Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Atrocities of the Amazing Heroes Swimsuit Issue 1991: Part 1

Back in the days before Wizard magazine co-branded the cotton stuffing out of the fanzine and trade magazine market, the heavyweight chapeen in terms of mainstream comics coverage was Amazing Heroes. While its sister title, The Comics Journal, did and still does spend its focus on analysis, interpretation and interview, Amazing Heroes was centered around the shameless fan, and was his perfect fodder.

Already a content-packed newsprint volume, Amazing Heroes - inspired with tongue firmly planted in cheek by the incredibly popular Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, which if you recall had become a phenomenon in the late 1980s and 1990s - began releasing their own swimsuit specials.

Calling on artists from all over the industry, the Swimsuit Specials were largely light-hearted and managed to collect between two covers an eclectic mix of cartoonists whose work wouldn't otherwise be sharing a page; Jamie Hernandez and Guy Davis were po-facedly presented next to Tom Palmer and Michael Bair, a page-turn away from fanzine vet Fred Hembeck or funny-animal artist Scott Shaw. Cartoonists Ty Templeton, Tom McWeeney and Scott Saavedra could always be counted on to deliver wry, articulate and beautifully drawn gag pieces, while the books also included rare full-page industry work by fellows like Mitch O'Connell or John Workman - all in all, terrifically worthwhile volumes produced at an exciting time in the comics industry.

BUT! These are swimsuit comics, and between the wry and well-rendered there were folks who just took their pinups into ... wrong, wrong places.

Oh, and here's your last fair warning: There's no nudity in these pic-ups, but next time? Oh, next time ...

I was less amazed that 'sexy' Tale Spin art existed well before the internet than I was that sexy Tale Spin art drawn before the internet could still inspire an otherwise unprompted "OH GODDAMNIT" from me. My college roomie and I used to love Tale Spin (and Darkwing Duck) but then again, we worked full time and went to school full time and also I drank and he smoked weed and so maybe some type of mental fatigue could be blamed, but all of that aside we watched Tale Spin all the time and yet we NEVER WANTED TO SEE REBECCA IN A GODDAMN BIKINI. What was wrong with us, right folks? Rrrowr .... *cough*

Fan-sphere luminary Fred Hembeck is largely beyond reproach, but the weird, claustrophobic and awkward attitude of this piece deserves a bit of a hover. I gather he's suggesting that Little Lulu's parents and Peter Parker's aunt and uncle were old pals, and then suggesting that the young tykes themselves are falling in love, which is ... out of nowhere. And unsettling. There's something about their expressions which seem to imply nausea and reefer menia more than schoolkid crushes.

Mostly what confuses me about this piece is the strange bolding of key phrases, which makes this read like a logic puzzle. I've given it a goodly once over now and again, and as near as I can tell, Fred Hembeck is being held prisoner in the basement of a hop house in Chinatown, and it's up to you - and the brave men, women, cyborgs and intelligent gorillas of Action Force X - to free him. God be with you.

You'll note that this Wolverine piece - with volleyball cameo by Bosko - is dedicated to Jack "King" Kirby. I ... wonder why? You don't suppose they're under the impression that Kirby created Wolverine? Or Bosco? Or beach volleyball?

For all this piece has to do with Kirby, these guys may as well have driven a Cadillac and dedicated it to Kirby. "We dedicate vacuuming the guest room because we have company this weekend to Jack 'King' Kirby." "I take thee to be my bride, in the name of Jack 'King' Kirby..."

You know, I started off making fun, but now I think that sounds pretty awesome. Let's dedicate everything we do to Jack Kirby. For instance, I will dedicate the oncoming swearing-in-absolute-revulsion to the legacy of the greatest comics cartoonist ever, Jack 'King' Kirby:



Naked Bunny with a Whip said...

Is Olive oiled? Hehe. Put the blowtorch down, man.

negrofrankenstein said...

Olive Oyl's pose there is perhaps a sly nod of acknowlesgement to years of African famine and...

BillyWitchDoctor said...

Holy God. I thought my Captain America And The Avengers coloring book was core-rotten...


J.S. Brooks said...

Okay, Olive Oyl is just wrong. I hope they steered clear of Snuffy Smith's wife or Mammy Yokum!

Jayson said...

These look like they're meant to be colored with crayons, which is much horrifying.

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