Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Guest Blogger David Schwartz: Don't Tell a Soul

You know what? Superheroes take themselves too seriously. Somewhere between The Dark Knight Returns and The Dark Knight*, between the death of Jean DeWolff and Marvel's Civil War, something got lost, or at least pushed deep into the background. Don't get me wrong; the maturation of comics is a beautiful thing, and anyone who thinks Watchmen would have been better if the Comedian were actually funny is out of their mind. But there is of course something very silly about people in tights, and we forget that at our peril.

For that reason, I give you:

Five Things About Superheroes That Are Not Serious:

1. The Non-Adventures of Wonderella, by Justin Pierce. "Satirical take" does not really cover the lunacy of this weekly webcomic. Inspired by a certain DC superheroine, Wonderella is part disinterested world-saver, part celebutante, all mouth and no filter. In the most recent strip she responds to a question about her sudden vice-presidential run by saying "I've shot FIVE people in the face. That's five times as many as any sitting vice president." Pierce has just put out a book of the first 100 strips starring Wonderella and her supporting cast, which includes Jokerella, Doctor Shark, and her sidekick Wonderita.

2. Superdickery.com, by various. Before comics were dark and complicated, they were weird and random. Back in November 2004 some folks on a discussion board began talking about comics covers from the Silver Age, which took place in the years before irony, subtext, and continuity were invented. The prevailing theme of the strange covers that Superdickery displays--like this one from Lois Lane comics, this from Action Comics and this from Jimmy Olsen's solo title--was pretty clear. Superman is a d--is not a very nice person. Superdickery has some hilarious covers, not just from the Superman family of comics but from all across the Silver Age; perfect for losing hours of your life on the web.

3. Seanbaby's Superfriends Page. If you were a kid in the seventies or eighties, you probably remember Super Friends. If you're an adult now, and you've seen the cartoon since, you probably experienced the horror of realizing just how stupid it actually was. Even post-Scrappy Scooby-Doo looks good in comparison. As Seanbaby says: "the Super Friends somehow stayed alive for 10 years by hiring people who could talk to fish, match a cape to their underwear, and turn into a bucket of water." And really, that's the point of this site; documenting the pathetic powers and behavior of the Super Friends and their nemeses, the Legion of Doom. Do you think Aquaman is pathetic? (He is.) Have you ever thought about how pathetic his arch-enemy must be? Seanbaby has; not only that, he has the evidence that will make you pity poor Black Manta. After you laugh at him, of course.

4. Nextwave by Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen. Warren Ellis--best known for his gonzo science fiction journalist Spider Jerusalem and various futurist, politically and technologically savvy takes on superheroes--stripped down superheroes to their essential elements with this series, with hilarious results. "It's an absolute distillation of the superhero genre," he has said. "No plot lines, characters, emotions, nothing whatsoever. It's people posing in the street for no good reason. It is people getting kicked, and then exploding. It is a pure comic book, and I will fight anyone who says otherwise. And afterwards, they will explode." I don't think I can say it any better than that.

5. Squirrel Girl. Created by none other than the legendary Steve Ditko, Squirrel Girl encapsulates all that is ridiculous about superheroes and makes it sublime. Sweet-natured and optimistic, Squirrel Girl has the power to control squirrels. Yup. She also wears a big furry suit with a bushy tail attached. That's a joke in itself, sure, but what's inspired about the character is that with the help of her army of squirrels she has managed to defeat such heavyweight villains as MODOK, Terrax, Thanos, and Doctor Doom himself. Now THAT'S comedy.

*That's right, he returned first. It's a Frank Miller thing, and if you think that's confusing you probably don't know about The Dark Knight Strikes Again. Which, to be fair, is skippable.

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