Opus Three:

1. Fan Satire

  1.     Fan Satire.  Fanboy is, of course, an in-group joke book. No one but a pretty hep funnybook fan can understand a lot of the gags. But the fourth issue ventures beyond in-group comedy. There's the usual crackling Mark Evanier verbal humor and the usual Sergio Aragones sight gags galore --the sort of shenanigans we've grown to know and love from Groo to shining Groo. Evanier makes us realize that there's something inherently wrong with a justice system in which plea bargaining works only if you plead guilty, and then you go free; if you plead not guilty, chances are, you serve time. (This is a contradiction in terms, aristotle--just in case you weren't watching closely.) And Sergio gives the running gag about the sleazy comic book store owner a visual boost by picturing the guy as a fat old fraud, bald except for frizzy hair around the edges, in the ever-present grease-stained T-shirt who eats junk food by the vat. (How many of these guys have you seen, and what do you think they're selling?)

But this issue gets down to business when it turns the spotlight on censorship. When Finster hooks up with Sgt. Rock and Easy Company, they visit a German town where the Nazis are busy burning books. The historical reference underscores the evil inherent in shutting down comic book stores because of parents who (always and for evermore in every time and place) disapprove of the things their offspring wear, do, listen to, and read. And a Fredric Wertham simulacrum shows up, too, in the person of Dr. Zensie ("zensie," Mark tells me, is German for "censor," German being Wertham's native tongue, which left him with a distinctly Teutonic accent, a fact that did not fail to excite some comment in the post-WWII era that Wertham was testifying in). Apart from its satiric edge, Fanboy is also an astonishing testament to the power of the medium that we accept so readily pictures by such realistic artists as Jordi Bernet and Russ Heath through which our hero Finster ambles in all his bigfoot finery (or bignose finery, to cite that part of his anatomy that is carefully preserved from each one of these Evaniverses to the other). Finster clearly "lives" in our imaginations whether in jail with Bernet's ghoulish cell-dwellers or on the battlefield with Heath's Sgt. Rock; and vice versa. Marie Severin's segment highlights Bill Gaines' testimony before the so-called Kefauver Committee investigating comic books as a cause of juvenile delinquency. Gaines is quoted exactly (if not extensively): "What are we afraid of? Are we afraid of our own children? Do we think our children are so evil and simple-minded that it only takes a story of murder to set them to murder?" I read this during the week following the slaughter at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, and the juxtaposition jolted. But even as our self-serving politicians race to enact legislation against being an adolescent, we must recall the rest of the Gaines Cautionary Tale: Evanier tells us the Comics Code Authority came into being after the Senate hearings, but he doesn't mention that, as a result of applying the code stringently, all juvenile delinquency disappeared from the land overnight. He doesn't mention it because it didn't happen. It didn't happen, probably, because comic books don't, actually, cause juvenile delinquency, so "cleaning" them up didn't eliminate criminal behavior. Not then, not now.

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