Current Reviews


Sunday Slugfest – Harry Johnson #1, #2

Posted: Sunday, October 3, 2004
By: Craig Johnson

“Harry Johnson and the Case of the Crabbes”

Writer: Charles Fulp
Artist: Craig Rousseau (p), Norman Lee (i)

Publisher: Fulp Fiction Inc.

Average Rating: 7/10

Jason Cornwell:
Keith Dallas:
Egg Embry:
Kelvin Green:
Shaun Manning:
James Redington:
Richard Vasseur:
Dave Wallace:

Jason Cornwell

Private investigator Harry Johnson is paid a visit by the daughter of a government scientist who has gone missing, and she hires him to locate her father. With an obligatory female sidekick along for the adventure, Harry Johnson embarks on a search that takes him to a variety of locals, from a cannibal themed vacation resort, to a secret underground passage that is filled with deadly booby traps. Needless to say the issue ends with a cliffhanger.

A very funny read that is downright shameless in it's desire to deliver a host of cheesy innuendo laden comments, and while some of the gags are downright obvious, the simple fact of the matter is that even the humour I could see coming well before it's actual arrival managed to make me smile, because it was clear that Charles Fulp's sole aim was to entertain the readers. Now I realize that I've made a case in my previous reviews that humour is something that works best when it flows naturally from the story, and that it rarely works when the sole aim of the material is to make the readers laugh, as it often results is a desperate, Jerry Lewis brand of comedy that I've never been partial to. However, this opening issue proves to be the exception to the rule, as the story is little better than a framework for Charles Fulp to deliver a issue full of comedy that averages out to a pretty impressive gag-a-page pace, but I have to say I enjoyed the heck out of this issue. Now it's hard not to notice the numerous Indiana Jones inspired gags, but I'm sure that fans of the trilogy, and it's hard to imagine a comic fan that doesn't fit into that category, will enjoy the humorous spins on the classic moments from the film, from the name of the strip club where Harry picks up his sick kick, to the attack of the jumbo shrimp. In the end this is a humour driven comic that benefits tremendously from the fact that it's actually quite funny. I also rather enjoyed the idea that the hero is allowed to be so utterly hapless.

I was a big fan of Craig Rousseau's work on "Impulse", and his work has become even more polished during his time away from the titles that I make a habit of picking up, as there's a fair number of gags that are dependant on the art to sell the humour, and Craig Rousseau is more than up to the task. I mean the art is almost too deliberate in it's attempts to focus our attention on the more humorous elements, but this is in keeping with the nature of the gags, as one could hardly accuse this book of trying to keep a straight face. The art also deserves credit for its facial expressions, as how can one not love Harry Johnson's leering glances as his questions his prospective client, or his less than heroic display when he learns there's something on his back. The art also has some fun with the design elements of the second trap filled chamber, as one has to smile at the idea that some considerate soul decided the put up a number of signs to guide one through the experience.

Keith Dallas

The comic book is titled Harry Johnson.

If you immediately recognized the double entendre of the title and chuckled about it, then you really need to buy this book as you will probably find it amusing and worth the cover price.

However, if you still don’t recognize the double entendre of the title, even after I’ve pointed it out…, well…, Harry Johnson really isn’t your kind of book.

To be honest, it’s not my kind of book either. It’s packed with ridiculously big breasted women and sexual puns. It has an Indiana Jones hero, a film noir private investigator plot, a Howard Stern-ish preoccupation with sex, and a Naked Gun-like delivery of punch lines. This combination actually mixes well, but I’m not a fan of this kind of humor. Call me a prude.

The best compliment I can pay Harry Johnson is that it is certainly a professionally produced comic book. Whereas so many other independent comic books are over-written, confusingly drawn and sloppily slapped together, Harry Johnson is well-paced with concise dialogue, appropriately drawn by Craig Rousseau (who I remember best for his work on DC’s Impulse) with lettering by Comicraft and colors by Liquid!, all printed on superior paper. This looks like a book produced by a major comic book company. Charles Fulp, the writer and publisher of the comic, really put a lot of money into this product, and it shows.

Harry Johnson is labeled “Parental Advisory… PG-13.” The issues contain no nudity and no profanity, but because of the kind of humor involved here, I still don’t know if it’s appropriate for a 13 year old. Maybe someone a few years older,… or maybe it’s best I put it this way: whatever age you feel one should be in order to watch There’s Something About Mary is the same ago one should be to read Harry Johnson.

Ultimately, Harry Johnson deserves a place in the marketplace. Too many independent comic books are derivatively conceived and executed. Harry Johnson, on the other hand, is unique, and it’s certainly NOT the type of book Marvel or DC would produce. Considering how much money Fulp shelled out to get his comic book published, we owe him one favor: if you see Harry Johnson on one of your comic book store’s shelves, pick it up and flip through it to see if it’s worth your money. If you don’t like what you see, at least you gave the comic your consideration.

Egg Embry

The letter that came with the promo pack for the Harry Johnson mini-series mentioned that Charles Fulp, the writer, advertised the book extensively in MAD Magazine. When I picked up the series and read it, I thought, “Good choice!”

Harry Johnson takes me back to all the MAD-like humor magazines I used to read as a young teenage boy. The stories in them were juvenile… but I was an adolescent back then and that seemed to fit…

And Harry Johnson is very immature and funny because it is over-the-top just like those older classics! The humor is borderline vulgar, but I liked it. I mean, I’m a Jew, there were Nazis in this and I wasn’t offended, so Charles and crew are doing something right.

Speaking of the crew, Mr. Fulp, Craig Rousseau (pencils), Norman Lee (inks), and Dean Yeagle (character designs) really went to town to create this very fun read! I laughed a lot and mainly found myself looking at this story through my “teenage” eyes, seeing the dick-and-fart jokes as something really funny.

The art is fun. The women are extra… proportioned (in a sexist fashion). Regardless, the artwork looks nice and that’s important.

If you’re looking for something simple, fun, and a little raunchy, Harry Johnson is it!

Kelvin Green

Some people's reactions to Harry Johnson's first comic adventure might be that it's shameless, inane, sexist and crude rubbish of the worst sort. Indeed, when I first saw the preview materials, I thought along the same lines. Now I've read the comic itself, I can safely say that it's not worthless crap, but nor is it really to my taste. However, I'm not sure that it's supposed to be.

Writer Charles Fulp, in the letter that accompanied the 'press pack" edition of the first Harry Johnson comic, claims that the book is another in a long line of titles designed to draw younger readers into comics. Since the comic is full of sexual innuendo and crude punnery, with a gratuitous art style, you might wonder what the kids around Fulp's way are like. And the truth is probably that they're much like kids everywhere. The really young kids probably won't get much out of this, but they've got their manga, and their cartoon tie-ins, and I'm not sure I'd let a five year old at this anyway. The teenagers have nothing however, and that's who this comic is aimed at.

One of the biggest pitfalls in creating entertainment for any group of people that isn't exactly like you is that it's never possible to be certain about what they'll like. You can only make guesses. My guess is that teens of a certain age are going to love this. The art is of a clean, accessible, easy to understand sort, which is ideal for the newcomer. Panel layouts and storytelling aren't particularly inventive, but again anything too experimental would be more likely to turn away than attract a new reader. The writing is similarly without complexity, but it keeps the story going on at a frenetic and entertaining pace. The jokes are crude and obvious, yes, but no more so than those in the Austin Powers movies, and the target audience should enjoy this as much as it enjoyed those films.

None of these features, which would normally be counted as weaknesses, are examples of incompetence by the creators. Everything is deliberate and genuine. The intent was to create a title that would introduce teens to comics, and in its way, I think Harry Johnson is a far better attempt at that than Marvel's Ultimate (or Tsunami, or Marvel Age, or...) line ever was. It's not to my taste, and it won't be to the taste of every single teen out there, but if it brings some new, younger, readers into reading comics, then that can only be a good thing all round.

Did I like this comic? To be honest, no I didn't. That said, I can see what the creators are trying to do, and I think they've succeeded admirably. It's an attempt that may fail due to the insular and unfriendly direct market, which actively keeps comics out of the hands of the masses, but I wish the creative team behind Harry Johnson the best of luck. They're a smart bunch who are trying to help the industry, and they deserve a shot. If you're fourteen and loved the Austin Powers movies, check this out. If you aren't fourteen, but know a fourteen year old (even if it’s the fourteen year old inside  ), ditto.

Shaun Manning

Well now, here’s a comic book with absolutely no pretensions–it’s a two issue long dick joke, and that’s exactly what it wants to be. And if you grouped the words “long dick” together in that last sentence, Harry Johnson is for you.

Detective Johnson and his assistant Fanny Sellers travel the world to locate and rescue Dr. Peter Crabbe, and eventually succeed after non-stop harrowing exploits that test the limits of double entendre. There are a few laughs, but mostly the jokes are standard, worn potty humor. All of the characters are a little too “in” on the joke, as well, like they’re setting each other up to say something oh-so-witty. The characterization of women in this comic is, needless to say, grossly offensive, which should not be surprising but is nevertheless frustrating in that it justifies the comic book medium’s seedy reputation.

All that said, this is an incredibly well-produced comic book for an indy. Very good paper, quality artists (even if a good deal of the art is cheesecake), and even lettering and color done by pros. Mr. Fulp has also done a phenomenal job marketing his product, taking out ads in Wizard and distributing full-color flyers to retailers. And it should sell. If Comedy Central’s The Man Show and the recent X-Box/PS2 release The Guy Game have taught us anything, it’s that there’s an audience for everything, and Harry Johnson in particular.

James Redington

Fart gags, jokes for the schoolboy, and a comic for the inner boy in all us men. That is pretty much what I got from Harry Johnson issue 1.

It is not a bad comic by a long shot, its well drawn and has a basic plot and one or two good characters - what lets it down is that after the first few pages the level of the comedy has been set. It is funny most of the time, but it doesn't take things any further.

I honesty had hoped for a bit more, maybe it’s my British humor that doesn't get it, I could describe this as an American pie meets Indiana Jones, but instead of American pie its more American Pie 3: The Wedding (English title).

All the moaning aside the script is funny, just repetitive - Charles Fulp proves he can come up with a plot that keeps the reader interested, well I kept reading to the end and I will be buying the second issue just to see how Harry gets on. The basic plot involves Harry searching for the Father of an attractive woman and getting into a few sticky, ahem, situations and ends with a cliffhanger right out of the 40's movie serials.

The pencils are by an artist called Craig Norman Rousseau, with inks by 'Lee'. Rousseau draws in a cartoon style that suits the style of writing and storytelling, in fact he would be great doing a DC animated series (it would be interesting to see what he can do in different styles), his women are the highlight of the comic and Harry, himself, is very well rendered. All the characters appear cheeky and 'in' with the joke. The inks by 'Lee' are very much fat and fine lines, which suit again with the overall tone of the comic. The colours are very bold and in most places bright and cheerful bringing alive the cartoon aspects of the comic and the characters within.

While not too special, I would recommend this comic if you want to try something else and have the money to spend - I will be buying the second issue to see what happens and also because my girlfriend thought it was quite funny (it fact she is upset because she think it is worth 4½ bullets and I am in trouble because she doesn’t feel this review is fair) and would like to read the next one as well. This is a well produced comic on all levels, it just a shame the jokes are not able to hold their own further into the comic than 6 pages before they become stale. I would like to see more from this creative team though.

Richard Vasseur

The cover starts us out with the promise of adventure, babes and action. After seeing the cover there is no way you will be able to resist you'll have to look inside. Now make sure you read the inside cover print, the fun and hilarity start from the get go. Harry Johnson is lewd and crude. He has one thing on his mind. Well maybe two things. This is a roaring adventure with cannibals, camels and cherry pie! You will thrill to Harry's escapades and his sexually expressive comments and actions will leave you wishing you could be him.

The art is visually stunning it leaps out of the pages at you. The colors by Liquid! are outstanding. The supporting cast is make up of a wide variety of characters. The stripper Fanny Sellers does make a cute side kick. She does have some very big assets. The cliffhanger ending – well, it is a cliffhanger. So make sure to join us next issue to find out how it all turns out. You will want to see this Harry Johnson.

In #2, Sexual innuendoes abound and the hilarity continues. Harry has to rescue Fanny's fanny from the Nazi's. Which leads to a table dance, which leads to a perilous escapade down the snow covered mountain while being chased by a snowball. Guess what we get as the Nazi females face off against Amber's special forces team. Its a "Cat Fight". And the winners are us the readers. The bevy of beauties are more than enough for any man or woman.

Amber Gail the informant is a very healthily drawn girl in her patriotic bikini. She'll make you stand at attention. The bodyguard is all in black leather and looks as hot as any gorgeous woman in a kinky black leather outfit would. Fanny's tight red dress will get your heart beating faster. Charles Fulp has delivered a fun and entertaining comic with gorgeous art from Craig and Norman. They make a great team.

Dave Wallace

I wasn’t at all sure what to expect with Harry Johnson, so I was pleasantly surprised to find myself enjoying this broad parody of private-eye stories and comics, with a heavy Indiana Jones fixation. Whilst familiarity with Spielberg’s films will certainly help you get more out of the title – with a couple of natty sideswipes and surprisingly accurate visuals making light of the situations and conventions that crop up in those films – there’s enough riffing on sexual stereotypes, dumb heroes and silly comics clichés to make this a readable (if fairly shallow) romp.

Whilst there’s a lot of fun, silly humour here - reminiscent of the kind of verbal laughs I used to get from Police Squad! And the Naked Gun, Airplane and Hot Shots! Films - there’s also a spill-over into a more adult brand of bawdiness, with gags about sex toys and Brazilian waxes sitting a little more uncomfortably alongside the broader laughs that would endear Harry Johnson so much to a younger audience. There’s also a tendency to occasionally over-explain the gags right after we got them the first time, sapping the spontaneity and energy that is otherwise in abundance.

The art is suitably cartoony and slick to carry off the silly tone well, extending a lot of the parodic elements of the script into the visuals. You’ll recognize the locales and environments from the aforementioned Indy films, and the 30’s-adventurer-style maps are used to comic effect as well as storytelling devices. The clichés of female representation in comics and the media are also lampooned, with unrealistically-proportioned ladies ten a penny. And as the finale approaches, a visually-arresting cliffhanger is presented in a tongue-in-cheek manner that makes it a lot more palatable – even if we still don’t care much about the character.

Bright, snazzy and fun, this is an enjoyable enough comic adventure which will almost certainly raise a few (albeit predictable) laughs. Just don’t expect anything too deep, well-characterised or ground-breaking.

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