Other Nexus Graphica Columns
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Captain Marvel, Jr.
Guerillas Volume 1
The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor Volume One
Victorian Undead: Sherlock Holmes vs. Zombies
Recent Books of Interest
Guerillas Volume 1 by Braham Revel (Oni)
In his introduction to the first volume of Guerillas, Braham Revel's absurdest
Vietnam War story Jackson Publick (The Venture Brothers co-creator)
encapsulates my view on the title: "You don't need the likes of me to tell you to buy
a comic book about apes with machine guns. They're APES, for God's sake. With MACHINE GUNS!" For
those few who didn't immediately rush out to acquire the book, I'll go on. Reminiscent of
Alex Toth, Revel's minimalistic stylings perfectly relate the strange story of Private John
Francis Clayton's first tour in 'Nam. After the massacre of his platoon, a group of
gun-toting, cigar chomping, military trained chimps befriend the dazed and lost
private. But Revel does far more than draw a bunch of apes, he adeptly explores war from
the viewpoint of a soldier with all of the accompanying powerlessness and chaos. Complete
with an evil scientist, a blood thirsty baboon, covert military squads, and a massive
conspiracy... oh hell, does it really matter? It's comic book about APES with MACHINE GUNS!
The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor Volume One Written by Donald Glut Art by Jesse Santos and Dan Spiegle (Dark Horse)
Originally conceived as a story host à la The Crypt Keeper for Gold Key's Mystery
Comics Digest and Golden Comics Digest, Doctor Spektor proved popular
enough to warrant his own series. Co-creator Donald Glut decided to pursue a different
tack with the eponymous title. Rather than regulating him to the role of
storyteller, The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor followed the titular
character and his secretary Lakota Rainflower, a Sioux Indian, on their amazing encounters
with vampires, mummies, ghosts, lycanthropes, and a variety of other supernatural
nasties. Joined by the extraordinary artist Jesse Santos, Glut penned 24 issues of the
largely forgotten title. Thankfully, Dark Horse decided to collect these imaginative
stories in a handsome archive edition. Volume One reprints issues #1-7, Spektor's
first appearance in Mystery Comics Digest #5 (drawn by Dan Spiegle), a
rare 1974 giveaway mini comic that re-cuts and retells The Occult Files of Doctor
Spektor #1, and an informative introduction by Glut.
Victorian Undead: Sherlock Holmes vs Zombies Written by Ian Edginton Art by Davide Fabbri with Tom Mandrake (Wildstorm)
Tapping into the cultural zeitgeist, Edginton and Fabbri effectively combine the popular
genres of steampunk, zombies, and Sherlock Holmes in a clever tale of Victorian
terror. In March 1854, an alien ship lights up the skies above London. Some thirty
years later, Scotland Yard calls on Holmes and Watson to investigate the odd occurrence
of the dead who refuse to stay dead. Edginton wisely populates his tale with classic
Holmesian elements: Mrs. Watson, Mycroft, Lestrade, and most importantly Holmes himself
deducing the opaque and improbable. Eschewing the trend to portray Watson as a
buffoon, in Victorian Undead the war veteran and respected physician
functions as an valued ally and aide-de-camp. Additionally, unlike Tony Moore's
cover, artist Fabbri illustrates Holmes in the far more accurate bowler and suit
than the popular deerstalker cap and Inverness cape coat, an ensemble never worn
in the city. As Holmes digs further, he discovers a massive government cover up and
a long-dead foe's horrific machinations. A visual delight, the well written
Victorian Undead: Sherlock Holmes vs Zombies emerges as a welcome
addition to the Holmes mythos.
"...I think I'm in deep shit."
Copyright © 2010 Rick Klaw
Captain Marvel Jr., introduced in 1941 as one of the earliest crippled characters in comics,
revolutionized the burgeoning comics industry as the first youthful counterpart to a main
hero, thus spawning the "superhero family" concept. During an aerial battle between Captains
Marvel and Nazi, the Aryan villain crashes into a lake, crippling the young Freddy Freeman who
happened to be fishing on a small boat. Captain Marvel petitions the powerful Shazam, who
originally granted Billy Batson the powers of Captain Marvel, to help the near-death
teen. In response, the impish wizard bestowed similar abilities upon Freeman, who
transforms into (and back from) Captain Marvel Jr., by saying "Captain Marvel," coincidentally
making him the only hero unable to speak his own name.
Writer Mark Millar, the brainchild behind Wanted and Kick-Ass, and
artist Leinil Yu revisit the concept in a 21st century, postmodern manner with the
new series Superior. Instead of an accident, multiple sclerosis (MS)
cripples teenager Simon Pooni, named after a real person who won an eBay auction
for the naming rights. (The proceeds went toward a bus for a special-needs
school). In the comic, high school basketball star Pooni initially experienced
clumsiness, then he couldn't wiggle his toes, and within a year required walking
canes (or at times a wheelchair) to get around. In the first issue, an alien
grants him the ability to morph into a real-life version of Superior, the fictional
hero of several extremely popular action films. The first chapter ends with Pooni
as Superior sitting outside his best friend's window stating the
obvious, "...I think I'm in deep shit."
Nearly 18 years ago, I woke up with both feet numb. Within a few days, the numbness
reached my chest and both hands. Scared and confused, I saw several doctors as my
mysterious condition continued to worsen. After numerous tests, including two MRIs
and a spinal tap, I learned I had multiple sclerosis. I felt the same as Pooni
outside his friend's window, sans superhero identity, of course.
While I enjoyed various elements of Superior #1, the overall
portrayal of MS still disturbs me. The vast majority of people diagnosed with
MS never experience such severe disability, though many require some kind of
mobility aide like a cane. But let's assume Pooni is among the less-than-one-third
of people with MS who requires a wheelchair. Of the some 400,000 people currently afflicted
in the US, only eight to ten thousand of them were diagnosed while in their
teens. (I was 25, the median age.) Additionally, some 80 percent of people with MS are women.
Millar produces fantastic fiction, so I willingly accepted the improbable odds
until he finally presented something that removed me completely from the
tale. During a montage of events recounting Pooni's struggles, the narrator recounts:
They hoped at first it might less aggressive, but within a month, his entire body
ached, and a short while later he was blind in one eye.
By the end of the year, he couldn't walk without the sticks and he was smart enough to
know where all of this was heading.
Typically, when first stricken with MS, a patient receives massive doses of steroids
to suppress the symptoms. Then he begins any one of several powerful medications to
suppress the progression of the disease. Not once in the first issue is the subject
of treatment broached. It's as if Pooni has trouble with his hands and suddenly
without any fight, he's in a wheelchair. Sorry, Millar, it doesn't work that way.
Millar approaches MS in this story as though it could be any 70s movie-of-the-week
disease: cancer, lupus, measles, alien microbes, take your pick. Like lupus
and measles, most people have heard of multiple sclerosis, but don't really know
what it is and this overly, dramatic worst case portrayal does little to help.
Multiple Sclerosis causes your white blood cells to attack the protective
covering that coats nerves, called myelin. As the myelin heals from the attacks,
it forms scars, which impede nerve signals, causing a whole host of symptoms. These
vary from the mild and invisible, such as numbness in the limbs to the obvious and/or
severe, like paralysis or vision loss. No one knows what causes the disease, and
there is no cure, just treatments with varying success rates. There are different
types of MS, each varying in severity. In the beginning, I had the most common:
relapsing-remitting. My symptoms would appear suddenly, hang around for a few weeks,
and then go away completely. But roughly five years ago, several of my symptoms
appeared and persisted, causing a diagnosis upgrade to "secondary-progressive," also
called "progressive-relapsing." Basically, it means that some things will never
go away. Fatigue, double-vision, and numbness now plague me every day.
In his lone text page among those at the end of comic advertising his other
titles, Millar blathers on about how Superior is unlike his previous
superhero titles: "family-friendly" with less violence, naughty words, and etc. He
concludes his essay congratulating Simon Pooni (the eBay winner, not the character)
and the store that won a free full-page ad in the issue and explains how your store
could win one too. But nowhere does he describe multiple sclerosis or explain why
he chose to write about this misunderstood disease in this story.
Even with my criticisms, I rather enjoyed Superior. Millar
developed some intriguing plot points. Yu's pencils, assisted by inker Gerry
Alanguilan and colorist Dave McCaig, dynamically display the troubled Pooni's
reality. While I plan on reading the next issue and perhaps even the third, Millar
needs to address my concerns about his handling of multiple sclerosis or he will
lose me as a reader.
(Special thanks to the folks at
Austin Books & Comics for their help with this column.)
Professional reviewer, geek maven, and optimistic curmudgeon, Rick Klaw has supplied
countless reviews, essays, and fiction for a variety of publications
The Austin Chronicle,
The San Antonio Current,
The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Moving Pictures
RevolutionSF, King Kong Is Back!, Conversations
With Texas Writers, Farscape Forever, Electric Velocipede, Cross Plains
Universe, and Steampunk. MonkeyBrain Books published the collection of his essays, reviews,
and other things Klaw, Geek
Confidential: Echoes From the 21st Century.
He can often be found pontificating on Twitter
and over at The Geek Curmudgeon.