Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Ask Erik: Episode Forty-Seven

Here at Ask Erik, we've spent a lot of time reading books and comics, watching movies and TV shows, and browsing through the Internet in the hopes of finding the answers to life's biggest mysteries.  Who had the original idea for a lottery?  Why do some cottons itch but others don't?  Why can't American TV programs do short seasons with clear beginnings, middles, and endings like British TV?

I mean, seriously, why would I watch Under The Dome when the mystery is "will they get out of the dome" and I can figure they probably aren't going anywhere if there's going to be a second season?  I mean, unless it's a metaphorical dome, but that'd be stupid.

Having instead amassed a vault of useless knowledge stored in his head, Erik instead tackles your questions and tries to find the answers you care about (or a reasonable facsimile).  Or, if you don't care, he'll at least try to make you laugh and forget you just wasted time you could spend doing anything else.

To Erik: You seem to like things that are "insane" but not "stupid."  What's the most insane comic you ever read?

That's a pretty difficult choice, though that's primarily because I haven't been able to get my hands on a copy of this gem:

Comics I've actually read, though?  Well, I guess I'm going to have to closely look at what I think an "insane" comic is.

For instance, for pure madness you can't really ignore the entire Silver Age of comic books, back when Superman would marry Jimmy Olsen off to a gorilla simply to teach him a lesson or gained the ability to shoot a tiny version of himself out of his fingers, got jealous of it, and tried to murder his miniature self.

I mean, someone got paid to make that up.

In modern comics, though, it's a bit harder to find things that are "insane" without either simply being a retelling of an older story or coming across as forced and rather dumb.  Sure, Superman and Batman have to pilot a giant robot to punch out a kryptonite meteor that's going to crash into the planet, and sure it'll be painted to look like half of one and half of the other...but the story just wasn't good.

Sure, the true villain of a huge war between Justice Leagues was an other-dimensional Alfred Pennyworth, but when you end a massive crossover with "To Be Continued in another crossover" it just feels contrived.

Sure, you can have a comic that frequently breaks the "rules" of comic books, but unless I can understand the story it's just meaningless garble (looking at you Grant Morrison.)

To me, the idea of a comic being insane is to take an idea and simply amplify it to the point where you make it amazing, and then push it even further.  It's the "they fight crime!" concept, where you see just how extreme something can be and then add just a bit more without spoiling it.

But here's the important thing: it has to make sense in the context of the characters and their world.  Having Batman cheat by letting a supervillain who downloads the muscle memories of other people into his own mind wind up receiving the muscle memory of Steven Hawking is insane.  Having Batman lose his mind, dress up in garbage and claim to be "Batman of Zur-En-Arrh" is stupid.

However, for pure insanity, the best examples I can think of from modern comics are also two of my favorites: Atomic Robo and Dr. McNinja.

I think I've discussed Atomic Robo at least once before.  Here's an example of a few things the book has brought up:

An entire dimension of vampires.

A talking dinosaur who claims to be from the past.
A Cthulhu-level other dimensional threat.
An all-female fighter plane squad after World War 2.
A Japanese science team who fight giant monsters from the sea.
Giant ants and how they can't exist.

A giant mummy wearing underpants.

It has the closest thing I've seen to a British approach to television, where each story has a clear beginning, middle, and end, broken into multiple series.  There is a level of creativity and humor in it that very few comics are willing to include if they're connected to the Big Two.  In fact, I'd go so far as to say that I haven't seen such a great blend of drama, tension, and humor since Joe Kelly's run of Deadpool back in the late 90's.

The other is Dr. McNinja, and I'm just going to list a few story points:

He fights cowboys riding velociraptors.
His ninja family clan's enemies are pirates.
He fought Dracula on the moon.  And surfed back to earth using Dracula as a surfboard.

Yes, that's a mild spoiler, but trust me, it's like spoiling that Frodo and Sam beat a giant spider.  It's not the biggest reveal I could do, but it's a great example of just how far out there the stories are.

You can expect these two titles to come up often in my posts, simply because they are so wonderfully relevant to everything, and because I love the titles so much.

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