Michel Fiffe’s interviewing and archiving skills cannot be doubted — nor, after his dynamic ZEGAS debut can his cartooning skills — but this time out he offers a compelling survey of the often uneasy, sometimes brilliant crossover between indy and superhero esthetics:
Plastic Man started it. This was the first superhero comic that, back in 1941, had humor as a main ingredient combined with straight up super heroics. Most of it was slapstick by nature, which suited Jack Cole’s style perfectly, and it still retained a sense of adventure that featured a character with more personality than the entire National Publications line combined.
Then there was Harvey Kurtzman, the man who gave comics a satiric voice through the pages of MAD in the 50s. For that alone we should be thankful, as one of Kurtzman’s strengths was humor, but we should not forget his narrative verve and his “truth in writing” philosophy. When it came to MAD, though, superheroes were just another subject to be made fun of, a fairly easy and sterile target at that point, but one that yielded funny results under Kurtzman’s direction.
Pictured, the great COOBER SKEEBER #2 which defined the whole relationship for a generation.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.