Staff: Phil Buck and Joseph Freistuhler
Golden aged, public domain, goodness on a whole new level.
For those of you who don’t know- I’m a huge proponent of the public domain. Short version: creators should maintain a hold on their work for a while then be subject to the market. Forcing DC to write better Batman series (yes- he would be in the public domain were it not for Mickey Mouse and Sonny Bono) because others are writing good stories too is not a bad idea.
Anyway, the reason I bring this up is that “The Not So Golden Age” uses a number of public domain superheroes in it and shows us why it’s such a positive thing. The comic opens on a trailer park in Reno where 2 heroes and 1 villain, all retired, are living together. Honestly- that’s what got me. Love the golden age, love the setup, love the subversion.
The comic also REEKS of nostalgia- fake cheesy toy ads in the front of the book, those golden aged yellow and black narration boxes, that off-white color of the page *sniffle sniffle*, sorry but it’s just so perfect. My inner comic hipster is crying with joy.
But seriously. The tone established in this comic is top notch. I’ve never seen it does anywhere else and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. A lot of the shortcomings of this comic can be forgiven due to its total commitment to the aesthetic. Like the lettering is a little cramped… but that is kind of how they did it back in the day.
If there is a shortcoming it’s in the art. It’s really a shame too. A lot of it is really just downright fantastic- great use of texture, shadow, perspective, and the character designs of the aging characters are really nailed in all their cheesy glory. However some of the scenes feel really awkwardly empty. A skybox left devoid of detail here, a weird visual set up there, an occasional untextured element to a scene that should totally have had texture, and a few other minor things. A lot of the exterior shots look really big and empty. Maybe that was intended to match the tone of the comic but it really just feels… I don’t know. Kind of like poser 3D artwork in that they don’t detail the entire scene- just the few characters in it. I feel like there should be something on the ground in the exterior shots that we are missing. So it’s a real hit AND miss. Like 90% of it is grade A awesome and that 10% tends to kill me now and again. This is probably because of how good the rest of it is that it stands out to me.
Writing / Story:
The writing however is glorious. A lot of pop culture references you immediately get, some genuine chuckles now and then where you laugh along with the characters, etc. Wasn’t psyched at the use of some chatspeak (WTF) but there was a 4th wall breaking joke I kinda of chuckled at. The reveal at the midpoint is pretty hilarious and the writer did a great job characterizing each trailer park tenant with only a few lines or a single scene (something professional writers often fail at).
There is a second story (the first story being titled A Golden Aged Murder)called “Not Another Death in the Family” (a reference to the infamous Batman “Death in the Family” storyline). It gets a little more parody-ish than the first, which I was not a big fan of. It basically does every sidekick trope out there, does a few parodies of batman poses and lines, and a few parodies of famous covers. I honestly wasn’t as big of a fan of this one as the first. It was a bit shorter and thought I cracked a smile, I didn’t get the same joy from this one as I did the first (too reliant on comic book meta I think).
So all and all… read the shit out of this book. It’s got charm, laughs, a brain in a robot, and a lady with 47 cats who drinks box wine. What more could you want? Honestly though, this was a lot of fun to read. As a comic fan, I really loved a lot of the throw backs and in jokes (even when they got a little too thinly veiled) and the overall presentation was nothing short of fantastic. Give it a read.