Monday, April 16, 2007

More Glam than Amazon

Another dip into the Last Shortbox brings forth an unabashedly pseudo-intellectual (it says so on page one) comic which might have been an inspiration of sorts for the previously discussed Metacops.

Portia Prinz of the Glamazons #1
Eclipse Comics: December 1986
By Richard Howell

As the cover indicates, this was a revival by Eclipse of a small-press indie from the late seventies; I don't know how much of a "cult classic" it actually was, but I can easily see it following in the footsteps of Kurtzman's Little Annie Fanny, O'Donahue & Springer's Phoebe Zeitgeist, and strips of that ilk.

The Glamazons are immortal(-ish) men and women who hang out on an island they inherited from the "real" Amazons.
Like some idyllic planet in the original Star Trek, they seem to do a lot of lolling about; each resident is distinct and individual to the point of idiosyncrasy (a gossamer-gowned nymph, cowgirl, and cigar-chomping lady soldier mix and mingle) and making bad puns seems to be the common pastime.

Portia is the daughter of the current queen and an Atlantean scientist; she is smug, snarky, and the closest thing in the book to a superhero, since she thinks (perhaps rightly) that she is smarter and more competent than everyone else. Here is she with what passes for an uncharacteristic display of modesty:

The story in this first concerns several Glamzons being mystically abducted and dropped, respectively, into Dante's, Sartre's, and Milton's versions of hell. Portia, of course, goes on a rescue mission, travelling by astral projection:

(That kind of breaking-the-fourth-wall schtick happens all the time.)

Portia travels by turns to each literary hell, first visiting The Inferno with Beatrice and then dropping in on the trio of would-be lovers in No Exit:

In each case, Portia rescues the missing Glamazon, gets to show off her knowledge of letters, makes bad puns, and is pretty insufferable the whole time. While not as unlikeable as the new Ant-Man, she's definitely not a warm and fuzzy heroine. Besides actually being competent, her redeeming qualities include her grad school intellectualism, which in this case shows at least as much familiarity with the canon of Western Lit as the Metacops did with history. Her confrontation with Satan in Paradise Lost includes this exchange over the often-attractive-to-freshmen notion that he is the actual hero of the poem:

I'd love it if my students engaged with texts to that degree.

Anyway, Portia rescues the abductees and wraps everything up until the next adventure, the title of which is announced in the story's final pun: Seven Years before the Past.

I guess the title didn't catch my fancy enough to continue collecting it; the internets don't have much information on it but they tell me it went to at least five issues. Looking back on it now, it seems a little to cute for its own good, but still provides an entertaining read.

And quite a read it is: I don't know if it shows so much in the clips, but this comic has a lot of words in it. I mean a lot of words. Between exposition, plot, literary explication, and bad puns, this book probably contains as much text as a whole year's worth of any current mainstream monthly. If nothing else, you sure get your money's worth in reading time alone. As a capper, there's a text page "Secret Origin of the Glamazons" that seems to be printed in about six-point type!

Creator Richard Howell is currently editor of Claypool Comics and is producing a "vampire soap opera" called Deadbeats; he has done a significant amount of work for the major publishers and looks to have built a pretty nice career for himself. I don't know if there are ever going to be Glamazons for the new millennium, but I'd probably check them out if there were. In the meantime, this one stays in the Shortbox.


Richard said...

"I don't know how much of a "cult classic" it actually was..."

Well, I'm a member of the cult following for that book, so I can vouch that it has one. For something to be a "cult classic" may depend on either the size of its cult following (even if everyone in it goes around saying "wow, I thought I was the only person who liked that...") or someone doing a more successful or more mainstream work which is inspired by the cult work or pays tribute to it or something like that, thereby putting the earlier work on the cultural radar. The world is still waiting for that huge blockbuster success inspired by Portia Prinz, sad to say!

Anyway, I thought the book was pretty spiffy in each incarnation. And kudos on your panel selections: people will get a good idea from these whether or not the series would be to their taste. "Are you the embodiment of the perfection of the godhead?" "Now how do I answer that?" Either you find that incredibly funny, as I do, and you'll love the whole series...or you won't.

Anonymous said...

I remember owning that one. I may yet have it. I'm not sure I ever finished reading it.

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