Fighting American Volume 1 by Gordon Rennie and Duke Mighten (graphic novel review).

February 21, 2021 | By | Reply More

Fighting American was a communist battling comedy super-hero of the 1950s created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. Like Captain America, he wore a flag-based costume and took his patriotism seriously. His origin occurred when investigative journalist Johnny Flagg was beaten to death by evil commies because he revealed their un-American activities.

As he lay dying, his brother Nelson swore vengeance and a top-secret military program transferred Nelson’s mind into the body of his brother which was repaired, revitalized, enhanced and strengthened. After that, assisted by his teenage sidekick, Speedboy, Fighting American battled a wide variety of enemies. The book was regrettably short-lived due to the comicbook slump of the time but the hero is fondly remembered by Simon and Kirby fans.

In this new edition, writer Gordon Rennie and artists Duke Mighten and PC de la Fuente give Fighting American and Speedboy a chance to prove their mettle in the 21st century. An introduction tells us that they vanished in 1955 on a mission helping Welsh scientist Professor Dyle Twister. Then, in Central Park, New York City, our time, a portal opens. It looks somewhat like a boom tube but that’s another story. From it emerge evil communist Poison Ivan and his gang of henchmen. They are quickly followed by Fighting American and Speedboy who beat them up, but Poison Ivan escapes.

Next through the portal are Dyle Twister and his nephew Gregory. Twister invented the time machine. He goes back to his own age but leaves Fighting American with a handy wrist gadget that can detect the vortex energy the bad guys emit following their time travel. Might it not be confused by the vortex energy Nelson Flagg is emitting? Never mind. He sets off in hot pursuit. Complications ensue because of Chaos Lad and Madam Chaos, a pair of very modern super-villains. Old foes like Rimsky and Korsakov, Rhode Island Red and Hotski Trotski also feature.

The art is highly suited to the subject matter and a fine homage to the original creators. Oddly, it looks more like 1940s Simon and Kirby than the 1950s work with lean, dynamic figures instead of the more stocky, dynamic heroes Kirby did later. The action poses reminded me of Gil Kane’s art, but early Kirby greatly influenced Kane.

The joke is that Fighting American is so deadly serious in his devotion to churches, Wall Street, the Pentagon, wholesome family values and the American way of life. Speedboy calls him ‘F.A.’ early on and is sternly admonished: ‘That kind of loose Beatnik talk is one of the things we’re fighting against. Shortened-down words lead to shortened-down thoughts and morals.’ This was similar to Adam West’s Batman lecturing his Robin. Language is a source of comedy throughout the book, along with Speedboy’s fascination for modern ladieswear.

Writer Gordon Rennie is a Scotsman who started in British comics like ‘2000AD’ which gives him an outsider’s view of 1950s gung-ho American patriotism. But the mockery is done with a light touch and there’s nothing here to cause offence to modern Yankees. The aim was to have fun with an old-style hero unlike the grim, brooding, angst-ridden anti-heroes of today’s comics. The horrible psychopath villain slightly spoils this, but there you go. The book is warmly endorsed in a foreword by the heirs of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby and I liked it, too.

Eamonn Murphy

February 2020

(pub: Titan Books Ltd, 2018. 112 page graphic novel softcover. Price: £13.99 (UK), $16.94 (US). ISBN: 978-1-78586-210-6)

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Category: Comics, Superheroes

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