Monday, November 13, 2006

In which much destruction occurs

Here we go, my first real post!

So here's a comic I just read:

Destroy! #1
by Scott McCloud (Eclipse Comics, 1987).

I'd read about this comic before, probably in McCloud's Understanding Comics or Reinventing Comics, but I had never read it, so when I saw it on Ebay I snapped it up. It is pretty crazy. A full-fledged rampage of mayhem through Manhattan. In 3-D! That's right, it comes with 3-D glasses and everything. Hopefully you'll be able to see any of these images that I post. If you bought Superman Confidential #1 from a couple weeks ago, you can use those annoying 3-D glasses that came with the Heroscape ad.

Anyway, I think at the time McCloud had heard complaints that comics were too violent, so he decided to prove the critics right and make the most mindless, destructive, violent comic he could. I believe Alan Moore said later that he started the 90's a few years early. However, this wasn't the 90's yet, so it's not quite as dark and nihilistic as some of those comics would get. I dunno, maybe there were some really nasty comics back then, but this doesn't seem to compare to the likes of Darkchylde or Purgatori. Of course, the violence in this is not sexualized (not even a ripped costume on the male combatants); it's merely destructive (I'm going to have to hit a thesaurus and find some synonyms for destroy if this goes on for long). And, I think McCloud was going for a strange dichotomy between the innocence (or is it just two-dimensionality?) of the characters in most superhero comics and the violent, destructive fights they have.

So, to synopsize, the comic is pretty much just a fight scene between two superheroes, the Red Basher (that's him on the cover), and Captain Maximum. The Basher has apparently gone nuts, and is charging around New York, smashing everything in his path, and screaming "DESTROY!!" over and over. We learn later that he might be crazy about being rejected by Captain Maximum's girlfrien
d, Babs, but the text never really says. Soon enough, Maximum shows up and tries to calm him down, but Basher just punches him, which leads to the two of them pounding each other throughout Manhattan, past (and often through) many famous landmarks. For instance, here's a shot of the Basher bouncing off the Empire State Building:

(By the way, you can click on these images to see a larger version that probably looks better in 3-D)

Later, the Basher is punched near the Chrysler building (which McCloud appears to be a fan of), and he grabs onto it:

Then he uses it as a baseball bat:

This sends Captain Maximum flying out into the harbor, and here's his comeback:

So, as you can see, some people might be uncomfortable reading this. I think somebody would pause before making this comic today, but I'm sure at the time nobody imagined the tragedy that would later happen in New York. Even so, it's a little disturbing seeing all the mayhem and thinking about how many people would really die in an event like this. And here's the kicker:

That's what happens after the Basher hits Captain Maximum so hard he flies all the way to the moon, then Max jumps back to earth and lands a reentry-speed punch on him. That's right, complete destruction of the city. Pretty much. Of course, everyone gets up, the Basher regains his senses and agrees to be taken in, and the police chief says, "Well, at least nobody was hurt!" So I guess this exists in that Incredible Hulk realm of comic fight, where the authorities managed to evacuate the city and nobody was injured. Pretty silly, but really quite enjoyable to read.

I have to mention the art, which is a good Kirby-style level of superhero violence and destruction. And the 3-D really adds to the experience, for the most part. Some of the effects just make the pictures look weird, like people's faces are floating in front of their heads. I wonder if 3-D technology has improved at all in the last 20 years, and if they could make it look better today with computers. But much of the destruction looks amazing, like the rubble is flying right off the page. There's one two-page spread (at the center of the comic) of four panels with the two "heroes" pummeling each other that I really liked. There were rocks and stuff flying all over the place, and one of the rocks looked like it was floating over the staple in the spine. That made me laugh.

Another thing that struck me was the specificity of the geography. The police who are watching often narrate the action to each other over the radio, saying things like, "Holy Toledo, Chief! The Red Basher just punched Captain Maximum ten blocks north, right through City Hall! Now he's coming out over Washington Square! I'll be damned! Still going! Just took out some trees and -- wait...I lost sight of! Here he is! Just piled through the Flatiron Building at 23rd and -- Wow! That's another eighteen blocks!" McCloud even includes a map of Manhattan on the inside back cover, showing the path of destruction and commenting on which comics company headquarters would be destroyed. Weird.

So, I would recommend getting it if you like ridiculous destruction that pretends nobody actually got hurt, Jack Kirby-style superhero brawls, 3-D comics, or Scott McCloud.