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CSBG Archive

Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 210: Ambush Bug Nothing Special

Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Ambush Bug Nothing Special, which was published by DC and is cover dated September 1992. Enjoy!

Julius Schwartz: Greatest American of the 20th Century?

Keith Giffen, Robert Loren Fleming, Al Gordon, Anthony Tollin, and John Costanza’s one-shot from 1992 is hilarious on almost every page, and even though this page doesn’t feature a lot of Giffen’s idiosyncratic artwork, it’s a very clever way to introduce the theme of the book – namely, that Ambush Bug is looking for a job. I don’t really have much to say about this page. We might not get right away that “Irwin Schwab” is, in fact, Ambush Bug, but it’s not really all that necessary. Giffen implies that Bug is looking for a job with the résumé sign behind him, but we really don’t start to understand the joke until Page 2. This page is just for Fleming and Giffen to have some fun with the creators, who read Bug’s book about getting a job (the “lessons” from the book are listed throughout the book for comedic effect) and used its pointers to get jobs in … the comics industry. Well done, gentlemen! The bottom joke is at Julius Schwartz’s expense, as Schwartz had retired from DC at this point but was still a “Goodwill Ambassador” for the company. Schwartz – or his head, more specifically – is the villain of this book, hence his introduction.

If you’re not familiar with Giffen’s work, his drawing of A.B. is a good introduction. He makes his characters very angular, and he often crinkles up their faces like that to express sadness or displeasure. He always packs his panels with details, so even though Bug dominates this one, we still see the graffiti in the lower left, for instance. He also uses a lot of blacks, which makes Gordon’s inks thicker and adds more heft to the drawings. Giffen’s drawings always seem heavy, for lack of a better word – his artwork is always sturdy, even with today’s digital inking and coloring that often makes artwork more ethereal. Tollin obviously has to balance Bug’s green skin with some jaunty yellow and red, and so he does. Ambush Bug himself is looking toward the next page, so we’re off on his adventures with him!

I do wish this was a more exciting page, but that’s the way it is sometimes. The comic itself is hilarious, as Giffen takes shots at DC itself (a favorite target of Ambush Bug comics) and various popular culture scenes (Schwartz is Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs on one page). This first page gives you some idea of the kind of humor contained within, which isn’t a bad thing at all. (Here’s part of a page I posted on the old blog back in the day, just to give you an idea of what goes on inside. “The thing is done” kills me every time!)

Next: By sheer coincidence, it’s another very funny comic! If you want serious stuff, I guess you’ll have to check out the archives!


who is flem?

sorry, lapsus idiotus, forget about my question

Actually, Giffen’s artwork seemed to depend on who was inking the work. There was an issue of the Legion of Super-Heroes (I think it was an annual) where Giffen did all the pencil work but each chapter had a different inker. There were chapters that had all the blocky inkwork but there were also chapters that had a very light inking and could’ve passed for Steve Lightle or Jackson Guice (except for Giffen’s tendency to draw women’s faces with a pronounced roundness).

I think Larry Mahlstedt and Karl Kesel tended to soften Giffen’s pencils while Al Gordon went heaviest with the blocky patches and Bob Oksner seemed to be heavy but nowhere nearly as harsh as Gordon.

Ambush Bug could be an incredibly hilarious fun read but it always depended on who was inking Giffen.

His exploits with the Legion of Substitute Heroes in “DC Comics Presents” #59 is *THE* best AB story. Giffen only pencilled the cover with Mike deCarlo’s inks and he did breakdowns for the interior pages which were finished and inked by Kurt Schaffenburger. AB’s disbelief that he’s in the 30th century, his interaction with Infectious Lass (“I make people sick”) and Stone Boy’s slight miscalculation in attempting to capture AB (that alone is worth the money for the story–even if you’re picking it up in a collection) make for the best laugh-out-loud comic. (I still remember laughing so hard that I was in tears.)

My second favorite comic book series of all time. Of all time!

Best bit in the book is the ripping on Image with Bug and then the 9-panel grid that is just Scwartz’s head talking about who’s really in charge of a comic. Anything anyone wanted to know about bad 90’s comics is somehow captured in three pages. So much goodness here, and it’s still dirt cheap to get a hold of.

“The city broods…like some kind of brooding city.”

Rob Mansperger

August 1, 2012 at 8:43 pm

As much as I love AMBUSH BUG, I’ve always felt Giffen really hit a high note with his short-lived series THE HECKLER.

But this definitely reminds me I need to back and re-read all of Giffen’s AMBUSH BUG.

This also shows one of those very rare Giffen faces where the eyes are not completely obscured by shadows.

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