365 Reasons to Love Comics #361
Today’s featured comic might jump out at you. Or something. Gosh, my intro gags are getting lamer and lamer. Oh well. Today’s star definitely isn’t lame! Except when he is on purpose. (Archive.)
361. Ambush Bug
(Well, it’s still the holiday season, so why not?)
Ambush Bug is a character– and title– that celebrates the ludicrous nature of the DC Universe and comic books in general. Created by Keith Giffen, he first appeared as a foil to Superman in DC Comics Presents, making subsequent appearances throughout the Super-titles. At last, he was gifted with his own mini-series, plotted and penciled by Giffen, scripted by Robert Loren Fleming, and inked by the great Bob Oksner. And boy, was it ridiculously brilliant.
The mini’s and one-shots the Bug starred in more or less tried to have something resembling a plot, but mostly dealt in the gag trade, from one-page riffs on old humor strips to silly Who’s Who fact files to guest appearances by pretty much every ridiculously obscure DC character. Heck, they even made jokes about the Green Team and Mr. A. It’s a comic book nerd’s wet dream and worst nightmare at the same time. Eventually, most of these solo runs completely destroyed the comics form. The name of the game was absurdism.
But oh, the characters that showed up! Cheeks, the Toy Wonder! Jonni DC, Continuity Cop! Quantis, the koala that walked like a man! Argh!Yle, Evilest of Socks! Mitsubishi, the pint-sized Japanese version of Ambush Bug! Even the creative team wasn’t safe from its own mayhem– Giffen and Fleming and even editor Julie Schwartz all got continuously roped into appearing. The fourth wall just didn’t exist in Ambush Bug; it punched holes in all corners of comics.
My favorite running gag? Combat Cheeks: Frontline Medic, in the vein of old EC Comics:
I also really dig Julie Schwartz’s Floating Head:
And the art? Amazing. Giffen utilized a wide variety of styles to tell the same joke over and over again (I kid, I kid); anime, Kirby, Atari, Golden Age comics, little kids’ art, old advertistments– everything. It’s probably Giffen’s best artistic work– totally a tour-de-force, though more likely a tour-de-farce.
I feel like I’m doing a woeful job of explaining Ambush Bug– but then, in its way, Ambush Bug is inexplicable. It’s simply the most insane comic book ever produced, and, at times, it’s a work of genius. The Bug hasn’t had a starring role in quite a while, but he’s made several cameos and a couple guest appearances over the last 15 years. If the rumors are true, Mr. Giffen may be returning to Ambush Bug next year! I hope so.