Mark Millar's new hero is as simple as he is super.
Length: 32 pages
Writer: Mark Millar
Contributors: Rafael Albuquerque (illustrator)
Publication date: 2016-01
Hollywood-favorite comic creator Mark Millar has described his creation of Huck as his own “antidote to the antihero”, an interesting comment from the creator of famously off-kilter heroes like Hit-Girl of Kick-Ass and Wesley Gibson of Wanted. Ironically, however, the antihero Millar wished to correct with Huck was Superman.
In an article entitled, “How Man of Steel Traumatized Me so Much I Wrote Huck”, Millar described how he was inspired to write Huck after watching the film’s most infamous scene, where Superman, while trying to save a family, is forced to kill Zod by snapping his neck. The scene has drawn intense criticism from numerous fans and comic creators alike, including Superman: Birthright writer Mark Waid, who claims he yelled out loud in the theater upon seeing it. Millar says that while he believes Superman’s killing of Zod “made sense” within the film’s context, he was still disappointed to see such an action taken by the famously noble hero.
“This was Superman,” he wrote, “he could do anything he wanted and still chose to be nice. Superheroes always had an element of violence by their nature, but what separated them from Han Solo or Indiana Jones were their peaceful solutions to insurmountable problems.”
It was his desire for these feel-good heroes of old that inspired Millar to write Huck, a “Jimmy Stewart/Tom Hanks/Steven Spielberg kind of good-guy.” With Huck #1, Millar delivers on his promise, giving readers a warm, nostalgic story of a gentle “super” man who’d just wants to make people happy by doing good, and who would rather do it out of the spotlight.
The comic depicts Huck as a large and slow-spoken, but gentle and generous man working at a local gas station in a suburban town. He has garnered a reputation among the townsfolk as a secretive do-gooder, part of his personal mission to do at least one good deed every day. Even his name gives a hint of rural, countryside innocence and humility, evocative of Mark Twain’s classic Midwestern novel, Huckleberry Finn, while his manners are at the same time reminiscent of the strong, silent heroism of a character like Boo Radley in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.
In the comic’s opening, Huck hitches a ride on top of several cars and makes his way to an ocean landfill, where he dives deep into the garbage pile beneath the water to retrieve a shiny object. The next scene shows a young woman named Diane discovering her missing gold chain on her front steps, which she thought she had lost in the garbage. All the while, Huck watches contentedly from the bushes.
The next day, Diane visits the home of her neighbor, Mrs. Taylor, who tells her about Huck, the town’s little secret. She explains that Huck had been left on the doorsteps of the town orphanage, and was raised by the caretakers to do a “good deed every day”. Nobody knows where Huck got his abilities, only that he’s only ever used them for the town’s benefit. When Diane later asks why Huck doesn’t get rich with his abilities, Mrs. Taylor simply responds, “because some things in life are more important, I guess. Huck just wants to make people happy.”
Huck continues to perform his good deeds, including buying everybody’s lunch at a drive-through window and taking out the garbage for the whole town. After watching the news one day, he even ups the ante and travels to Nigeria to rescue the women kidnapped by Boko Haram. Huck hitches a plane ride and raids the terrorist camp, defeating the terrorists and freeing the girls. All the while, he maintains his manners, even telling the group’s leader to “take off his glasses” before punching him silly.
This scene proves to be particularly resonant in a post-ISIS world, and strikes at some of the core appeal of the superhero archetype: the fantasy of a single, powerful, decent individual making things right across the world. In the grief and strife felt in the wake of recent terrorist violence, what comic fan hasn’t imagined a superhero going in and stopping these attacks with the wave of a hand, whether in Nigeria, Kenya, Paris, or Sinai?
Part of the nostalgic appeal of Millar’s Huck isn’t just the old-fashioned heroism and mannerisms he embodies, but the innocent fantasies he invokes; those that molded the superhero genre in the first place. The very human wish that evil can be vanquished without a loss of decency and soulfulness speaks to the heart of Superman’s creation, and those “peaceful solutions to insurmountable problems” comic fans like Millar admire so much.
In the aftermath of Huck’s trip abroad, news reports around the world wonder at the mysterious figure responsible for the miraculous rescue. Seeing this on television, Diane determines that it could only have been Huck. Diane’s husband decides it’s time someone cashed in on Huck’s identity. Huck awakes the next morning to find a swarm of news crews outside his apartment window.
Huck #1 comes across as a delightful blend of two American icons: the superman and the humble man. Millar’s sequencing and storytelling gracefully and simplistically tell a story that proves touching in more ways than one, and Rafael Albuquerque’s beautiful artwork paints the story in a way that is as much Smallville as it is Mark Twain, right down to the smile on Huck’s face. Though brief, Millar and Albuquerque’s introduction to Huck hits enough nostalgic notes to earn one’s respect for their new, humble hero.
In presenting us with Huck, Millar doesn’t strive for another deconstruction of superhero fantasies, but instead reminds us of those fantasies, and why they’re still within us.