Saturday, December 31, 2016

Review: 'Super Weird Heroes'

One of my favorite books of last year was Jon Morris’s The League of Regrettable Superheroes, a hilarious, outrageous encyclopedia of confoundingly forgotten crime stoppers such as Kangaroo Man (his sidekick is a real, live kangaroo who can ride a motorcycle and sky dive), Funnyman (a clown), and Rainbow Boy (a high school kid who shoots rainbows out of his armpit).

I’m betting that comics historian Craig Yoe was also a fan, because his recent compilation Super Weird Heroes is a natural extension of The League of Regrettable Superheroes, supporting Morris’s uproarious profiles with the very panels that featured several of the daffy heroes covered in League. However, Yoe doesn’t just give us the chance to actually see the likes of Kangaroo Man, Funnyman, and Rainbow Boy in action, but he also pulls back the capes on several characters who flew over Morris’s radar. Biff! Here comes Catman and the Kitten, an uncle/niece crime-fighting team led by a fellow who’d been raised by tigers. Bang! Step aside for Captain Hadacol, a caped shill for a miracle muscle builder with a very special secret ingredient: booze! Pow! Here comes Bulletman and Bulletgirl, a dynamic duo who need no guns because they are the bullets!

A lot of these stories are funnier to read about in The League of Regrettable Superheroes than actually witness in the creaky plots of Super Weird Heroes, which generally suffer from bad writing and worse artwork (a nine-year old with a box of Crayolas could probably come up with something more professional looking than The Fire-Man), but Yoe is pretty up front about all that in his excellent introduction and character profiles generously supplied before each story. Anyone expecting Batman or Superman caliber stories should probably just read Batman or Superman. That’s not what Super Weird Heroes is about. Super Weird Heroes is about a semi-naked “Spider Man” who looks like hes wearing a walrus mask and rides on the back of a giant tarantula (The Spider Widow), a guy who sics his army of teeny tiny gnomes on enemies (Mr. E), a mad scientist who wants to put human brains in giant gorillas (Fantoma), a shirtless, Muslim teetotaler who punches Nazis while wearing a fez (Kismet Man of Fate), a duo of do-gooders who fight Nazi trees (Jeep and Peep), and a giant, disembodied hand that slugs and apprehends criminals (The Hand). And a few of these goofballs-- such as Hydroman, who can turn himself into a glass of water-- are even legitimately super heroes. Splash!
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