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Ontology on the gone!

The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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06/02/2004 Archived Entry: ""Buzzboy, The World's Most Upbeat Superhero!""

Buzzboy, The World's Most Upbeat Superhero!
Story & Art by John Gallagher & Tim Ogline (or Steve Hauk)
Publisher: Sky Dog Entertainment

Reviewed by Sarah Rasher

The satiric superhero has become his own subgenre. After a few generations of men called by fate to put on masks and save cities from supervillains, cynicism and self-awareness caught up with the superhero myth, and writers across media have considered what superpowers might be like for a real, flawed human being. Sometimes, as in Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons's classic Watchmen, the portrayal is melancholy. More often, as with The Tick and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, there's a bittersweet levity.

In Buzzboy: Monsters, Dreams & Milkshakes, John Gallagher approaches the subject with madcap silliness. Buzzboy, the world's most upbeat superhero, is a sunny oaf with a taste for fast food -- the sort who, being chased by a dragon, exclaims, "I am sooooo busted!" His cast of sidekicks almost, but not quite, put a new spin on things: a busty, wisecracking cheerleader; a reformed ex-supervillain; and an absurdly competent African-American hero who doesn't just wink at tokenism but grins at it.

So far, so everything from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to Farscape, and sure enough, a lot of this is overly familiar territory. There's not much new to be found in a battle against a picture-perfect family that turns out to be demonic, or in tentacled aliens that kidnap people for their brains. A lot of the jokes are similarly tired: lines like, "He disappeared quicker than a Tony Danza sitcom" only made me nostalgic for Buzzboy's forebears. The stories also seem to be overpopulated with inside jokes that only Gallagher and his friends are likely to appreciate.

To be fair, Monsters, Dreams & Milkshakes is largely an anthology of odds and ends, rather than a linear graphic novel, and it includes a number of early stories and other outtakes. The variable quality is most visible in the art, which is in some places shoddy and amateurish, but in others polished, detailed, and gleefully retro. Gallagher draws influence from Archie Comics as well as the more usual suspects, and his cartoonish style fits his subject matter well. His characters, in particular, are distinct and expressive; it's clear he spent quite a bit of time designing them.

He also clearly spent a lot of time devising outrageous adventures for Buzzboy, and the most outrageous of them are the most effective. The army of laser-wielding wiener dogs is a juvenile gag on the surface, but drawn with such knowing absurdity that it's hilarious. Becca, the cheerleader sidekick, transcends her plucky-girl stereotype, snagging many of the best lines in the book, including an exhortation for comic book snobs everywhere to shut up and read Norman Mailer.

Gallagher's enthusiasm for his creations makes Buzzboy a winning, if not terribly original, stab at postmodern superhero comedy. Fans of The Tick and the Evil Dead films will probably love the humor and the bright, clever art. Still, it's difficult to read this without thinking of all the other heroes who are an awful lot like Buzzboy; he may be a harbinger of a genre that is fast passing into cliché.

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