Doctor Solar: Man of the Atom #1 (2010)
Hundred Penny Press: Ghostbusters: Displaced Aggression #1 (2009/2011)
The Moth Special Edition #1 (2008)
Doctor Solar: Man of the Atom #1 (Dark Horse, 2010, $3.50)
During my earliest days reading comics, my sole source of back issues and "off-brands" were supermarket polybagged three packs. I learned pretty quick to avoid the Gold Key packs, but I think I got suckered into one with the promise of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. Gold Key and its former partner Dell ruled comic book sales for much of the mid-century thanks to licensing and unimpeachable wholesomeness. Dell made Silver Age DC seem uncouth and daring, so you can imagine how dull their attempts at action properties were. Gold Key comics still looked and read about the same in the late '70s as they had for decades, so even the Buck Rogers tie-in was a snooze, and the only thrill I got were ads for a lone super-hero offering, Dr. Solar.
I wouldn't learn about Turok or Magnus Robot Fighter until years later, but because those were innovative and well-regarded series, I had always extended their prestige to Solar. I didn't read a comic with the character until the Valiant revival by Jim Shooter, Barry Smith, and Don Perlin. I was really impressed by the level of grisly detail in Solar's origin story, not realizing how heavily it was borrowed from Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen. I haven't read those stories in twenty years, but since I generally prefer Shooter to Alan Moore, I'd probably still get a kick out of the rip-off. After Shooter was run out of Valiant, the company didn't have a firm grasp on how to handle such a powerful character, so they worked out about nine different directions to send the character to fuck right off.
I was really excited by the prospect of Shooter returning to the Dell characters Valiant had once licensed for a second chance at rival, especially since he was coming off an under-appreciated run on Legion of Super-Heroes. Instead, it triggered a series of disappointments. The first was finally becoming aware that Doctor Solar was created in 1962, making him the last of the pre-Marvel radioactive heroes, and a pretty egregious swipe of Dr. Manhattan's prototype, the vastly superior Captain Atom. Instead of the brilliant Steve Ditko aided by journeyman Joe Gill, Dr. Solar was created by Paul S. Newman, Guinness record holder for most prolific comic book writer of all time, and artist Bob Fujitani. Unlike Stan Lee, Newman wrote an enormous amount of material without ever hitting much of a stride outside of Turok, while Fujitani was an unsung Golden Age great who was fair to middling through to the Bronze Age.
Dr. Solar's eighteen page origin story is reprinted here, and as the third disappointment, you'll wonder how it filled eighteen pages. For unrevealed reasons, Solar wears sunglasses all the time, and he got his powers through atom age sabotage. That makes him seem like a cross between Daredevil and the Incredible Hulk, but the execution is more like a cross between John Oates and Art Garfunkel. Their characters are almost entirely lacking in personality, emotion or motivation. Dr. Solar is doing science stuff because his first name is Doctor. Seriously, his own girlfriend calls him Dr. Solar exclusively. Said girlfriend is also a scientist, which she uses to stand in front of a runaway train, because what other use would a woman have in a '60s comic? There is also a bossy character, a fellow scientist, and an evil scientist. I don't know why the evil scientist is evil, except that he's forced to become a saboteur under penalty of death at the command of an evil mastermind, who is himself motivated by pure evil. I don't even think he was a commie or anything, although he did resemble Blofeld. The good scientist gets killed by the sabotage, while Solar turns into a green Captain Atom. For reals, Solar's disembodied voice orders his boss to construct a radiation proof room and a containment suit, exactly like Captain Atom. If Captain Atom was the Cable of 1959, Doctor Solar is like the fucking Battlestone.
Besides being derivative and lame, the first Solar story has a total "suck it" ending. Doctor Solar is still trapped in an isolation chamber, Dr. Girlfriend is still completely helpless, the saboteur is still on the loose, and the evil mastermind is still being an asshole. Then we flip back to the new story, and it somehow still manages to be worse. Breaking the first law of good comics, Solar tells his origin to another character over a handful of panels. I mean literally, literately, tells the origin in dialogue balloons. It's essential the same as the Valiant origin, with just enough changed to avoid any legal entanglements. It's also a clear sign Shooter feels he's already told that story, and if you didn't read it the first time, you can swallow his extra long, pock-marked pecker. There are a couple of totally generic comic book characters making trouble, but that's okay, because they're supposed to be figments of a base imagination given life. It's metatextual, pretentious and lazy as fuck, straight out of the M. Night Shyamalan playbook. There are a couple of shitty fight scenes, a supposedly genius super-hero who doesn't come off as all that smart, and a whole lot of talking about how the whole will eventually be greater than the sum of this crappy part. The art by Dennis Calero is stiff, muddy, and almost as carefully drab as his Gold Key predecessors.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that after years of delusion, I finally realized that the only time the Man of the Atom doesn't totally suck is when he manages to succeed modestly while totally imitating other characters, and he couldn't even manage that here.
Hundred Penny Press: Ghostbusters: Displaced Aggression #1 (IDW, 2011, $1.00)
Two movies I was assured were the absolute shit on the playground were Gremlins and Ghostbusters. The former sold out the time I tried to see it at the dollar show, but it was one of my first ever video rentals. I totally wasn't into it, and wasn't wowed until the sequel a few years later. I did manage to get into Ghostbusters after what seemed like forever to leave the first run movie palaces, and I was totally just okay with that picture. It was generally cute and had its funny moments, but it's no classic. I thought the sequel was alright thanks to lowered expectations, but others revile it, based on some bizarre widespread chemical effect that makes people to this day deluded into not realizing they're comparably mediocre. Ray Parker Jr. was a pied piper to you bitches.
I also caught both Filmation's Ghostbusters and The Real Ghostbusters, and while one was loads better than the other, I still don't give a shit about no Slimer. I assume IDW takes its cues from the cartoon, because their take on Peter Vinkman is less Bill Murray than Ash from Army of Darkness, although association with either is giving way too much credit. Vinkman is also in the old west, which turns out to be a lot like the last Back to the Future, but with more ghosts and nowhere near enough Mary Steenburgen. That's right, I just laid a Mary Steenburgen on this shit. Yes, it's a negative review.
This is the part where I was suppose to continue ripping into the plot, but aside from the mohawk'd future chick Ghostbuster turning the Echo-1 into a time machine to find the temporally displaced founding members and just fucking stab me in the face with an icepick if I go any further than that. I feel like the meat in an extra juicy fat geek sandwich with grilled umbilical cheese. Where's the god damned M.A.S.K. revival, huh? You fuckwits won't be happy until you fetishize every last dogshit bit of nostalgia, just like your useless hippie parents. The guy who wrote this used to write shitty X-Men comics in the '90s, and the guy who drew this doesn't want to hear any talk about backgrounds or likenesses. I could have bought 2/3rds of a pack of Zingers instead.
The Moth Special Edition #1 (Rude Dude Productions, 2008, "Free")
You're a moderately successful industry veteran who finally decides it's your time to self-publish. You fail to notice that the names of most publishers outside of Diamond's Premier start with an "a," to keep them as close to the front of the Previews catalog as possible. You enlist the writing services of a guy who is a veteran at failing pretty miserably across multiple publishing entities. You publish a full color comic on glossy stock and offer it for "free" as one of your first titles. Instead of the critically acclaimed and long-lived hero you co-created thirty years ago, that expensive and risky book stars a newish and rather silly looking character with a really flat color scheme. On the third page, our hero "humorously" takes a load of shit to the face, and on the fourth page he "hilariously" takes a load of monkey shit to the face. The setting is the kind of traveling circus that was shut down before most of your prospect readers were born. The book itself is narrated by an obnoxious rip-off of Oberon from Mr. Miracle. The story is a series of multi-page vignettes that don't necessarily flow into one another smoothly, even when interdependent, and often end abruptly with any actual resolution, including a less than compelling cliffhanger stopping point.
What could possibly go wrong?
Friday, April 22, 2011
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