Back Issue # 91 September 2016 (magazine review).

September 1, 2016 | By | Reply More

With a cover showing Batman sending the Guy Gardner Green Lantern flying with a single punch, it should come as no surprise that this ‘Back Issue’ is sub-titled ‘All-Jerks Issue!’. To us British, who don’t use the term ‘jerk’, these are just obnoxious people who get up everyone’s nose. Saying that, I do have to wonder at the term ‘soda jerk’ that was used in their culture for a while. Does that imply that fizzy drinks were sold by obnoxious people at one time? Of the DC super-heroes, Guy Gardner is probably the worst of the bunch, although I was surprised that L.E.G.I.O.N.’s Brainaic 2 didn’t get a mention.


For Gardner, Jim Kingman gives a potted history within and without the comicbooks. Something I didn’t know was that artist Joe Staton used British actor Tim Pigott-Smith as his template for his version. Although I never read Gardner’s latter adventures, I did find it disappointing that writer Beau Smith permanently mellowed him, seeing no future in a continual angry Guy Gardner. Objectively, I think I would have found a way to have made it work, even if only he was bi-polar and the odd knock on the head have him switch between the two sides of his personality. What made Guy Gardner stand out for me was him being radically different to the other DC good guys which added to his appeal that even an idiot can do heroic things.

The section devoted to the jerks from Superboy, Supergirl, Superman, Batman, Metamorpho and Firestorms’s comicbooks brings out an interesting point that such characters had to be introduced to break up the lovey-dovey family-like groupings. To that end, we have a look at, respectively, Bash Bashford, Nasty, Morgan Edge, Steve Lombard, Arthur Reeves, Harvey Bullock, Ruby Ryder, Simon Stagg and Cliff Carmichael. I’ll leave you to ponder on who the biggest nuisance was.

I did have another ponder here and wondered why Lana Lang was never considered a jerk, especially as practically all of them are male. After all, she was forever trying to prove by various means Superboy was also that timid Clark Kent boy that would be called stalking and bullying now. These days, group character dynamics tends to have examples of all sorts to ensure a better balance. Indeed, Martin Pasko goes along with the same line saying that there is now little room for the comic relief character.

When it comes to Marvel, the two biggest jerks belongs to Spider-Man’s terrain. J. Jonah Jameson tops the list and has the most space with some in-depth motivation analysis. Gerry Conway points out that Jonah was best played using Stan Lee’s voice but also adds that many of the Man’s voices were variations of himself. With analysis by six of his writers, only Tony Isabella considers that Jonah is past his use-by-date. That gave me a strong ponder on how many other significant jerks any of the other Marvel super-heroes have. Jameson is, by far, the only quasi-supporting character-cum-villain on occasion. Most of the others are only minor irritants that you would expect the lead character to dump out of their lives as quickly as possible.

Then there is, of course, Eugene ‘Flash’ Thompson. Something that comes from the analysis is that there is latitude for the writers to dig deeper into their motivation than the standard character. Something you wouldn’t normally see with normal characters or, if you do, it’s only for a short storyline. Seeing how Thompson develop from a sometimes bully to war veteran to alcoholic, the latter following in his Dad’s footsteps, shows an extended timeline helped by not keeping them the same.

Let it never be said that the super-heroes at Marvel can’t be jerks. Although the example here is Namor MacKenzie aka the Sub-Mariner, you do have to wonder about others, especially as so many have snappy repertoire. I mean, Hawkeye used to jibe Captain America and come over as a tad arrogant. Quicksilver would surely qualify as well in the era. However, Sub-Mariner goes back to the start of Marvel Comics and whose interest for the care of his city of Atlantis and distain for the traditional humans, although that did change with World War 2. Although it’s not said in the article by James Heath Lantz, with UBoats in the Atlantic, it’s more a case of the enemy of my enemy is my friend with Subby joining up with Captain America and the Human Torch. The real problem is that other than give his life history and having John Byrne and Roger Stern explaining it was an imbalance of any amphibious life that made Namor short-tempered, I wish they’d given more examples of his jerk-like reactions than a potted history.

Although I only read a very few issues of ‘Archie Comics; back in the early 60s, Steven Thompson gives a rundown on his nemesis, Reggie Mantle, who began life in 1942. Examining his time-line, you can draw some comparisons to Flash Thompson, as both characters were allowed to develop over the years and not be a one-note nuisance.

Another character examined is Obnoxio The Clown and although I only read the X-Men on-off and didn’t really get him. That must have been an American thing. DC Comics’ ‘The Heckler’ by Keith Giffin and scripted by Mary and Tom Bierbaum is another one I just missed but considering it only lasted 6 issues also tends to signify that it’s rare that a comicbook can last with a jerk at the wheel.

Although I’ve pointed out characters that I wonder why they weren’t considered, I expect I’ll be told they appeared in earlier issues of ‘Back Issue’ or a need to accent on these characters instead. It does give a good representation of the ‘jerks’ in the comicbooks and if, as been pointed out, there really isn’t a place for them in modern comics, then we need to find more niggly characters. After all, people who aren’t particularly nice don’t have to wear super-villain costumes.

GF Willmetts

August 2016

(pub: TwoMorrows Publishing. 82 page illustrated softcover. Price: $ 8.95 (US). ISSN: 1932-6904. Direct from them, you can get it for $ 7.61 (US))

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Category: Comics, Magazines

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About UncleGeoff

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’
If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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