[1 June 2006]
Issue nine of Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane features a guest appearance by Pat Boone in what is sure to be a spine-tingling adventure entitled “Superman’s Mystery Song.” Apparently Boone’s written a can’t miss song about the Man of Steel, and a very worried Superman exclaims on the cover “I’ve got to use all my super powers to prevent it from becoming a hit.” The cover doesn’t specify if he plans to use heat vision or his high-up political connections to suppress the song through the sort of Clear Channel conspiracy that crushed the Dixie Chicks, but one thing’s certain—this is now officially only the second worst idea in the history of comics.
Give top honors to the new series Super Bad James Dynomite. This is the comic book for anyone who saw Don’t Be a Menace or Scary Movie and thought: “The people responsible for this film should definitely branch out into as many other media as possible.” In other words, nobody. In two media where most executives seem obsessed with copying what’s been successful before it’s amazing that projects like Super Bad James Dynomite—a parody of ‘70s blaxploitation films—keep getting greenlighted.
I would think the hope of a successful parody in this style would have died with the release of Pootie Tang, when writer Louis C.K., one of the most intelligent and original modern comedic voices, failed miserably at making the idea funny. Who would think the minds behind White Chicks would be the ones to finally strike comedy gold, and in comic book form no less?
Apparently the folks at IDW who agreed to distribute the idea in a partnership with the Wayans’ own 5-D Comic line. The format of Super Bad James Dynomite is weirdly similar to the old MAD Magazine movie parodies, complete with the magazine’s trademark “every character in every panel gets a one-liner” comedy style. The main difference is most of James Dynomite’s punchlines are “mothafucka”.
James Dynomite is the parody of Shaft MAD would have attempted in the ‘70s if the magazine had suddenly switched to an X-rated format and the white writing staff had been unforgivably racist. Oddly enough, the comic’s similarity to MAD Magazine back issues is its best asset. Robert Reed and Darren Huang’s Mort Drucker-through-CGI illustrations are actually more charming than anything else in the book. The smiling sun, the befroed Marlon Wayan’s caricature as the title character and the fist-raising Statue of Liberty actually made me smile, which is more than I can say for any of the book’s writing.
But comic books are not the best medium for the Wayans’ body-fluid-intensive brand of comedy, though they never stop trying. In the issue’s 32 pages, the reader is treated to a huge foreground drawing of a pile of dog shit and not one but two different piss stream shots. Unlike scenes from the Wayan’s films such as the firehose-like explosion of semen from Scary Movie James Dynomite’s more disgusting humor doesn’t work because it’s too mild.
Garth Ennis proved in the Preacher series that gross-out humor has a place in comic books. In order for a cartoonish comic panel to be shocking enough to be humorous, though, the image has to be so over-the-top it could never be shown in a more realistic medium such as film. So the redneck in Preacher masturbating with the wriggling fish he’s caught is ridiculous enough to draw a laugh while James Dynomite peeing on a dog after he’s stepped in a fresh pile only looks like something an eighth grader drew to make his friend laugh in detention.
Ultimately, Super Bad James Dynomite fails for the same reason the movies Pootie Tang and Undercover Brother failed: most blaxploitation films are basically parodies themselves. When the genre you’re spoofing includes films like Blackula and Petey Wheatstraw, in which the title character’s twin brother is a watermelon, what’s been left to poke fun at?