Reign of the Adequate Man… Part 1: When no other hero will “do”.

The year was 1997 and I was cruising around “Downtown Neon Saturday Night”, one of the approximately eighteen hundred million arts festivals that my hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana holds every year right around the red riverfront.

I was looking fantastic, thanks for asking.

As the sun began to set, I stopped at at one of the many quioscos set up all around the streets and struck up a conversation with one of the guys behind the counter. When I asked if he was an artist (a stupid question if you’ve read down this far) he confirmed that he was, indeed, and introduced himself as Michael Phillips.

“Michael Phillips!” I exclaimed. “Are you… did you create… are you the guy who does Adequate Man?”

The young guy’s eyes got as wide as they might have if I had said “FBI. I need to ask you a few questions.” He paused, shook his head and said “Yes. Wow, you’ve… read Adequate Man?”, his surprise beaming out in every direction. I’m pretty sure he was looking for candid cameras. “How did you like it?” he asked.

“It was adequate.” I responded… and we both dissolved into laughter that nobody else around us quite understood.

Flash back a few months prior to sometime in the Year of our Lord, 1996. The place was a comic shop that went (and still goes) by the name of Excalibur. Checking out with my weekly stash I saw a small rack near the register advertising Adequate Man, a comic written and illustrated by a local artist named Michael N. Phillips. When you’re already flushing down a mortgage worth of cash on the gridded page each week, what’s an extra two bucks? So I added Adequate Man to the stack and rode my Batcycle on home.

The truth is that Adequate Man was more than “adequate”. It was just short of hilarious, every page an understated, deadpan comic gem with a simple story and art style that, together, chronicle the “adventures” of the city’s most super of heroes. He’ll do.

The title character is ostensibly a superhero named “Adequate Man” (hence the title), who wears a remarkably utilitarian costume and has a hilariously practical method of solving every conflict he comes across. When a bank robbery is in progress, most superheroes would knock the thieves out with one punch each. Adequate Man on the other hand, simply lets the air out of their tires or locks their keys in the car until the police show up. When his methods are questioned he flatly responds “That’s good enough.” When he sees a house on fire, does he break open a water main or blow the flame out with his super breath? No. He calls 911 and lets the professionals handle it.

While his costume and physique are adequately “super” in nature (though he possesses no “real” superpowers), “The Adequate Mobile” is no Batmobile. Instead, the hero drives around in a black Volkswagen Beetle with his “A” symbol emblazoned on the front of the car. “The Adequate Mobile got me here fast enough.” he far-from-enthusiastically explains.

Of course, one may question the greatness of a comic featuring a guy running around doing exactly what you would do in any given crisis, but that’s part of the charm of Adequate Man. “That was good enough.” and “That was adequate.” are the closest things to catch lines we get. This comic fits right in with hilarious superhero parodies like The Tick and The Venture Bros. However, it is also fair to ask the question of how Adequate Man would do against an actual supervillain with real firepower. I’ll let the final pages of Adequate Man #1 speak for themselves on that score.

The first issue also contains a backup feature that features an anthropomorphic rabbit and rhino engaging in a borrowed joke (one of the few unoriginal things in this comic), but the superhero “action” is hilarious. Phillips is a fine artist, but, much like South Park, he tends to go for a minimalist approach, taking a genre and medium known for its rich color and action and turning it into a flat, black and white celebration of negative space. After all… that is… adequate.

Phillips followed up Adequate Man #1 with Adequate Man #2 in 2000 and Adequate Man #3 in 2003, figuring that a new issue every three or four years would be adequate.

What did the future hold for Michael Phillips and Adequate Man? And just who IS Adequate Man anyway? Click onto the next exciting installment of To Be Continued… and find out more about all things comics… from the big stars to the ultra independents… there are no inadequacies here!