My copy of Matt Smith and Tom Pappalardo’s Famous Fighters arrived alongside perhaps the most unassuming press release I have ever read, addressed to “Dear Comic Book Reviewer/Blogger/Columnist/Ham Radio Operator/Innocent Bystander” and ending with the following plea: “Please review Famous Fighters for your publication/pseudo-publication/karaoke night.” Between this friendly introduction and the premiere issue’s title (“Situation: Armageddalypse!”), I was about halfway in love with Famous Fighters before I had even opened it.
Having since read Famous Fighters cover to cover, I would like to make two important notes before proceeding with my review. First, despite some uneven moments, Famous Fighters is a wickedly absurd and delightfully entertaining romp which more than proved worthy of my initial affection. Second, I have no idea why Smith and Pappalardo bothered to print it.
Famous Fighters #1
I have noted before that American culture, and particularly American youth culture, has in recent years taken a turn toward the surreal and the nonsensical. The young prefer their humor, especially, to be random and bizarre. But young America’s increasing taste for the odd seems to be directly proportionate to its decreasing attention span, which is no doubt why the Random movement came to prominence during the ever-growing influence of the internet. Indeed, at times it seems that the internet is composed entirely of barely comprehensible, blink-and-you-miss-it disposable memes and videos. One wonders what a future civilization might make of the early twenty-first century based only on briefly ubiquitous phrases like “All your base are belong to us” and “teh w1n.”
Meanwhile, despite my having not seen it for myself, I was frankly taken aback at the largely lukewarm and occasionally hostile reviews Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters received during its theatrical run. However, those harsh reviews probably stem from the fact that Aqua Teen Hunger Force is a product of and for the internet age; it is almost violently odd, and for viewers with a strong appreciation for the strange, it is quite charming, but only, perhaps, in small doses. Indeed, Aqua Teen Hunger Force would have arguably made more sense as an internet broadcast than a cable program, which brings us back to Famous Fighters, a quirky and often fall-down funny comic that should have never seen print, because the internet represents its best hope of finding a loyal audience. I love Famous Fighters, but it should be a webcomic.
Famous Fighters runs 54 pages, and few of its tales run more than one page. Most of them (also the best of them) concern a barbarian lord called, well, Barbarian Lord, who does away with villains like Skull-Master and then writes poems to honor his victory (“Greedy monk / Hoarding sheep / Fat and sleeping / Your time has come.”) The charm of these goofy gags is difficult to justify in a review. Suffice to say, I laughed aloud several times while reading Famous Fighters, and any pressure I feel to justify my love is lessened somewhat by its obscure Iron Maiden gags and its competing samurai battle cries (“Walrus scratched flabby bum!” “I am fat wet bum of receding hairline school!”)
We each have our own tastes and opinions, and generally speaking, I am willing to concede that each person’s opinion is as valid as the next. But when it comes to such verses as “The fallen man leaves sword and gold / It is good my arms are two”, you either love it, or you are wrong.