Thursday, December 3, 2015

Funny Books

Plastic Man: On the Lam!: written and illustrated by Kyle Baker (2004/ Collected 2004): Kyle Baker's brilliant, hilarious run on Plastic Man begins here. He won the comics industry Eisner Award for best new series back in 2004 for his take on the Golden Age's stretchable FBI agent. That didn't keep the book from being cancelled after 20 issues despite it getting a rave review from Entertainment Weekly as well. 

But you should buy this. Really, you should buy anything by Baker. He's a swell writer-artist, never sweller than when he's writing his own stuff. He can draw pretty much any way he wants to, though the fallback on Plastic Man is anarchic cartooning that pays homage to Plastic Man creator Jack Cole's zany work even as it also nods to a host of other influences, including Warner Brothers cartoons. 

One of the ten or 15 greatest things DC Comics has published in the 21st century, it even manages to make its metacriticism of superhero tropes and stereotypes and oddities specific without being an in-joke inaccessible to non-expert comic-book readers. The Baker Plastic Man deserves an Absolute hardcover edition, stat! Highly recommended.

Airboy: written by James Robinson; illustrated by Greg Hinkle (2015): James Robinson's comic-book writing career has been distinguished by many superhero series, most notably the Cold War Justice Society miniseries The Golden Age and his terrific, lengthy run on his legacy version of the Golden-Age DC hero Starman, the reluctantly heroic son of that now-retired hero.

Here, Robinson takes the almost-forgotten Golden-Age comic-book aviator Airboy into the realm of metafictional, quasi-autobiographical, scatological satire. 

And it's terrific. To describe too much would spoil things. But suffice to say that versions of Robinson and artist Greg Hinkle are characters along with Airboy and friends. But 'Robinson' is drug-and-alcohol-addled, self-destructive, and despondent over what he feels is his failed career as a writer. Poor old Hinkle and his gigantic, often-displayed penis come along for a story session that turns into a Bacchanal that turns into a trip into the realms of comic-book-land. 

It's very funny, completely NSFW, and politically incorrect -- a scandal erupted over Robinson's use of trans characters early in the series, though the last issue recontextualizes that use in such a way that the complaints seem to be fully addressed. That didn't stop Robinson from having to issue an apology/justification before the last issue ever came out. So it goes. This is terrific stuff in terms of both Robinson's writing and Hinkle's funny, cartoony, and often grotesque cartooning. Highly recommended.

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