Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Neil Gaiman's Mr. Hero: The Newmatic Man #1

Neil Gaiman's Mr. Hero: The Newmatic Man #1, March 1995, Tekno Comix
writer: James Vance
penciller: Ted Slampyak
inker: Bob McLeod
letterer: John Workman
colorists: Kell-O-Graphics, Zachary Lynch, & Tony Kelly
editor: Ed Polgardy

While I highly respect Neil Gaiman as an incredibly innovative and imaginative writer, I must call him out on his Mr. Hero, a steam-powered clockwork man from the raw industrial planet Kalighoul that is stored on Earth for years until discovered by a mime, Jenny, and her simple-minded but dedicated strong man companion. You, Mr. Gaiman, sir, have simply fine-tuned Baum's wind-up warrior Tic Toc, infusing the character archetype with an alien origin (not that Oz wasn't an alien land) and a definitively crude mechanical essence that stands in bold defiance of our world's sleek, modern technology. Writer James Vance structures this inaugural issue with typical comic book tension, building up the first full fledged appearance of its visually appealing title character until the final pages of the issue, showing off Mr. Hero's nobility and strength in a good, old fashioned exchange of fisticuffs with some thugs threatening Jenny. Even sans one of his hands, Mr. Hero takes out the thugs in short order, and interestingly, while his steam-powered nature contrasts today's concept of robotics, his gentlemanly nature seems to predate even his crude mechanics, making the clunky character one big, walking contradiction, which may be what Gaiman intended in the first place. Mr. Hero's other hand is still in his original benefactor's possession, an alien lizard king that will undoubtedly adopt one half of the creator versus creation in subsequent stories. Still, this issue manages to stand on its own as a satisfying read, establishing the origin of a unique hero and an even more unique relationship between this odd twist on Dorothy and her clockwork friend Tic Toc. Like I said, Mr. Gaiman, I'm onto you -- but I get it, too. Why reinvent the wheel, right?

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