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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 196: Less Than Heroes

Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Less Than Heroes, which was published by Top Shelf and is cover dated 2004. Enjoy!

Making fun of Adam Sandler never gets old!

David Yurkovich’s Less Than Heroes is an oddball superhero comic, a celebration of the weirdness of superheroes and a satire of the seriousness with which mainstream superheroes are presented. This first page isn’t great, but it does give us a good idea of what kind of book we’re in for.

Yurkovich gives us a bland 8-panel grid, 2 x 4, with the final row really one big panel that he splits up. He doesn’t do this throughout, but as this is an introduction and acts as something of a “documentary” about Threshold (including the “slide show”), it makes sense to have a “steady” “camera” viewpoint, which Yurkovich does here. So we get the Cosmopolitan in the first two panels, giving us a sense of familiarity, before Yurkovich pulls back to show the galaxy, the Earth, Philadelphia, and the TLA (well, it looks like the TLA, but I suppose it could be any concert venue). These four panels form a fairly standard cliché of storytelling, going from the macro to the micro, but it’s not a terrible device. In the final two panels, Yurkovich once again establishes the Cosmopolitan, but he also shows the rest of Threshold, diminishing the Cosmopolitan in the process, which contradicts the prominence given to him in the first two panels and cuts his bombast down to size. Yurkovich’s stiff, quirky art is on full display here, but we don’t get a good sense of his design, which is quite excellent. He doesn’t really get a chance to show off – we see that the Cosmopolitan is a bit of a dandy, Meridian is a bit more earthy-crunchy, while Recoil and Mr. Malevolence have a bit more of a standard superhero look. Yurkovich doesn’t do much to move our eyes over the page – he’s counting on the standard grid to get us to where we need to go and our knowledge of how to read comics to do that for him.

Yurkovich does give us quite a bit in the prose, from the names of the characters, the group they form, where they are, and a bit about their personalities. The Cosmopolitan is obviously the arrogant bastard of the group, but he’s also rather funny, if his quips about Adam Sandler, Duran Duran, and his eligibility as a bachelor are any indication. Meridian gives us some crucial information – Threshold is a group of “non-union heroes,” which just sounds like it has potential to be humorous. Recoil and Mr. Malevolence get one dialogue balloon each, but Yurkovich makes them count, and we get quite a bit of their personalities from those short sound bytes. By the end of this first page, we have a nice if incomplete handle on what kinds of people the heroes are. Not a bad way to begin the narrative.

This page isn’t all that exciting, but Yurkovich does give us enough so we can decide if we want to keep reading or not. Of course, as we’ve seen before, the fact that this is a graphic novel (some of it was previously published, but I’m fairly certain this introduction is new to this collection) means that Yurkovich can take his time getting us up to speed, so he doesn’t need to hook us right away. He still does a pretty good job giving us a good idea of these characters, even if we don’t know much about the plot yet. Is it enough for the readers? Only each one of us can answer that!

Next: Well, I wish I could bring you some Good Milligan, but the randomness of the selection process brings us … Bad Milligan! Not Terrible Milligan, but still pretty Bad. Dang it. Find some good comics in the archives!

5 Comments

I think really bad lettering detracts from my comics experience worse than really bad art does. I can read and enjoy a well-written book by an artist I hate, like, say, a Dan Slott/Humberto Ramos Spider-Man issue, easier than I can adapt to the awkward lettering on this page. What does that say about me?

Elpie: I don’t think this lettering is too bad, but you’re right that awkward lettering can ruin a page. I don’t take it as far as you do, but it’s definitely something I notice. I don’t know if it makes you crazy or not!

Please don’t tell me that’s Comic Sans……

Hi Greg,

Thanks for the write-up for my little graphic novel. The introduction was originally a short published in an anthology called BLIP. I reworked it for the Top Shelf collection, and rewrote the script, replacing the hand lettering with a computer font. The rest of the book, as I recall, is hand lettered.

Best-
DY

David: No problem. Thanks for the information about the page – I always appreciate learning more about the comics I read!

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