Thursday, July 28, 2016

Girls!

Or Clark Kent when Lester wears glasses
The Trouble with Girls Volume 1 (1987-1988/Collected 2006): written by Will Jacobs and Gerard Jones; illustrated by Tim Hamilton:

The Trouble with Girls Volume 2 (1988/Collected 2006): written by Will Jacobs and Gerard Jones; illustrated by Tim Hamilton:

Apparently, one of my local dollar stores just got a crate of 10-year-old comic-book collections from Checker Publishing. And lo, the two collections of late 1980's/early 1990's superhero satire The Trouble with Girls  were among them!

The two volumes collect most of the initial B&W run of The Trouble with Girls from Malibu/Eternity. Only an annual is missing, which is a shame. But what's left, while occasionally a work of reprinting ineptitude (somebody dropped a slip of paper on more than one page...), is also a lost work of comedic comic genius from writers Will Jacobs and Gerard Jones and artist Tim Hamilton.

The Trouble with Girls (the name riffs on an early Elvis Presley movie) features the adventures of globe-trotting superspy/superguy Lester Girls, who is hyper-capable in everything he does, from sex to combat to protecting the world from a wide variety of super-villains and secret cabals.

But Lester doesn't want any of this. He just wants to settle down with a nice woman in suburbia, have kids, and maybe finally get the last page of John Steinbeck's The Red Pony read. But this is never to be. Whether it's a high-school reunion or a trip to the store, Lester's life will always erupt into high-action pandemonium.

Tim Hamilton really was a pleasing cartoonist, capable of comic moments with just enough superhero sheen to keep the satire running. And Will Jacobs and Gerard Jones are very funny writers, especially once they expand the satire from spy movies to pretty much Anything Goes. 

You'll almost certainly wince at some of the jokes, at least a few of which may seem somewhat sexist, though I'd argue that the sources they're satirizing are sexist and the commentary in The Trouble with Girls attacks the sexism of superheroes, Hollywood blockbusters, and the James Bond universe by foregrounding the absolute horror certain action-loving fans (and writers, and creators) have of the female body when it's de-objectified. I'd have loved to see the comic's take on the recent Ghostbusters kerfuffle that ignited fandom's terrible constituency of the He-Man Woman-Hater's Club.

There's more than a whiff of Seth Macfarlane's much-later American Dad! in the DNA of Lester Girls. But Lester is funnier, more charming, and weirdly sympathetic in his endless quest to save the world, discover his secret origins, and read the last page of The Red Pony

There's also a special guest appearance by James Joyce's Stephen Daedalus at Lester's high-school reunion, among other literary characters that also include The Great Gatsby's Daisy Buchanan. But then we're right back to the nefarious, miasmic depredations of the super-villain known only as The Wind-breaker. It's that kind of humour. Highly recommended.

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