RETRO REVIEW: Fight-Man #1 (June 1993)

by

Or – “‘Cause One-Shot Is All He Needs!”

Once again, we set our Retro Review sights on the decade known as the Nineteen-Nineties, a time of internet bubbles, stained blue dresses and irony  Oh, the frickin’ irony!  Even the Big Two publishers weren’t immune to the snark, which fueled the post-modern engine of Vertigo and turned the Marvel Universe into a Bad-Girl machine.  With the Image Comics indy rebellion in full swing, circa ’93, Marvel even dropped some cash to hire Even Dorkin (of ‘Milk & Cheese’ notoriety) to write a super-hero title.  Does anybody else smell savage lampoonery?  Your Major Spoilers (retro) review awaits!

FightMan1CoverFIGHT-MAN #1
Writer: Evan Dorkin
Penciler: Evan Dorkin
Inker: Pam Eklund
Colorist: Su McTeigue
Letterer: Brad Joyce
Editor: Fabian Nicieza
Cover Price: $2.00
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $2.00

Previously, in Fight-Man: Well, uh…  Pretty much the entire history of comics is about to be thrown into the blender and everything you know about every comic book will probably be at least a little bit important somewhere along the way.  Along, it’s a parody, so you’ll want to requisition a sense of humor.  Case in point:  A seedy back alleyway in Delta City, where an unfortunate young woman is about to get mugged…

FightMan11

It is said, in Delta City that the only thing higher than the unemployment rate is the crime rate, two things that lead many people to abandon the city for more hospitable environs.  Of course, there’s a bigger reason why people leave the city, and he’s about to arrive on the scene.  With a massive ‘THOOM’ and a few over-exuberant punches, the defender of Delta City announces himself…

FightMan12

As the cops drag away the villains (Glass-Eye Freddie’s eyeless face is so horrifying I can’t even show it in the review), Freddie screams a cryptic threat at Fight-Man, claiming that “they” are gonna get him soon, and save the city from him saving it. Dorkin mercilessly savages comic tropes in this sequence, as the cops compare their city’s hero to a hurricane, with the one caveat:  “Hurricanes go away.”  As for Fight-Man himself, what would an amazing superhero be without a nebbishy alter-ego with a crappy life?

FightMan13

The life of a super-hero is a lonely one, as Fight-Man (whose parents don’t seem to notice him entering in full costume) laments that the super-hero action figure and villain memorabilia markets are at an all-time low, and even though he has mighty powers, he doesn’t really have any marketable skills.  Dorkin packs every panel with in-jokes galore, just like he does in ‘Milk & Cheese’, and the reading experience is equally dense, for better or for worse.  The next morning, F-M awakens with a great idea, and visits the offices of Podunk toys with his crudely-drawn sketch of the new hot toy: A Fight-Man action figure!

FightMan14

And, of course, the meeting is interrupted by a band of ridiculous super-villains who want… something.  It’s not quite clear in the issue (as with many comics) why the bad guys are there, but the fighty-fighty ensues, and Fight-Man takes a beating until one of the villains implies that he’s stupid.  “You makin’ fun o’ me?” snarls the hero, regaining his balance…

FightMan15

The fight itself is a nonsensical one, poking fun at every battle in every abandoned warehouse ever written, and results in the utter devastation of the toy factory, thereby scuttling whatever infinitesimal chance his toys had of ever being made in the first place.  Once again, the villains hint at a conspiracy to defeat the hero as they’re being dragged away, and Fight-Man utterly fails to notice…

FightMan16

The dead sidekick joke is particularly awful, coming just a few years after Jason Todd’s untimely (and temporary) demise…  The hero is warned to leave the city by the police (“You can’t fight City Hall!”, says the police chief to the one man who wouldn’t listen even if he had the cognitive capacity), and flies across town to a meeting with his destiny.  Well, technically it’s a meeting with his ex-wife and her lawyer, but it’s still pretty awful.  Suddenly, villains attack!  (Duh.)

FightMan17

“Okay!  I’ve got my camera out!” cries Fight-Man, before the villains give up and decide to just have a regular fight.  “I don’t have regular fights,” retorts the hero before he begins bustin’ skulls at random.  More smashing ensues, and the hero prevails, flying home to find more villains waiting in his living room.  The resulting fighty-fighty destroys his room, but finally convinces the hero that the bad guys ARE out to get him.  Then, the phone rings…

FightMan18

A running gag in the issue shows gangs of protestors in every exterior shot, chanting and picketing for the hero to go (presaging ‘Civil War’ with amazing accuracy) including the television studio where he has agreed to be interviewed.  It turns out to be an ambush interview, which expands the list of dead sidekicks with giggle-worthy results…

FightMan19

The Villainous Hooded Eye interrupts the proceedings to deliver his own ambush: An offer of ten million dollars to anyone who kills Fight-Man once and for all.  All of the other super-heroes ignore his pleas for help, and our hero ends up going to bed, feeling very much alone in the world.  (It’s a pretty perfect parody of the Spider-Man school of “All Is Lost!”)  the next morning, Fight-Man awakens to find his house overrun with bounty-seekers.

FightMan110

Heh.  I like that joke, actually.  In fact, I like a lot of the mean-spirited humor in this issue, taking as it does great pains to accurately mock the tropes of super-hero comics, including the endless crowds of villains and Fight-Man standing atop a pile of defeated enemies to scream dramatically at the heavens.  Most importantly, the book reminds us, in full-on Rob Liefeld fashion, that there’s always a more powerful villain waiting in the wings…

FightMan111

Is this issue a savage parody of the initial offerings from Image Comics after the hot star artists left Marvel?  Dorkin lets us decide for ourselves, but throws in a few good bits throughout the fight, leading up to the piece de resistance, perhaps my favorite joke in the issue.

FightMan112

“Stupid super-hero code!”  Heh…  Interestingly, Fisticuffs Woman’s costume bears a resemblance to the uniform of Action Girl, another indy hero of roughly the same timeframe.  This wouldn’t normally be worth noting (comic uniforms do look similar a lot, after all), but Action Girl was written/drawn by Sarah Dyer, who was and is also Mrs. Evan Dorkin.  Either way, Fight-Man actually takes HIMSELF out by collapsing a building on his head, and awakens in the lair of the man behind it all, the ultra-wicked Hooded Eye…

FightMan113

The former Kid Fight-Man has put all the pieces in place, revealing his partner (ex-wife Bev) and taunting Fight-Man with his superiority, regaling him with a litany of his faults as a swinish, egotistical, pompous, pumped-up, moronic, ignorant thug, to which the hero has a witty riposte:  “Ignorant?  HA!  I don’t even know the meaning of the word!”  Truly a crowning moment of…  something.  Escaping the machinery after it shorts out (he DID warn them he had to go to the restroom, after all), Fight-Man punches his way to seeming victory, just in time for the police to arrive…

FightMan114

Heh.  Dorkin has a way of making stupid characters approachable and a little bit sympathetic, which serves the characterization of Fight-Man really well, and his art is crammed to the gills with side-jokes, labels and other bits of ephemera that make the reading experience even more engaging.  Is it, perhaps, the perfect comic book?

Naaah.  But it’s a pretty dead-on parody of the genre, and one that gets more laughs than I ever expected that it might.  Indeed, it’s more entertaining than the first five issues of Youngblood combined (though the average Sonic Drive-In menu can often pull of that trick.)  All in all, though the humor can be subjective, Fight-Man #1 hits the mark more often than not, poking fun at the staples of cape-and-tights comics while clearly showing affection for the genre as a whole, earning a more-than-impressive 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.  The only real question is, why didn’t the character ever return?  I’d enjoy seeing an updated issue mocking the excesses of modern comics, perhaps one traced by Greg Land?

Rating: ★★★★☆

DID YOU READ THIS ISSUE? RATE IT!

Reader Rating

[ratings]