In 2001, the legendary Jim Steranko wrote the following about The Pro:
Ever wonder what it would be like to sleep with a superpowered prostitute? Garth Ennis has, and he’s enlisted Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti to flesh out the story in PRO, a 64 page one-shot coming next summer from Image. Following the announcement on the “Image All Stars” panel at WizardWorld, Palmiotti told the SPLASH:
“This will probably keep the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund very busy for the next five years. It’s the world’s first superhero prostitute and pretty much every comic book character’s run in with her. It’s done Garth style so it won’t be the actual characters, but it’ll be like mainstream superhero comics with a prostitute thrown in the mix. It’s evil, it’s gonna be worse than Hitler’s testicles. It’s Garth, which guarantees it’s madness. It’s Amanda, so it’s a woman drawing this evil stuff, which makes it even more evil. And then it’s me and I usually like trouble anyway.”
Conner and Palmiotti signed at the CBLDF table on Saturday afternoon to start building the war chest.
If this is supposed to be funny, I’m not laughing. Are some of the most-publicized talents in the field so desperate they’ve turned to celebrating evil? Apparently so. They obviously think of themselves as cultural terrorists and want the world to know they’ve allied themselves with evil. They’re welcome to it.
You know, for a book that’s supposed to be evil and is supposed to be a work of cultural terrorism, The Pro is an awfully positive comic book. As Mr. Steranko said:
This book depicts the adventures of a prostitute who gains super-powers through the auspices of a space alien with a testicle-shaped head, the Voyeur–excuse me, the Viewer. Said prostitute soon meets up with the League of Honor, a sort of pseudo Justice League, and before long she’s helping the team’s Superman character get some relief at the same time that she actually learns to act more heroic.
Image Comics has published a third printing of this notorious comic book, and it’s great to see this comic back in print.
Ennis presents the League of Honor like characters straight out of camp-era Batman stories. The Batman character welcomes the Pro to the League with the statement “Let it be known that honor and justice have a new champion . . . evil and repression a new enemy,” while the Superman character says “Welcome once more to the battle for what is right” which the Pro deflates by saying “Sounds better than sucking cock for a living, I guess.”
This funny juxtaposition happens again and again when the Pro is with the League, and each time it made me laugh. I love how the dialogue is a satire of both Silver Age comics and the work of Ennis himself. The scenes are so over-the-top that they’re funny rather than offensive, by and large.
Maybe the scene that best captures the crazy overkill of Ennis’s humor is when a group of prostitutes, with the help of the Pro, take revenge on a John who’s been ripping them off. The prostitutes take their revenge out on his fat, hairy ass, to the extent that they literally destroyed his sphincter and colon.
The scene of two dozen prostitutes standing gleefully in line, waiting their turns at the man, each with a weapon more outrageous than the woman before, is hysterical. More than that, it’s in the tradition of classic satirical comics like the original MAD. The scene looks like something out of a great Will Elder strip, and, after all, it’s only a short jump from “Superduperman” to The Pro.
My favorite characters in this book are the two black characters, who might be the most ridiculous characters in the whole book. The Lime, a Green Lantern type, talks in an outrageous stereotyped ‘80s slang. “We going virtuous on the sorry butt of wrongdoing,” he shouts at one point, “you gots it, k-dog. You be the man, know what I be saying?” in another. And in the short backup, the Ho talks like a stupid Hollywood stereotyped black woman, which I found hilarious. By showing these stereotypes, Ennis shatters them before the readers’ eyes. We see the silliness and stupidity of the way black characters have always been presented in comics.
Amanda Conner does a gleeful job on the artwork. The art is light and cartoony, yet also as outrageous as the story. I love the way Conner redesigned the Justice League members, and all the little touches she throws in, like how the Pro’s knees are always skinned and how she almost always seems to have a cigarette in her mouth. And the scene where the Superman character accidentally shoots the wing off an airplane has some wonderful storytelling. Paul Mounts’s coloring also adds to the story, emphasizing primary colors that help this book look like a Silver Age comic gone awry.
Granted, Steranko wrote his screed in 2001, shortly after the WTC towers fell. Many people said dumb things in the wake of the 9/11 tragedy. But maybe time has allowed us to see this comic in a different perspective. In this era where the United States seems endlessly stuck in a needless war, where the economy is teetering on the brink of a major recession, and the big comic event of the last year, Civil War, involved two heroic icons and their armies fighting each other, readers need something that’s joyful. The Pro may be graphic and nasty and “in your face,” but it’s also very energetic. It’s a work of creators who have a passion for their comic, even if part of the passion is in its gleeful amorality.
This comic doesn’t celebrate evil. It defies evil. It celebrates freedom and redemption and the defying of stereotypes and the freedom of talented creators to tweak the morality police. And it’s also really damn funny.