Story & Art: Matt Smith & Tom Papparlardo
Publisher: Famous Fighters
I know that some, if not all, of you out there watch the Sunday night lineup on Adult Swim. You know who you are! Well, if you’re into such shows as 12oz Mouse, Aqua Teen Hunger Force (my favorite), or, in particular, the new series Korgoth of Barbaria, you’ll find a lot to like about Famous Fighters #1. The various comic vignettes that Matt Smith and Tom Papparlardo have included in this first issue have the same approach and mentality as the aforementioned Adult Swim programs: the dictum of "Keep It Stupid, Simple." That being said, I liked most of what I read in issue #1, though the entire comedic effort was forced and lacked aesthetic appeal (with some particularly poor artwork for certain tales). Still, you can’t fault Smith and Papparlardo for the direction they took with this anthology. They knew the tone they wanted to capture in this issue, and they didn’t let anything like good taste or common storylines get in their way. Mostly, my lackluster rating is indicative of occasionally distracting illustrations and the narrow fan base this comic is trying to reach. For the masses? I think not!
As the title indicates, these "Famous Fighters" are pop culture stereotypes known for their fighting or maiming prowess, with a definite concentration on barbarian fiction. Throughout the first issue, we encounter The Barbarian Lord, a Conan-like character whose sole mission in life is to kill in as humorously gruesome a manner as possible. Most of the time, Barbarian Lord’s humor is of a supremely stupid nature, with little in the way of wittiness to make it endearing. It’s hack-and-slash comedy that truly goes for the jugular, but has too few laughs to recommend it. "Eclipso" is not a tale starring the old Green Lantern foe, but rather a kid with an extremely large head that blocks out the sun. It’s a cute tale that has some heart, but unfortunately features some very crude artwork. For the most part, Famous Fighters doesn’t have an amateur or mini-comic feel to it, which is a great accomplishment. But "Eclipso" is one story that does have an amateurish execution, which may have been aided somewhat by better printing. "Midnight at the Crossroads" can best be described as a fairy tale children’s story with two potty-mouthed characters: Satan and Alec Dear, who is clearly modeled after the Golden Age Shadow. Retaining the status-quo intellectual level, this is a stupid rhyming poem that features some funny images, but some groan-inducing rhymes as well. "Once Upon A Time in China in America" is one of my favorite shorts, as I’m a huge fan of both The Man With No Name and Star Wars (Trust me, the two are mixed here for possibly the first time!). Fanboys will find the homages funny, as well as the dialogue from the heavy metal dorks at the end. "Mysterious Dojo" is a cross between an old Saturday morning kung fu movie (complete with craptastic faux-dramatic dialogue) and Perfect Hair Forever (Adult Swim again! Zounds!). Once again, the crude art and the lackluster printing are a distraction for an otherwise decent short tale. "Zombie Uprising" is the gem of the issue. Not only are the heavy metal references priceless (can you use "metal" and "priceless" in the same sentence?), but the silliness factor is appropriately calibrated, and there are some genuine moments of laugh-out-loud hilarity. Garry and Jaysun, the two aging headbangers of the story, are so similar to people I know in my own life, it’s scary. As the two try to form a "zombie band," they analyze a possible guitarist. Garry says to the undead gentleman, “Powerchords! Downpick! You gotta go wicked fast like James Hetfield!” Jaysun’s response to the zombie’s lack of musical talent is, “I’m not sure this dude has the metal militia vibe we’re goin’ for.” Great stuff!
Overall, this was an entertaining way to pass fifteen to twenty minutes of free time. There’s plenty of various material here (52 pages of sequential stories), but not a lot of derring-do. I think Famous Fighters would have been more appropriate as a web comic, which may sound like an insult, but is not meant to be malicious in the least. With its pricetag of $5, most fans either won’t take the chance on this or, if they do, they’ll probably feel that they paid too much. But, if you have some excess comic money burning a hole in your pocket, you could do a lot worse than Famous Fighters.
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