Hercules #1

William Gatevackes

Both Caliber and Hercules offer fresh takes on age-old concepts, but with mixed results.

Hercules #1

Publisher: Radical
Length: 28
Writer: Steve Moore
Price: $1.00
Contributors: Admira Wijaya (Artist)
US publication date: 2008-05

Caliber #1

Publisher: Radical
Length: 32
Writer: Sam Sarkar
Price: $1.00
Contributors: Garrie Gastonny (artist)
US publication date: 2008-05

Starting a new comic book company in this day and age is a dicey proposition. One way of getting your company off on the right foot is to publish a comic with characters or concepts that readers already know. This can be done one of two ways. One is to license a popular movie, TV show or novel. But the rights to these properties can be expensive and the rewards minimal. Another way is to scour the public domain for rights-free properties to adapt.

Radical Comics chose the latter for its first two offerings, Caliber and Hercules. Both offer fresh takes on age-old concepts, but the end result is mixed at best.

Caliber updates the legend of King Arthur, taking it from 6th Century England and transporting it to the 19th Century Wild West. Instead of an ancient wizard, we now have a Native American Shaman. Instead of the glory of Camelot, we now have a pioneer town in the Pacific Northwest. And instead of a mystical sword that can cut through anything, we have a mystical gun that never misses.

On paper, this update sounds intriguing, “can’t miss” even. However, Caliber's execution misfires badly.

The first issue of the five-issue series acts as many first issues do in these days of deconstructed storytelling. It is basically a prologue to the rest of the series. It is one big, needlessly padded info dump. And it is a clumsily written one, at that.

The dialogue is clumsy, the characterization is clumsy and the storytelling is clumsy. Events that need better explanation are glossed over and scenes that could be handled in one panel receive four.

Characters are not properly introduced. The Morgan le Fey character appears out of nowhere, sleeps with the Merlin character (a Native American Shaman named Jean Michel), and then their relationship is sort of explained in an excessively wordy, post-coital panel. When characters are well defined in the story, they are made to act illogically just to move the plot along.

The writing isn’t helped by the artwork. It appears that Garrie Gastonny’s pencils were digitally colored to give the illusion of painted artwork. The effect they are going for is a dark and mysterious mood, but the result is a murky and confusing mess. The characters are stilted and wooden and have a sameness about them. Being that this is a western and most of the characters are wearing very similar clothing, this adds to the confusion.

Hercules, however, succeeds where Caliber failed. Its first issue serves mostly as an introduction to the characters and their status quo, but does this task well and in an entertaining manner. And it takes Steve Moore and Admira Wijaya less pages to do it, to boot.

Caliber’s writer Sam Sarkar should take notes from Moore’s writing on this issue, because this is a textbook case of storytelling at its finest. He knows when to let the artwork tell the story. He knows how to present exposition in an entertaining manner. And he knows how to introduce a large cast in such a way that they all have easily identifiable character traits.

He is helped on art. All the characters have a defined, individual look. You can tell who’s who even when you can’t see their face. The reason for this might have to do with the fact that some, if not all, of the characters in the series were designed by comic legend Jim Steranko. They apply the same coloring technique here as they did in Caliber, but to much better effect.

Radical publisher Barry Levine states in an essay in the back of both books that he wants to publish stories that are not just good, but great. Well, he’s halfway there. Caliber is a muddled mess that turns the reader away, but Hercules is an exciting, if somewhat gruesome, tale which makes you really want to pick up the next issue.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.