Monday, December 5, 2016

Brooks on Books: The League of Regrettable Superheroes by Jon Morris

This is an outstanding book, one suitable for "pick up and read a bit at a time" enjoyment but one so entertaining you  might just want to tear right through it. Author Jon Morris runs a blog, Gone and Forgotten, that also covers weird comic book stuff, and I have added it to my bookmarks. The League is a pleasure from start to finish.

The format is simple: Morris divides comic book history into several eras, then assembles a list of "D-listers and also-rans" from each period and devotes a few pages (most entries are a page of text and a page of illustration, though some feature additional scans from the original comics) to explaining each one. Some of the characters either look goofy enough or have strange enough backgrounds and skills to be inherently amusing, so Morris' deft writing strikes just the right tone: bemused and appreciative of how crazy some of this material is, but not overwhelming it with forced humor.

Some of the wittiest comments come in the sidebars on each entry. For each regrettable hero, Morris provides a "Created by" credit and a "Debuted in" note with the first appearance of the character. Then he adds a miscellaneous vategory that provides an opportunity for a wise-ass remark. Example: In the chapter for Pat Parker, War Nurse, the sidebar has "Not to be confused with: Bob barker, game show host; Ma Barker, gangster."

This is a book you need to see to appreciate, so I won't waste time trying to verbalize the appeal, but there is a wide variety represented here. There are a few from the mind of cult Golden Age creator Fletcher Hanks as well as Marvel and DC products like Brother Voodoo and the Legion of Super Pets.

Here are some of my favorites: I'd love to read more exploits of DC's The New Guardians. Morris closes their entry with: The team's adversaries were equally ill-conceived. The roster included the Hemoglobin (a vampire with AIDS) and Snowflame (a super villain powered by cocaine).

1939's Bozo the Iron Man looks like a riot. Dr. Hormone and The Eye (who is an actual floating eye) are intriguing. How about Kangaroo Man, who is actually the sidekick to a scuffling kangaroo? My favorite entries are the obscure Golden Age heroes just because I have never heard of many of them, but it's a lot of fun reading about later efforts. I got a nice rush of nostalgia learning the story behind the AAU Shuperstar I saw in so many full-page ads back in the day.

It's a compact hardcover that feels substantial enough. It does leave you wanting more, but that's in the sense that it encourages you to seek out these goofy superheroes. Fortunately, much of this material is public domain and/or unclaimed and therefore findable online.

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