Thursday, January 10, 2019

Super Weird Heroes, Volume 2: Preposterous But True!

If you are into superheroes, Golden Age comic book, or surrealism (or all three!), this book is right up your alley. Super Weird Heroes, Volume 2: Preposterous But True! is a hefty collection of comics tales featuring some outlandish and amazing characters. Some, like aquatic ace Barry Kuda, have excellent puns that provide a humorous counterpoint to the action. Others, like The Jaguar, feature some pretty insane costumes and gimmicks. One, The Eye, is literally a large, floating eyeball that gives superpowers to others who do its bidding. And although this book has a classic Golden Ager or two, like Stardust the Super Wizard or Doll Man, most of them were new to me.

The comics here are fun, often zany, and frequently uniquely inventive. The various art styles used in Golden Age comics also make for interesting reading, as you can see in this sampling of some of my favorite characters/stories in this book:
Airmale is a university professor who has a strange postal theme to his powers as well as a sidekick named Stampy.
The teenage heroine Tomboy is a surprisingly capable and acrobatic adversary for a violent crime boss.
The strangely costumed Hip Knox has amazing abilities, but he seems to use them mostly in vindictive and petty manner.

I loved the Greek mythological origin of The Bouncer, especially because he was descended from the relatively obscure character Antaeus.

Also a key feature of this book is its one-page introductions of each character and its creators, which give context to these tales. In these mini-essays, the book's editor Craig Yoe demonstrates a love and appreciation for the creative energy contained in these stories. It seem to be it would be easy to simply mock many of them for their ridiculous qualities, but overall I feel this book comes from a place of admiration and respect. Yoe has a huge amount of books and comics collections to his credit, and he is a major player in contemporary work on preserving comics history. He speaks more about many of his recent publications including his work on this book in this interview with my cohost Derek at The Comics Alternative.

I was not able to find many reviews of this book but the ones I located were positive. Allen Spinney wrote, "It really is great fun to see how these heroes fight for individual freedoms, punch out armed goons and celebrate their eccentricity in such a colorful way." Dan Greenfield added that "part of the fun is seeing names like Jerry Siegel and Otto Binder — creators known for, shall we say, more successful characters — show up."

Super Weird Heroes, Volume 2 was published by IDW, and they offer a preview and more here. I have not read the first book of Super Weird Heroes, and it's not really necessary for appreciating this volume, but I aim to check it out soon.

The publisher provided a review copy.

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