While not exactly original or brilliant, Joony Tuff's story has enough funny moments that a generous reader can get past the sloppiness in presentation to at least chuckle a few times.
Just as some shoppers are willing to forgive the high prices, limited business hours and other eccentric shortcomings of smaller retailers because they believe in the Buy Local philosophy, so too does my appreciation for underdog indie creators help me to happily overlook typos and awkward artwork and the like from comic books that are clearly "published" at the office printer or the nearest Kinko's. Joony Tuff's shortcomings with regards to "professional polish", though, are rather distracting and off-putting. From small problems like the baffling lack of question marks in such dialogue as "Why is it glowing" and "What's that" (made all the more puzzling and unintentionally comical by the fact that question marks do appear in every other such sentence; likewise, a word might appear misspelled in one panel only to be spelled correctly in the next) to more serious issues like tense switches or words being mistakenly repeated or omitted, Joony Tuff is a grammatical mess. However, while not exactly original or brilliant, Joony Tuff's story has enough funny moments that a generous reader can get past the sloppiness in presentation to at least chuckle a few times and not feel like their time was wasted in reading the book.
Bloodsaw's book is light comedy in the form of superhero parody. Now, superhero parody in 2006 has all the freshness and relevance of professional wrestling or pogs. It is not the genre to rely upon to demonstrate your brilliance as a creative mind, and this certainly isn't up to the quality of the superhero skewerings of writers like Garth Ennis or Warren Ellis, although we can hardly expect a novice writer to be in the same ballpark as industry giants. An October press release offers the following: "Bloodsaw subverts the superhero genre by eliminating the 'typical superhero fanfare' and replaces with an exciting, edgy take on the world. Described by Bloodsaw as 'Chris Rock on paper…'"
Well, maybe not. But, there may be a sort of Everybody Hates Chris quality buried deep in this story. The problem is that the voices of the characters are largely interchangeable and the story's logic isn't sound.
The plot revolves around the eponymous title character, Joony Tuff. And no, that's not his superhero name, that's his real name (there might be an origin story there... how messed up do your parents have to be to give you such a terrible name?). Joony is basically a dumb guy who gets some minor superpowers through a -- you guessed it -- toxic waste accident. As noted above, not exactly original. But Bloodsaw does manage to wring some humor out of this well-worn idea. Joony's less-than-impressive powers are the ability to administer taser-strength shocks through physical contact and, apparently, above average tolerance for alcohol consumption.
Yet Joony thinks that his life will suddenly turn around: "Everything will be smooth sailing. We'll have money, cars, and groupie whores." His friend (and manager) Goose is especially excited about this last amenity. Goose is ostensibly Joony's smart (well, smarter, at least) friend, but he often sounds just like Joony and serves little purpose other than to prompt Joony to explain minor plot points that have already been sufficiently established. In fact, there is a middling, dazed, redundant quality to much of the dialogue:
"The state board of streams only allows dumping at night. Stream germination is only at night." "He can be strange at times. It's hard to pinpoint his behavior at times." "I want a beer. How much for a beer… nice, cold beer. Nothing can beat a cold beer. After I finish this one, I'll have another cold refreshing beer."
It seems Bloodsaw is trying to establish the rather mundane, and frankly, stupid life of Joony, but unfortunately it becomes a bit too real at times for the reader.
Other characters and moments of dialogue come off much better, though. The execution of the scene may be a bit ham-fisted or obvious, but there's something funny about Joony trying to weasel out of saving a bartender from an armed assailant by saying "A situation like this might diffuse itself" when the robber is right next to him saying "I'm busting at the seams! Your (sic) gonna feel my wrath! This is it!" Then there's Joony's rival, the activist-minded superhero Ghetto Pain Man (although Bloodsaw's parody seems to be more than a bit dated when he gives the all the heroes "blank Man" or "blank Girl" names). Frustrated with Joony's idiocy, Ghetto Pain Man tells him "All aboard! Next stop for the fist express headed for Smart Ass's face!" Not exactly witty repartee. But Joony's thoughts -- "I only got a few seconds to shock him before the fist express arrives at the next stop... my face" -- amusingly goof on the stilted dialogue of some superhero comics.
While it has some laughs, Joony Tuff's troubles run deep, and Bloodsaw needs to work out a number of issues if he hopes to find a stable audience for this independent book, a tough assignment even for the best work. The story bounces around seemingly at random as Joony decides to join a superhero team, is rebuffed because he lacks a union card, decides to become a supervillain, then decides to get drunk -- all within the space of a few pages. The story lacks focus, and this manifests in the often stiff artwork and layouts with problematic pacing that do little to propel the narrative.
On the level of the story, Bloodsaw needs to update his parodic tendencies a bit. Many of the subjects he's goofing on have been trodden over before, and he needs to find his niche in the very large field of books mocking superheroes. Fulfilling his promise of a Chris Rock-esque edgy and urban riff on superhero comedy would be a good start. He misses a great opportunity with Ghetto Pain Man, who starts to say something about "deriving [his] powers from the social..." Inequality? Suffering? Anger? Well, we don't know, because Joony cuts him off. Ghetto Pain Man's activism could be a great source of comedy by presenting him as a self-righteous and pompous do-gooder who occasionally gets taken down a notch.
Among many wonderful Chris Rock quotes is, "A man is only as faithful as his options." Right now, there are many options out there for the discerning reader. If Joony Tuff wants to be taken seriously as one of those options, it needs to up its professionalism in both the arena of production and storytelling. There's enough in this one issue for, well, one issue, but David Bloodsaw will have to make some big changes if he wants to make this an ongoing series. As fans of the independent comic scene in general, we hope that he can do so.