But... how does his fur not catch fire?!

*Quote of the Day Dept:

The guys who edited [DC romance titles] were failed book editors, and the guys who replaced them were comic book geeks. So they basically threw away the idea of girl readers, which really pissed me off, because I like girls.”

-Howard Chaykin, discussing his experiences in the early ’70s comics scene, from a profile written by Philip Schweier at The Comic Book Bin. I also had no idea that Chaykin had provided character designs for the Heavy Metal animated film. Plus, news on upcoming projects - Black Kiss: The Prequel? (found at Tom Spurgeon’s)

Sky Ape: King of Girls

This is a new (as in, released last Wednesday) 48-page b&w pamphlet from AiT/Planet Lar. It’s actually the fourth Sky Ape book the company has released since 2001, though the character goes back even farther than that, having originated in 1997 as a miniseries at Slave Labor (eventually compiled with some other material into the first AiT trade). And boy oh boy does that not feel like nearly a decade ago; this stuff (creator-owned by four people: writers Phil Amara, Tim McCarney & Mike Russo, and artist Richard Jenkins) was getting started just a few years after I stopped reading comics regularly for a spell, and that really triggers the old memory.

Anyway, Sky Ape: King of Girls is a humor book, a bit reminiscent of Bob Burden’s Flaming Carrot in its mix of genre parody, non sequiturs, pop culture references, and character-driven humor. The premise (as it is) involves talking, jetpack-clad gorilla Kirk Madge (the Ape of the Skies of the title), as he and his friends strive to fight for justice or something. Plenty of details are available at the official site, though really none of them are needed - the focus here is strictly on laughs, and you can easily pick up all necessary character tics and traits from what’s provided in the book itself. In this particular adventure, dorkish Sky Ape associate Paper Bob finds himself attending a strange class taught by suave Derrick W. Williamson, intended to instruct loser guys on how to be irresistible charisma geysers. The central joke of the plot (as much as anything is ‘central’ here), and it’s a pretty good one, is that all of these sorry, nerdy outcasts immediately use their newfound abilities to exact women-hating revenge, never so much as blinking in their naked desire to remain just as ugly as before, but now ugly in a way that allows them to revel in guiltless self-absorption. It’s amusing, and just a little stinging, and I kind of wish the book had done a bit more with it.

However, this thing rambles all over the place, going wherever it thinks it can find some humor. Sometimes it's successful; a sequence with a well-groomed executive striding through his office and being welcomed by each and every one of his adoring underlings ("You got it, boss. Thank you for the salsa recipe!") is pleasantly over-the-top, culminating in the funny unveiling of the requisite office dork, drawn in a more caricatured style than everyone else, all big droopy eyes, shoulders hunched above his gourd-like torso. Jenkins’ visuals do good work with such dissonance, his lines clean and attractive, minimal but effective; there’s not much in the way of action or visual fireworks here (I noticed that, apart from the introductory page, Sky Ape never actually uses that jetpack he wears at all times, which is sort of funny in itself), but the characters are efficiently rendered and pleasing to the eye.

But the problem with loading a book with constant comical digressions is that, detached from the central premise and unable to feed off of its strength, some of them have a better chance of falling flat then they otherwise would - and so it goes here. A solid 13 pages are eaten up by bouncing around with a bunch of unsuccessful superheroes, an awful lot of the humor dependant on the reader finding the powers and/or career trajectories of these characters inherently amusing, and more often than not the gags fell flat for me. Worse still are the incessant pop culture citations, many of which are getting decidedly advanced in age; Teletubbies v. Jerry Falwell jokes? Alanis Morissette can’t sing jokes? Apparently, the very idea of the band America considering a reunion tour is comedic, as is the mere presence of Ben Folds showing up to play the piano in a sewer. I guess I just don’t think the isolated notion of Elizabeth Taylor making a cannibal film is all that funny on its own, but these quick bursts of reference are scattered all throughout the book.

Still, there’s certainly some laughs here for your $4.95, and it’s largely a good-natured affair. I'm not sure what the previously established mood of Sky Ape has been, but I was left wondering if maybe the book’s sometimes strained attempts to be random and unpredictable in its gags acted as more of a detriment than anything else, at least when made to the extent as seen here; I liked the premise, and I liked what ultimately rose as the predominant story, and the other bits weren’t successful enough to serve as much more than distraction from what I was enjoying. I'd have liked to enjoy more.