Celebrating the Unpopular Arts
 

The Greg Hatcher Legacy Files #142: ‘Sick Day’

[This column, which went up on 13 May 2011 (so, once again, I just missed publishing it on its anniversary) and can be found here, is a short one, but the scans at the Wayback Machine are all still intact, which is nice. I have a category upcoming for columns to do with Greg’s class, which this might fall into, but I figured it wasn’t quite enough about his class and enough about pop culture to go here. And, in the comments, oldsters wonder what “Derp” means. Oh, those oldsters! Enjoy!]

Just a quick hit-and-run today. Julie and I and even my aide Katrina are all down with some pestiferous cold/flu thing that’s making the rounds of the school district, so these are just a couple of recommendations and things to amuse you until I am back to full speed next week.

First of all, one of my favorite cover artists from the 1970s, the mighty Earl Norem, finally has a personal web page. It looks to be still under construction but you should check out the gallery, at least. The Conan covers are always a treat, but what really tickled me was He-Man getting an Earl Norem makeover.

Okay, now THAT’S some Power of Greyskull.

Those characters never looked this good.

If the cartoon really had scenes like this I would have liked it a hell of a lot better.

Anyway, check out the galleries when you get a chance. Maybe the upsurge in traffic will persuade the webmaster to finish up the other stuff.

*

Speaking of Katrina, she often will do a pen-and-ink to amuse herself if it’s a quiet day in class and she isn’t making copies for me or something like that. Here are a couple that the students got a huge kick out of.

This was probably the biggest hit.

What the kids loved about this was the reversal. ‘The bear has a HUMAN doll!!’

She did this one as a favor to young Niko, who I assure you is MUCH LESS innocent than he looks here.

It DOES look like him though.

And this one was a hit just because the girl is saying DERP.

Don’t ask me. I can’t keep up with you kids and your crazy lingo.

*

Finally, a quick recommendation. This one’s been on the mention-in-the-column Shelf of Shame for a while and I’ve had the cover image uploaded for, like, a year.

There have been so many prose novels of satirical superhero pastiche in the last few years that it’s threatening to become its own sub-genre. But let me just point out a really good one.

What I liked about this one was that it largely evaded the WATCHMEN cliches of If-you-wear-a-costume-you-must-be-screwed-up. I have the U.S. version on the left, but the British edition on the right is probably more fun — it features a nice Bryan Hitch cover and some interior illustrations.

Austin Grossman’s Soon I Will Be Invincible! has a lot to recommend it, but what I liked the best about it was that it worked as an actual superhero story, something that would have slotted into a series like Astro City without too much trouble. The first-person narration alternates chapters between the villain Dr. Impossible, who tells us he’s been diagnosed with “evil genius syndrome” while he’s in prison … and the heroine Fatale, a former secret agent who’s been using her enhanced cyborg abilities for the government until she is recruited into the not-the-JLA-really hero team, the Champions. Mr. Grossman does a great job of amping up the suspense as the two characters’ paths slowly converge, as well as doing a lot of world-building about what it would really be like to live in a world with superpeople — but he does it without employing the relentlessly grim and depressing “In real life, superheroes would be hopelessly neurotic and screwed-up” cliches we’ve all seen way too often since Watchmen.

The story works as pastiche, as satire, and as an actual adventure … and the twist at the end was one I couldn’t see coming until it had almost arrived, which for my money is the best kind. (These sorts of things are extraordinarily difficult to pull off — the best twist is the one where the reader gets there maybe a sentence or two ahead of the hero, and this one hit me there.) Anyway, it’s a good time, and available on Amazon for not a whole lot. Recommended.

So there you go. As for me, I am taking my wife to the clinic and then we are probably going to come home and have some hot soup and go back to bed. See you next week … in better shape, one hopes.

3 Comments

  1. Jeff Nettleton

    I snatched up Soon I Will Be Invincible when it came into our store. One of the better attempts at a prose superhero/villain story. More often than not, prose attempts lack the excitement and pace of a comic book and end up dwelling more on the internal world of the characters, but not with any great plot motivations. Elliot Maggin is still the king of finding a happy middle ground, in my estimation.

    The Norem paintings are awesome and I would also point to the series of paintings he did for GI JOE storybooks that were way cooler than the comics or the cartoons.

    1. Soon I Will Be Invincible is indeed great fun. I enjoyed the villain’s ruminations on “Becoming king of the world is one thing, notifying every island in Micronesia that you’re now they’re absolute ruler is exhausting!”

  2. Edo Bosnar

    Hm, yeah, as noted in my earlier comment back then, even this short column ended up having an impact on my wallet: I did end up getting Grossman’s book, albeit only a few years later – and it’s still sitting on my shelf of shame…

    Also, I’m a bit miffed at back-then me for not saying a word about Katrina’s drawings, which are totally awesome!

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