Foolkiller (1990)

Foolkiller #1 (1990)

The last time I read Foolkiller, almost fifteen years ago, I really liked it. I wish I knew what I’d liked about it because it’s really not good. Even back then I know I thought the art—Joe Brozowski on pencils, Tony DeZuniga then Vince Giarrano on the inks—was bad. And the art’s bad. It appears DeZuniga had been handling the facial features and without him, the people start looking real bad, but then Giarrano adjusts or something. Very rocky, art-wise. Never good, sometimes less bad than other times.

But the art’s not the problem. The problem’s the script, which is from Steve Gerber, who’s not just good, but also not the guy you expect to do a comic all about how the “super predators” are real. At one point they even do a Central Park Five reference. In Foolkiller, it’s a string of Central Park attacks on cyclists where the gang beats the victims to death, enraged the victims can… afford bicycles. Even the killers’ parents are okay with their sons brutally murdering those better off bicycle owners.

Of course, one of the other bad guys is a right-wing TV host. The first few issues of Foolkiller have a different feel than the rest of the comic and not just because the noses go bad at some point. The comic’s about a new Foolkiller, inspired by the original, who’s actually the second one, and is currently in a mental institution in Indiana. The protagonist, Kurt, has just lost his father, his job, his house, his wife, and finds Foolkiller—on the right-wing TV host’s show—aspirational. Pretty soon Kurt’s going around killing bad guys, romancing his shift manager at the burger joint—the only job he could get because savings and loans—and working out in garbage. On one hand, Foolkiller feels like Gerber amping up the absurdity over this kind of character but Gerber’s also grounding it as he goes along. It’s like Gerber’s too dedicated to the actual narrative to subvert it with jabs at the protagonist’s philosophy. Taxi Driver: The Comic.

And outside a mention of The Avengers and Spider-Man swinging through an issue to sell at least one to the Spidey collectors, Foolkiller doesn’t feel very Marvel comic. Outside the art, which—even bad—looks like Marvel and the lettering, which is perfunctory and somehow inappropriate. Foolkiller’s journals are all supposedly written on the computer but they appear in handwriting. It’s also unclear how the journals are supposed to be read—contemporary to events, past tense. It’d be nice if it mattered. Something in Foolkiller should matter.

Yeah, Gerber created Foolkiller, didn’t he. At least the most famous one—and he was in Man-Thing. I just can’t figure out what happened to the joke in Foolkiller. The comic takes a shift when it starts dealing with the Iraq War in the last few issues; that news is pushing Foolkiller’s killing spree out of the headlines. The other headlines are about crack babies and something else kind of iffy, even for the early nineties. The first half of Foolkiller is Randian objectivism with some sprinkles of libertarianism, the second half of it is the lead dispassionately offing examples of those philosophies. Maybe if there were a connection there’d be some impact but Gerber introduces the relevant supporting characters—outside the TV host—when he needs them, not before. And the TV host doesn’t really provide much texture. Foolkiller confuses hyperbolic with effective.

Nothing in the comic stands out. None of the characters, none of the moments Gerber tries out with the supporting cast. He’s got a lack of empathy for everyone involved, which matches the protagonist I suppose but… it’s a little long—ten issues—to go just to prove you can do something. Though Foolkiller is from the old days, back when publishers never would’ve dreamed off cutting issues off a limited series. Or at least it seemed like they wouldn’t. What do I know? I used to be a big Foolkiller (1990) fan. And not when I had any excuse to be.

Maybe the most disappointing aspect—other than Gerber’s exaggerated, almost defensive classism—is the pointlessness of the narrative. It doesn’t add up to anything for anyone involved, not Foolkiller III, not Foolkiller II, not Foolkiller II’s too liberal psychiatrist, not the girl who falls for Foolkiller III, not the stupid villain who can’t seem to die… no one. One of the villains is even a New York City real estate developer who is way too competent to be confused for any real figure.

Either something went very wrong with Foolkiller or it was always a terrible idea.

I’m not sure I wrote about Foolkiller the last time I read it, but if I did, the posts are long gone. I don’t know if I want to know what I thought but I’m frankly embarrassed about it.

Foolkiller (1990) is most decidedly not good. From the start. I kept thinking maybe it turned around in the last few issues and Gerber finally acknowledged the nonsense.

But no.

It’s just bad all the way through.

Godzilla 4 (November 1977)

Wow, Dum Dum’s not just an unlikable jerk, he’s also a racist. And a complete idiot who ends up helping the evil Dr. Demonicus.

With good guys like these….

Tom Sutton guest pencils this issue; did Marvel decide to stop punishing their readers with Herb Trimpe? Sutton’s not very good on the monsters–there’s nothing interesting about two giant monsters fighting each other in an empty ocean, sorry–but he’s a lot better on the people.

As for the story? Well, Moench introduces tis Dr. Demonicus guy who steals oil from tankers, using his giant monsters to cause distraction. No one’s caught on to his plans yet–certainly not SHIELD, because Dum Dum runs the place and Dum Dum’s too busy bitching about blacks and social progress.

Demonicus wears a goofy costume and enslaves a bunch of Inuits. It’s kind of disturbing, really… especially since Moench doesn’t take it seriously.

CREDITS

Godzilla versus Batragon!; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Tom Sutton; inker, Tony DeZuniga; colorist, Phil Rachelson; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Archie Goodwin; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Godzilla 3 (October 1977)

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Tony DeZuniga’s inks help a lot, but even he can’t make what should be an awesome page–Hercules toppling Godzilla–work. Not with that Trimpe perspective.

This issue, Moench and Trimpe do let Godzilla destroy an American landmark–the Golden Gate Bridge. I guess someone at Marvel decided it could go, while the Space Needle in the last issue got to stay. Hercules also knocks the SHIELD helicarrier (or one of them) out of the sky in an apparent fit of rage.

Oh, I forgot–the Champions guest-star in this issue and their presence (except Black Widow’s) breathes some life into Godzilla. Instead of just being a crappy licensed comic, it’s a goofy, crappy licensed comic. The addition of Marvel superheroes makes it a lot more entertaining.

Though Moench does have a big problem (besides Trimpe). Protagonist Dum Dum Dugan’s completely unlikable. Moench writes him as a fascist pig.

CREDITS

A Tale of Two Saviors; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Herb Trimpe; inker, Tony DeZuniga; colorist, Don Warfield; letterers, Gaspar Saladino, Denise Wohl and Irving Watanabe; editor, Archie Goodwin; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Saga of the Swamp Thing 5 (September 1982)

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So Swamp Thing now has his supporting cast… at least for now. Casey the mute wasn’t cutting it.

It impressive what a good issue Pasko and Yeates produce with all the handicaps. It’s all about the evil organization running an evil clinic. Swamp Thing shows up and gets duped into believing it’s real–his doctor turns out to be a naive innocent too. Hence the growing supporting cast.

Pasko only has so many pages and he paces the issue quite well, even if some of the content is way too expository. Eventually, it gets to the good, disturbing stuff and he and Yeates do well. Yeates shines, in fact, on the creepy stuff. Though I guess Swamp Thing is still secondary to the horror revelation of the issue (again).

The Phantom Stranger backup is pointless. Howard Bender, with DeZuniga on inks, produces some great art, but Barr’s missing a compelling story.

CREDITS

The Scream of Hungry Flesh; writer, Martin Pasko; artist, Thomas Yeates; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, John Costanza. But the Patient Died; writer, Mike W. Barr; penciller, Howard Bender; inker, Tony DeZuniga; colorist, Carl Gafford; letterer, Milt Snapinn. Editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

The Saga of the Swamp Thing 4 (August 1982)

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This issue concerning a demon who possesses people in order to feed on children’s souls. The children in question must be murdered, of course. The demon targets minority children as it turns out their troubled souls taste the best. So it’s definitely disturbing, but not as terrible as he could have made it. In some ways, it’s a cop out but Pasko’s Swamp Thing is episodic. Any different handling would have been insensitive.

Yeates’s art just gets better and better. He still has a more action-oriented Swamp Thing rendition, but the people and places are exceptional.

A lot of the issue is talking heads and Pasko has definite understanding of complex issues, if not the dialogue-writing chops to perfectly convey them.

He does well enough though.

The Stranger back-up from Barr and Tony DeZuniga is a little off. Great art, but too much emphasis on Stranger backstory.

CREDITS

In the White Room; writer, Martin Pasko; artist, Thomas Yeates; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, John Costanza. Hospital of Fear; writer, Mike W. Barr; artist, Tony DeZuniga; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Ben Oda. Editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

The Phantom Stranger 14 (July-August 1971)

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I don’t think I’ve ever seen pre-eighties Jim Aparo before. It’s absolutely stunning. The tight faces are present, but there’s also a bunch of energy. I never would have thought he’d be a great Phantom Stranger—or any supernatural story—artist, but he excels.

Len Wein comes up with two good stories for the issue, though the Stranger one is better. This villain figures out a way to capture the Stranger and then takes out his heart, figuring transplanting it into his body will give him immortality. Of course, it doesn’t work out as planned (does the Phantom Stranger actually need a physical heart?). Wein has some purple narration, but the plot moves fast and Aparo makes it damned creepy.

The Doctor Thirteen backup is a little silly (Wein opens with a swamp monster and ends with a sci-fi thing), but Tony DeZuniga’s art makes it simply wonderful.

CREDITS

The Man with No Heart!; artist and letterer, Jim Aparo. The Spectre of the Stalking Swamp!; artist, Tony DeZuniga. Writer, Len Wein; editor, Joe Orlando; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Detective Comics 523 (February 1983)

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Batman kills Solomon Grundy at the end of this story. I wonder if it was easier for writers to do Grundy stories because he’s not human or alive so they could kill him off every time. There’s not even a real explanation of how he comes to Gotham.

The issue’s okay. DeZuniga’s inks aren’t the best for Colan. There are a lot of great faces and expressions, but the figures are too static. It’s like DeZuniga solidifies too much of Colan’s pencils. The figures jump out of the panels.

Conway’s spinning his wheels for a story–Alfred has a page of thought balloons about how Batman is basically just making himself miserable when he ought to be relieved following all the recent events. There’s even a couple wasted pages on Dick, just for filler.

Speaking of filler, Green Arrow fights some goofy villains in his backup. It makes little impression.

CREDITS

Inferno; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Tony DeZuniga; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Ben Oda. Mob Rule!, Part One; writer, Joey Cavalieri; penciller, Irv Novick; artist, Ron Randall; colorist, Tom Ziuko; letterer, Phil Felix. Editors, Nicola Cuti and Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman 351 (September 1982)

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The Batman as a vampire story sort of limps it’s way to the finish line, with Conway filling the issue with just about everything else he can to pad it out. There’s Gordon investigating something–it has to do with Rupert Thorne, though Gordon doesn’t know it yet. There’s a Human Target cameo (Alfred hired Chance to impersonate Bruce, but now Chance is going to investigate him for curiosity’s sake).

But the best part is vampire Dick Grayson coming on to Vicki Vale. She’s mortified but in a hilarious way. It’s too bad he’s a vampire, otherwise it’d have been great character material.

Excellent art from Colan and DeZuniga–vampire Batman is terrifying.

The Catwoman backup–even though the Gonzales art is wanting–is excellent. Jones figures out how to tell these stories in two successful parts, instead of having a problematic followup. It continues the noir feeling, something the art unfortunately cannot match.

CREDITS

What Stalks the Gotham Night?; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Tony DeZuniga; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Ben Oda; editor, Dick Giordano. Gentlemen Defer Blondes; writer, Bruce Jones; artist, Adrian Gonzales; colorist, Tom Ziuko; letterer, Janice Chiang; editor, Len Wein. Publisher, DC Comics.

Detective Comics 517 (August 1982)

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They’re really dragging out the Batman turns into a vampire thing. I think this issue is the fourth or fifth of the story. I guess it’s fine, since it’s Colan and DeZuniga again and I am curious how everything is going to tie together.

Conway and Levitz are finally bringing Vicki Vale into Batman’s story, with Dick Grayson (as an evil, mind controlled vampire) kidnapping her.

The approach to vampires is particular. There apparently aren’t–according to this issue–vampires in the DC universe, at least not enough the bad vampires here could be related to them. The vampires here have their own origin and their own vampire hunter. It’s a lot of backstory, but I guess Conway and Levitz wanted to give Colan something to draw to resemble his Tomb of Dracula content.

The Batgirl as snake lady backup mercifully ends. It’s supposed to be tragic, but it’s just silly instead.

CREDITS

The Monster in the Mirror; writers, Gerry Conway and Paul Levitz; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Tony DeZuniga; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Annette Kawecki. A Tale of Two Serpents!; writer, Cary Burkett; penciller, Jose Delbo; inker, Joe Giella; colorist, Tom Ziuko; letterer, Janice Chiang. Editor, Dick Giordano; publisher, DC Comics.

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