Thursday, March 31, 2016


Bisley is great, but I can't help feel this cover was only commissioned to appeal to the Heavy Metal/Verotik set.

Every now and again, I start to waver from my firm conviction that the comics scene of the Nineties was the bottom rung of a broken stepladder lowered into a neglected septic tank. I remember, however filtered through the lens of nostalgia, that it was also a time of experimentation, elevation, and an increase in literacy that kept apace of the entirely visual appeal of "rising hot stars." Whatever the failings of the speculator market, celebrity creators, variant covers, convention creep and so on, it was also an era which brought us Milestone, Madman, Hellboy, Planetary, Vertigo, Bone and so much more worth celebrating.

But then I read something like Lunatik and I remember that comics are printed on paper, paper burns, and me and the fireplace have a duty to America.

Lunatik is a product of Lovern Kindzierski and Keith Giffen, the latter of whom spent a solid twenty years of his career recreating in one fashion or another the high points of his creative endeavors; the absurd Ambush Bug and the originally satirical Lobo.

He's making a jigsaw puzzle of flayed skin in front of a pile of corpses, which is supposed to be ... funny?

Lunatik falls into that latter category, but manages to desaturate Lobo's over-the-top and aggressively obnoxious violence so that it stops becoming a statement on the standards of the readership and the uprising new wave of blood-hungry antiheroes and, instead, becomes possibly the very worst example of that entire genre.

Spontaneously mutating from a hungry, predatory one-celled beast on an evolving world into a multi-celled omnivore capable of - and intent on - eradicating and consuming every living thing on his planet over the course of millions of years, Lunatik ends his aeons of evolution only to end up being what an isolated and lonely 13 year-old kid might scribble on his notebook after reading a stack of Youngblood (I joke. By "stack," I just mean, "the five issues or so of Youngblood").

Lunatik bears more than merely cosmetic likenesses to Lobo. A hulking, hairy, cigar-chomping figure who rides some sort of space motorcycle, the fact is that the character is such an obvious ... "ode" ... to the source material that it's impossible to give it a fair chance out of the gate. Which is fine, it doesn't deserve one.

"What's the secret of comedy? Timing ... plus boobs and
murdering a small animal, which is a thing psychopaths do."
Lunatik's voracious hunger manifests itself as absolutely no hunger whatsoever when he meets the first living creatures from another planet, whom he murders merely for the sake of stealing their conveyance. In short order, he's the universe's most badass hitman (despite looking like an ICP tattoo and talking exactly like an angry teen yelling things at imaginary enemies in a mirror). More than merely assassinating his targets, however, he's content to commit terrible acts of brutality upon them ... for laughs.

Encountering a race of peaceful space monks, Lunatik murders them and tears chunks of tattooed skin from their bodies so as to piece together a hidden code puzzle piece. It's hard to figure out where the joke resides in that apparently "so over-the-top it MUST be funny" business, because it fails to be funny but has all the settings to unveil gross-out humor on a massive scale. Mostly it's just a gross-out.

When Lunatik graduates to his own series, in the company of a frequently divested pixie sidekick, he makes a nuisance of himself at Avengers mansion while seeking out the former Defenders villain who once operated under his own name. Again, the humor is implied but not exhibited, and has something to do with Lunatik being "rude, crude and loaded with attitude."

Around the same time that Lunatik was on the racks, Verotik comics was enduring a legal takedown following the outrage surrounding a story in which a stepfather hires men to abduct, rape, torture and murder his stepdaughter, film the event, and return the video to him so that he could masturbate to it. It was a story without a single redeeming quality, spoke to the lowest possible inclinations of the reading audience, and was proffered to the public without any sense of self-awareness, satire or deeper meaning beyond brutality. Think of Lunatik as the PG-13 version of that.

In many ways, Lunatik is the Poochie of the comics scene. He couldn't be more radical, his stories focused on him to the exception of other more interesting and bigger name guest stars, and his genesis was, at the most optimistic, merely cynical. That he's ultimately vanished or at least been - for now, anyway - murdered is a gift to all of us. It's too much to hope that some character who is truly gone and forgotten might stay that way, but my fingers are crossed.

And yet somehow the buttons on his jacket are the most irritating part.

1 comment:

James Conder said...

Suddenly this guy looks good:

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