems, but the scripts still exist and have now been completed by artist Erik Larsen, standing as one of the most charming and intelligent comics on the racks. Larsen does a fine job of evoking the Silver Age style while still keeping things current-looking and Moore is a master of using self-referential plot points without making the source material look ridiculous. Truly a labor of love and one worth checking out for anyone who fondly remembers the days where Superman could end up with an insect head while Lois Lane tries to trick him into matrimony.”