Sunday, February 10, 2008

Mac Afro: Sleeze 'N Crackers One-Shot

Mac Afro: Sleeze 'N Crackers One-Shot, August 2006, Atomic Basement Entertainment
writer: David Walker
artist: Rafael Navarro
colorist: Guy Lemay
letterer: Johnny Lowe
creator: Mike Wellman

Blogger's note: Entry for Friday, February 8, 2008.

I had the pleasure of shaking Mike Wellman's hand twice last year during his promotional tour of Star Trek: The Manga: Kakan ni Shinkou (which I reviewed here); though I was on the heels of his fellow writer/Trek contributor Wil Wheaton, briefly meeting Wellman also introduced me to his brainchild Mac Afro, whose adventure in this Sleeze 'N Crackers one-shot offers excellent insight into the complications of interracial space travel. Before I proceed, I should clarify that I completely endorse interracial space exploration; in fact, some of my favorite sci-fi characters are black. (I’m looking at you, Tuvok!) All I’m saying is, before we venture into the cosmic unknown and meet races from other planets, we obviously must attempt to conquer the differences amongst us on Earth.

Consider Captain Buck Trustwell. In Mac Afro: Sleeze 'N Crackers, Captain Trustwell befriends Afro for help traveling through the Mau Mau Nebula to confront the Starbuckian rebels that have kidnapped their virgin Princess Falopia. You’d think Trustwell would be grateful for Afro’s help, but when the Starbuckian forces get the drop on them and the going gets tough, the good Captain and his men let loose with a string of racial slurs, calling our hero everything from “porch monkey” to “jigaboo.” Despite a few casualties, they rescue the princess and make it back to the ship, where Afro’s undeniable charm wins the day . . . and Falopia’s “first time,” reducing Trustwell to tears. Didn’t anyone tell him that all’s fair in love and interstellar war?

This issue of Mac Afro is an excellent introduction to its character, if writer David Walker’s Shaft-meets-Buck Rogers interpretation is true to Wellman’s original intentions. I can understand Wellman’s inspiration for his contribution to the Kakan ni Shinkou anthology, which features Captain Kirk on trial for a crime so ambiguous that even the reader is left guessing the accusations. His phasers first, ask questions later mentality? His blatant (green) womanizing? Try all of the above, and probably one or two more crimes I’ve forgotten -- and while Kirk must defend his smoldering masculinity in the context of the 24th century, Mac Afro makes no apologies for his hubris. In fact, it seems to be his greatest asset, and while Walker’s decision to use hard-hitting racial slurs makes this story unavoidably controversial, Afro’s confidence in the face of Trustwell’s insecurities overpowers their potential to offend. Interestingly, aside from an initial disbelief, Afro doesn’t even comment on the name-calling and instead relies solely on his sense of self-preservation to conquer his obstacles, not to mention the girl. His attitude is a lesson to be learned by all of us.

I’d be remiss not to mention Rafael Navarro’s art, which is a perfect compliment to Mac Afro’s blaxploitation space romp genre. His style is obviously of the Kirby school, what with the “Kirby dots” accentuating Afro’s, er, afro, and his brushstroke balances the humor of this issue’s more sordid scenes with the seriousness of the characters’ galactic peril. The best part of Navarro’s contributions is this issue’s cover, as its rich blue and purple cosmos betrays a ‘70s grooviness within that seeming endlessness of space. Princess Falopia’s writhing bikini-clad body is really just a bonus. Gratefully, the cover is reproduced sans title on the back of this issue -- particularly for me because Wellman and Navarro were kind enough to sign my copy at the West Hollywood Book Fair.

Mac Afro: Sleeze ‘N Crackers might not be one’s first choice as a representative for Black History Month, but to me, it’s an excellent addition, if only to indicate what the future might be like for all of us. While traversing the galaxy doesn’t defeat Captain Buck Trustwell’s shallow racism, trekking the stars also keeps the likes of Mac Afro ironically well grounded, instilling in him a character that most men would love to be, and that woman would love be with. Indeed, this is one afro I’d pick any day.

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