I’m in a good mood this week folks. The end of term is within gasping distance and I’m beginning to believe I might just make it with my health and sanity intact. And then, the whole of the summer, with its long weeks of doing pretty much what I want, when I want* is loitering enticingly on the edge of my vision.
So, it is with a smile and a light step that I approach both of the subjects I want to address this week. Mind you, it helps that I’m rather pleased about both of them, so that helps to lift my mood still further.
Let’s start with Warren Ellis. His latest opus, No Hero, illustrated by Juan Jose Ryp, Eliss’ collaborater on the excellent Black Summer, is yet another of Ellis’ hard looks at the concept of the Super Hero.
I have to say, one of the things I’ve always liked about Ellis is the kind of questions he asks through his stories. He has a way of asking moral and philosophical questions which is both accessible, unpretentious and profound which may yet make him the most important comics writer of modern times.
In No Hero the question is simple. “What would you do to be a super human?” Seriously. What would you really give? What would you be prepared to do? Lie? What sort of lie? Who would you lie to? What if you could get Super Powers by killing somebody? Would you?
For the sake of my peace of mind I’m going to assume you answered “No” there. But if you would, who? A random stranger? A “bad person”**? A loved one? And what would that decision do to you? If you crossed that line, would the powers be worth it? Would you be able to revel in the joy of being able to fly, if every time you took to the sky you reminded yourself of the cold, dead eyes of the victim who made that possible?
Doesn’t bear thinking about.
And what about drugs? Drugs are at the heart of the heroes in No Hero, as they are at the heart of the Supes in Ennis’s The Boys now I come to think about it. Indeed, giving people drugs to make them powerful has a long history in comics reaching all the way back to Captain America’s “Super Solider Serum”, through Batman’s “Venom” and beyond.
It’s an important question, because it has echoes in real life. It’s a truism that the closest thing we have to Super Heroes in real life are the athletes who will, in a few short weeks be taking to the various Olympic Stadiums in China. Given the history of the various Olympic sports over the last few years it would be naive to imagine that a proportion of them won’t be taking steroids, or stimulants, or messing with their blood in some way.
The short term rewards for this are tangible of course. Fame, glory, money. It’s attractive, when you look at it like that. The longer term is less enticing of course, there are formerly female athletes in the old Eastern Bloc who were fed so many testosterone tablets that they’ve had to undergo gender realignment surgery to restore some kind of equilibrium. Other athletic drug abusers have suffered liver or heart disease in retirement as a direct result of steroid use.
Then there are those who indulge in recreational drugs. Dope, speed, coke, hell, even my own drugs of choice – alcohol and caffine – all have negative effects, attacking both the body and the brain, no matter how good they feel when you ingest them.
So actually, perhaps we sort of know the answer. Would you take a drug that would give you Super Powers even if you knew that eventually it would destroy your mind and body? A lot of people would, because a lot of people do.
But it’s a fascinating area to explore, and I’m looking forward to seeing where Ellis takes it – regular readers already know my view that when he’s good, Ellis is pretty much the best writer in comics today, and if No Hero #0*** is anything to go by he’s very much on form here.
Have to say, I used to dismiss Avatar as a mere “Tits and Ass” publisher, but much of their output over the last few years – especially the stuff that Ellis puts out though them – has been brilliant. Twisted, certainly, but brilliant. I love when people prove me wrong like that.
And Ellis’s new work isn’t the only thing I have to be cheerful about. Oh no. Perhaps even more exciting than that from my point of view is the return of one of my very favourite characters to British comics. A few days ago I got a message from Keith Richardson, the Mighty Tharg’s marketing droid, informing me that Tank Girl is joining the Megazine!
I love Tank Girl. Hell, I even liked the movie, flawed though it was. IDW ran an excellent series recently of course, but somehow I feel happier that she’s back in a British comic. I know it shouldn’t make a difference, but it does somehow. Anyhow, she’s back, in a story called Skid marks, starting at the end of August. Only half of the original Hewlett and Martin team will be there – Jamie Hewlett being replaced (well, let’s say “substituted” for now) by Rufus Dayglo of Snaked fame.
Totally can’t wait.
The August 20th issue in fact heralds another relaunch for the Meg. At the cost of another price hike (it’ll be £4.99, which I have to admit will sting a bit…) they’re ditching the re-prints and making the Megazine 100% original material again. Better than that, they’re maintaining the aging fanboy’s need for their reprinted nostalgia fix by bundling the issue with a “highly collectable” 64pp graphic novel featuring classic tales from the vaults of the Galaxy ‘s Greatest Comic! And that’s every issue.
So long as they reprint the good stuff, that really does have to be worth a fiver.
The weather for the Summer is looking dodgy, but it’s beginning to look as though I’ll have plenty of excellent reading to while away the wet afternoons…
*Don’t be misled here – like most teachers I have a hell of a lot to do in the Summer Break, but even so, I can plan my time according to my whim and it still isn’t like having a proper job…
**And of course that in itself begs the question “who gets to decide who is a bad person?” which is a whole other topic…
***Unusually for an issue #0, this is integral to the overall story, it would seem, and I’d urge you to dash down to your LCS and grab a copy. Cheaper (it has a $1.00 cover price) and less hassle than trawling for it on e-bay when Issue #1 comes out in August.