by Michael Vance & Dr. Jon Suter
January 27, 1999
Reviews in this issue:
Shadow Lady #1
Starship Troopers #s 1-3
Four issue series, $2.95, 22 pages each from Dark Horse. Art: Davide Fabbai, sold in comics shops and by mail.
One must give discredit where discredit is due. The recent movie adaptation of Robert Heinlein's SF novel, Starship Troopers, did little to honor the book or the writer. It was as much like Heinlein's novel as a planet is like space dust.
Oddly, the comic book adaptation of the movie doesn't even credit Heinlein, easily one of the greatest SF writers in history.
Obviously, fame is fleeting, and professed homage to a master can be inappropriately disrespectful.
Then again, one must also give credit where appropriate.
The comic book miniseries, Starship Troopers: Dominant Species, is closer to Heinlein's style than was the movie.
Heinlein made his futuristic novels distinctively real. He did so, in part, because he knew that, although technology changes, men do not. And since familiarity breeds contempt in humans, he understood that future men would think starships and aliens as mundane as we consider buses and aardvarks to be today.
It is a subtle but important part of Heinlein's style perfectly captured in both plot, dialog and art in the comic. It is also needed as young friends are reluctantly and relentlessly drawn into a bloody war with gigantic aliens that look like dung beetles.
This was to be expected. Writer Jan Strnad is among the best writers in comic books today.
It was unexpected but delightful that the excellent art in this series also lives up to Heinlein's legacy.
Distinctive, lively, and clear in its visual storytelling, it makes this marriage of words and pictures seem seamless.
And that is seemly.
It just seems a shame Heinlein's name isn't mentioned somewhere.
Starship Troopers is recommended.
Shadow Lady #1
1 of 7 by Dark Horse. Puerile, mindless Japanese satire, sex and superheroics that aren't redeemed by better than average art. Mild Violence.
I frequently refer to paperback reprints of current comic strips. For years, the firm Andrws and McMeel has dominated the field, but Nantier Beall Minoustchine (NBM) has recently emerged.
Two recent volumes are reprints of Rick Detorie's One Big Happy. That strip, as did countless predecessors, looks at family relationships for its humor. The major character is the irrepressible Ruthie.
Ruthie's repertoire of misinformation and her streak of bossiness place her in the ranks of lovable brats. She is slightly less obnoxious than Lucy in Charles Schultz's Peanuts, Little Iodine in Jimmy Hatlo's They'll Do It Everytime or Angelica in Nickleodeon's animated Rugrats on television. She reminds me of Myrtle in Dudley Fisher's almost forgotten strip, Right around Home.
Ruthie meets her match in her grandfather, Nick. Of all the characters, he seems best able to decipher Ruthie's garbled logic and malapropisms (use of wrong word for humorous effect). To paraphrase: if there is a Groundhog Day, shouldn't there be a Groundbeef or Groundchicken Day?
Oprah, The Jerry Springer Show and other television programs often give Ruthie a hilariously melodramatic view of life. The old adage that "little pitchers have big ears" is all too true.
Two other NBM volumes are reprints of Kevin Fagan's Drabble. Anyone who enjoys such films as Dumb and Dumber will find this strip worth investigating.
Drabble has never been one of my favorites, but it has improved over the years. The antics of the incredibly inept Norm and his equally obtuse father, Ralph, make teenage characters such as Archie Andrews look like Einsteins.
Norm is childishly naive and innocent although he is a college student, while the six year old Ruthie can often be as cynical a manipulator as any adult.
Every NBM book I have seen costs $9.95. This is reasonable, and I am glad to see more strips preserved and distributed in a permanent format. It is a shame that such classics as Right around Home have never been reprinted and are fading rapidly in memory.
-- Dr. Jon Suter
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