Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Super Stupor #4

There is no small irony that some of the most novel portrayals of a world where super powers are a reality I have ever seen came from a series that is meant to be comedic. And yet, this series has provided me with more honest drama than a good deal of the serious superhero books published by The Big Two. Such is the magic of Super Stupor, which is at times as funny as The Tick, as twisted as Nextwave and as thoughtful as Astro City.

Case in point: one of the two subplots of Super Stupor #4 focuses upon the superhero Boy-Toy and the rights of artificial intelligence in a high-tech society. The end result of the final project of genius inventor Dr. Nolan Candle, Boy-Toy was created to be the first of a line of personal protectors/robot friends for children everywhere. But something went wrong and despite developing thousands of clones of the original, Dr. Candle never managed to build another robot with the innate intelligence of the first Boy-Toy. Now, over four decades later, someone has finally thought of a use for thousands of robotic boys with no free will - sex dolls for convicted child molesters!

Naturally, Boy-Toy is upset by the thought of his "brothers" being turned into sex slaves in the name of providing therapy to perverted criminals but he's virtually alone in his protest. And the government bureaucrat who is backing the program seems to take a disturbing glee in further upsetting Boy-Toy, noting that as an employee of the Department of Human Services, he doesn't have to care about what a non-human like Boy-Toy thinks.

Of course this is all played for laughs. And yet, there is still a certain level of serious Swiftian satire in the midst of this madness. After all, similar arguments have been made in the past about how the mistreatment of minorities justified noble ends. Slavery and Apartheid were justified because people with a different skin color weren't really people. The subjugation of women is still justified for all manner of philosophical and religious reasons. Like all great comedians, author R.K. Milholland's uses humor to expose the deeper truths about society and the sad truth is that we could justify some of the worst things possible for the right price.

This serious examination of the underpinnings of a super-powered society is one thing that separates Super Stupor from most other comedic superhero books. Another is Milholland's refusal to fall back on the tired jokes that countless other creators have run into the ground. There is no Batman analog who has a questionable relationship with his young ward. No bitter aquatic princes longing for respect. His characters are all unique creations and while it is possible to explain away the main characters of Super Stupor by using comparisons to other, more established heroes (Punchline is The Joker as a superhero, Angela is a Christian female Thor, etc.) this does a serious disservice to Milholland.

This is shown in the other main plot of Issue #4, which focuses upon Punchline, as he investigates a sports-bar waitress whose ability to influence surly customers seems to come from something besides her natural charisma and skimpy work attire. There is humor here, yes, but beyond that is the true heart of Punchline, who has already been revealed in Super Stupor #2 as being far wiser and kinder than his twisted sense of humor would suggest.

Punchline is far more than a heroic version of The Joker. In fact, as previous issues have shown, he is perhaps the most idealistic and honestly heroic character in the whole series. Which is quite ironic given his penchant for feeling up his female teammates and insulting everyone else in the hero community. And yet, when the chips are down, he'll be the first one to lead the charge and he's the last person to laugh at dead baby humor.

Do yourself a favor. Check out the numerous free comics at SuperStupor.com then drag thy buttcheeks to R.K. Millholland's web store to buy all four print comics. You'll be glad you did!

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