Rich Kreiner’s Yearlong Best of 3

Posted by on December 19th, 2009 at 10:00 AM


Previously: Part 1, Part 2.


My last “best of 2009” entry dealt with Roger Langridge’s Muppet Show comics for Boom! Kids.

This year Langridge and Scott Gray also revived a conceit they’d come up with in 2005 for a nifty one-shot from Marvel. Last summer’s Fin Fang Four Return! featured a quartet of giant monsters, the sort that dominated Marvel anthology titles — and their covers! — in the late ’50s and early, pre-superhero ’60s, now done strictly for laughs.

By way of update, here’s the introduction to the reprise: “Once they were great and terrible monsters, and all trembled in their wake! Now, reduced to human size, they must live in the modern world and earn a buck.” Thus the dragon Fin Fang Foom is back at work as a chef in a Chinese restaurant. Googam, Son of Goom — he’s the one on the cover in the diaper — plots to be adopted by an uber-Madonna pop superstar. A robot, bequeathed the name Electro in 1960, runs afoul of present-day authorities and subsequently is shuttered away in a home for geriatric supervillains of Spider-Man: characters like “Big Wheel” (“I once nearly crushed Spider-Man. With my big wheel”); “Larcenous Lil” (“I caught Spider-Man in a net once. But he got out”); and “The Hypno-Hustler, the disco-devil incarnate.” (Yes, there’s much dross to be found amongst the webbing through the years.)

My favorite treatment, though, is that of Gorgilla, once (and forever) a bald King Kong rip-off. Here he, unlike Kong, becomes a time-traveling ape, managing even to save Lincoln from assassination. Atop all that, the whole goof is depicted as a stylized send-up of Curious George. It’s cleverly executed nonsense as homage; additionally it makes well-deserved hash of an obsessively observed bit of superhero convention.

With the Muppet Show comics, Langridge chronicled, in long form, the chaos of a theatrical variety program, a tenor and setting not so far removed from those of his own creation, Fred the Clown. In Fin Fang Four Return! Langridge and Gray scale their madcap appropriations to short-story size with equal comedic success. With the Muppets, preexisting cast members maintain their unique identities; with the Four, identity is value added. Their Return! begins with a psychiatric evaluation of the principals, an off-the-wall introduction as conducted by Marvel superhero Doc Sampson. Fin Fang Foom, actually draconic royalty, is given a correspondingly haughty disposition and is irregularly addressed as Lord Foom. Gorgilla, like Kong, is at a disadvantage among men because of the non-savage aspects of his nature. Googam fantasizes about gaining the esteem of his father, himself a giant monster in full, who rampaged through his own Tales of Suspense issue. The robot, surrounded by ineffectual miscreants, has fallen in and is rescued by love.

From start to finish this is one of the Marvel comics I enjoyed most this year.


Next: the other ones.


Image: Written by Scott Gray and drawn by Roger Langridge. [©2009 Marvel Characters, Inc.]



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