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CSBG Archive

365 Reasons to Love Comics #362

Today: One of the most obscure-but-brilliant comics ever put out by the Big Two. (Archive.)

12/28/07

362. The Heckler

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The Heckler is another masterpiece from Keith Giffen, re-teaming with his Legion scripters, Tom and Mary Bierbaum. It’s one of the best comics of all time, and it’s also one of the most unappreciated. Canceled after only six issues, the title and lead character have fallen into limbo, but I remember it as one of the smartest funnybooks DC ever put out.

The lead character was everyday normal joe Stu Mosely, owner of a small restaurant named “Eats.” However, he also masqueraded as the Heckler, a wacky, wise-cracking crimefighter who turned out to be the least wacky character in his own comic. The series took place in Delta City, which I can only guess is the strangest fictional town in the DC Universe (Giffen’s Vext, another axed-after-number-six series, also took place there; I’ve got to track it down one day). Giffen and the Bierbaums introduced us to dozens upon dozens of Delta City residents, from supporting players to throwaway characters, including snooty artistic cook Mr. Francois, the sage, Elvis-esque Mr. Dude, evil crimelord Boss Glitter, and the Minx, who tracks down the men she’s dated who have broken the law and shoots ‘em dead.

My favorite, character, however, is probably John Doe, the Generic Man, who is a living experimentation with the comics form and a satire on your average super-baddie:

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“I have been unexpectedly shot in the head and fatally wounded” is one of the greatest lines of all time.

As you can see, the book’s quite dense. Giffen consistently utilized the nine-panel grid, which, combined with the art style he was using in the early ’90s, made the page incredibly crowded, but worth exploring. Gags abounded– running gags, sight gags, humorous witticisms, you name it. My favorite bits probably involved the sign outside “Eats” constantly being changed to the wrong rhyming word, or the adventures of poor, unfortunate Bushwack’r, the star of the fourth issue, who constantly tried to kill the Heckler whilst the hero was on patrol. Unfortunately for Bushwack’r, his plans or equipment backfired every time, leading to a hilarious running gag involving multiple trips to the hospital.

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Despite some neat in-house marketing, the book just didn’t take off, and it was canceled after six terrific issues, alas. I think the character’s had one cameo appearance since, which is a shame. The Heckler shall stand forever in my personal Hall of Awesome Obscure Characters Who Never Had Much of a Chance.

Here, have some more pages of the Heckler in action:

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God, what a ridiculous, but awesome comic, marvelously scripted and drawn to the hilt, if that phrase even makes any sense. Not that the Heckler would care. I’m glad to have discovered this comic. Hopefully, I’ve encouraged some of you to dive into your local quarter bins and seek it out.

For more on the Heckler and his world, visit this incredibly detailed entry at Comic Book Profiles!

15 Comments

John Doe, the Generic Man is now my new favorite comic character.

Pure genius

The first issue had a letter page (I can’t remember if it was fake but it seemed so real). Someone wrote in with memories of a Legion fan who used to dress up in the costume of his favorite character and read comics with his friends. When his character died, his pals booted him from the club on a technicality. I’m not sure if this would count as an urban legend but this story has haunted me from the day I first read it.

I loved the Heckler.

Great comic.

I love Keith Giffen’s art–his amazing body of work as a whole, but his inky, moody Munoz-inspired stuff most of all. Video Jack, his “Five Years Later” Legion, his nightmarish stint on Justice, oddball stuff like his Creeper Secret Origins story…He did some classic stuff in the eighties, but the nineties were such a prolific, wildly experimental decade for Giffen. Including this great series. If y’all don’t do Trencher next, one of the most visually experimental comics DC ever published, I’ll kick a puppy.

Mark, there actually was such a letter back in Adventure Comics 360.

Time Burke, Flushing, NY, wrote: “I and a few of my friends formed a Legion Club. Each of us took a Legionnaire and we agreed that no one could switch to another hero. I chose Ferro Lad, and when he died I was kicked out of the club. I had spent money on a costume and now it was all for nothing. If you can’t bring back Ferro Lad, at least tell me how to get back in the club.”

Weisinger’s response: “Try haunting the clubhouse as Ferro Lad’s ghost.” [Which makes sense of a sort as this was the letter column on Adventure Comics 355, 'Ferro Lad's Ghost'.]

Giffen is one of my 3 all-time favorite comics writers, and I don’t own The Heckler for some reason. I really need to get that series.

Heckler!

Hell yeah!

Can’t believe I almost overlooked this entry.

One of Giffen’s many, many gems.

If the Generic Man was intended as a spoof of Steve Ditko’s Objectivist comics he’s actually pretty funny.

Oh, I loved Heckler. I don’t think I knew (didn’t remember, maybe?) that it was set in the DCU.

i HATE it when one of the reasons is something i may never get to read. this looks amazing!

Thanks Ajit! I read that and for a brief, shining moment, I felt cool.

I’ve tried the first issue a few times and for some reason I can never get more than a few pages in.

Wow, I came upon this site because The Heckler is the one comic series that keeps popping into my head after all these years. Great book, I still have the promo materials too :)

The stupidity of this comic, seems like the inspired work of giffen in JLA or lobo. Absolutely awesome and sick ideas.

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