Friday, 27 October 2017

FIGHTING AMERICAN - SENSATIONAL SUPERHERO OR COPYCAT CLONE?


Images copyright TITAN COMICS

Let me say from the start that I'm a fan of the SIMON & KIRBY team - for the most part anyway.  However, I'm slightly puzzled by the esteem in which some of their comics are held, because not all of them were winners.  FIGHTING AMERICAN is one of those that didn't overly impress me when MARVEL released a hardcover collection back in the '90s, mainly because S&K failed to explore the interesting premise of one man's mind in another man's body (his brother's).  It's done and then it's over with, and aside from setting up the 'revenge' angle motivation of the hero, is never exploited in the way that it should've been.

There's some nice artwork in the original 7 issue series, but once it switched to 'satire' (as S&K later described it), it lost any promise it might've had.  In fact, 'satire' is too high-falutin' a word - 'comedy' is a better fit.  Trouble is, all that did was give the impression that JACK & JOE weren't taking the character too seriously, and if they weren't, then why should the readers?  It's been said that distribution problems led to the failure of the title (and that may well have been a factor), but I suspect the main reason was simply that the strip was too lightweight to win the affection and loyalty of comicbook buyers.

We also have to remember that, essentially, FA wasn't much more than a CAPTAIN AMERICA clone, and as the good Captain himself wasn't doing too well at the time, it was probably a tad optimistic of the creators of both strips to imagine that a copycat character would do any better.  To me, Fighting American (and also BOYS' RANCH) are two comicbooks that initially showed potential, but never quite delivered.  Those who read the mags back in the day might disagree, but that's to be expected.  After all, the comics people read as kids represent their childhood to them, which is precious, so obviously they're going to view them in quite a different way.

I should perhaps emphasise (given the vehemently negative way in which any observations or criticisms emanating from me are viewed by a small band of detractors), that I'm not saying Fighting American and Boys' Ranch were bad comics - they were perfectly competent and professional, entertaining even (to a degree) - but they just weren't out-and-out knockouts, despite the way history sometimes appears to have been 'rewritten' to suggest otherwise.


Which brings us to TITAN COMICS' new title, resurrecting the hero for a contemporary audience.  Writer GORDON RENNIE kicks off by transporting, via time travel, FA and SPEEDBOY from the '50s to modern-day America, thereby increasing the already blatant similarities to Captain America.  Just like STEVE ROGERS, NELSON FLAGG is now also a man 'out of his time', in a 'world he never made', and it'll be interesting to see if the comic travels along similar lines to its Marvel rival.  DUKE MIGHTEN's art is a little caricaturish in places, and his faces on Fighting American are downright ugly at times, but his action sequences are effective and his sense of storytelling is clear.

It's interesting to see that letterer SIMON BOWLAND gets a cover credit, but as he uses computer fonts I'm not convinced it's justified (you can bet the Anti-Robson League Quartet will put that down to sour grapes on my part).  However, the lettering is competently executed, its placement doesn't obscure anything vital, and it does just exactly what lettering should do, no more, no less.  There's a mistake that the editor should have caught and corrected (seeing as how the letterer missed it), but those 'in the know' will be aware of my assessment of that particular individual's 'ability' and (more importantly) character, so there's no need for me to go into that here.

In conclusion, the comic isn't a bad read and shows promise, though I'm not sure that Fighting American as a hero is a big enough attraction for me to continue with the series.  However, I'm certainly not going to try and talk you out of giving it a try if you're so inclined, and it's certainly an intriguing plot line that should engage your interest.  One thing the creative team should do in the future if the comic proves popular is explore the psychological aspects of having one man's brain in another man's body.  What's it like to look in the mirror and see the reflection of your dead brother staring back at you?  What's it like to look at 'your' hands as you perform some task, and not recognise them as the hands you grew up with?  What happened to Nelson Flagg's own body?  Was it disposed of, or does it live on, in suspended animation, in case Nelson's mind should ever need returned to it?

There's potential in those unexplored questions, and I hope the creative team decide to eventually delve into them and forge some interesting stories around them.

******

(Just this moment occurred to me dept:)  Ooh, this is a good one.  What if Nelson's mind wasn't actually transferred into his brother's body, only a simulation of Nelson's brain patterns?  In effect, Fighting American is only a second-generation copy of the original.  After the transfer, Nelson revived and was kept a secret prisoner, so as not to give Fighting American an identity crisis - it was better if he thought he actually was Nelson, not an artificial simulation.  Eventually, the real Nelson was brainwashed into forgetting who he was, given a new name and released, and relocated by the government to where he and FA were never likely to meet (just in case).  Now, in modern-day America, Nelson, an old man and with his memory returned, sees that the simulacrum in the body of his brother is back - what happens next?  (Hey, I'll expect a credit, guys!)     

Spot the lettering mistake 

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Never mind Fighting flippin' American - it's the 40th anniversary of Savage Sword Of Conan monthly No.1 - where's your post celebrating this fact, Kid ?

Kid said...

Never mind Savage Soppy Sword Of Conan monthly #1 - where's your comment responding to the specific subject of this post, CJ?

TC said...

There may be a sort of party line among comic book historians that anything by Simon & Kirby must be considered a masterpiece. Nobody wants to admit that he can't see the emperor's new clothes.

Kid said...

I think that's true in the case of the newer generation of historians, TC, but I think it started from older historians who read these comics as kids remembering them through the rosy glow of nostalgia. Over time, their opinion became established as the 'official' one.

-3- said...

I'm a huge Kirby fan. He's one of the Ones who inspired me to become an artist, and enough of an obsession that i did 100 King Kirby posts in August to celebrate his 100th birthday.
And that said, in my opinion you're quite right. Fighting American always felt like sub-par Simon & Kirby to me. It almost feels like they both felt he was a cheap imitation and didn't really have their hearts in the character.

Kid said...

Rip Jagger also posted 100 posts about Kirby - you and he aren't the same person, are you? Yeah, I consider myself a huge Kirby fan as well, but I'm selective. I don't think everything he ever drew (especially near the end of his career) was brilliant, nor do I believe (like some of the more rabid fans) that his work should've been printed from his pencils. Inkers like Wood, Sinnott, Colletta (ooh, controversial), and others, gave his work something it didn't possess on its own.

-3- said...

Nay. Rip was a little smarter than i over at the Dojo. He gave himself more time - mine were all in the month of August, so for about 3/4 of the month it was 4 posts per day. A bit more brain melty.
And you're right again - not everything can be brilliant, even from a Master like The King. And frequently he was best when paired with the right inker for the job. Those who think his work should have been printed from his pencils usually aren't really looking at how he indicated blacks, for one thing. Much of it would look weak without the inks he knew would follow his pencils. Either that, or he would have had to cut his output and spend far more time preparing the pencils to run without inks.
Some of his works would be great from the pencils, and the pencils are terrific to appreciate and study, but they're usually unfinished - intentionally so.

Kid said...

Can't disagree with any of that, so we're of a similar mind in that regard. I'm not used to people being in agreement with me - it's nice, but disconcerting. Never mind, there's bound to be something we'll (amicably) disagree on. Hey, isn't that nice Mr. Trump a great president...

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