Heroes Never Rust #30 by Sean Ironman
I hate writing intended for an audience of writers. Writing becomes insular and blocks new readers from experiencing work. The comics industry has been guilty of becoming too insular as well, especially in the ‘90s. Yet, sometimes, creating art for people who already enjoy that art can lead to some interesting places. Throughout the past few decades of comics, characters from DC Comics and Marvel Comics have joined forces. First, Superman and Spider-Man met,
and from that point on, many more combinations were made. If readers thought it was cool that Batman and Superman fought crime together, two characters from different universes doing the same was even cooler. In the 1990s, Marvel and DC went a step further. Multiple characters from each universe met and fought, and in the end, instead of going their separate ways (at least right away), the Amalgam universe was created.
The Amalgam universe was just that, an amalgam of the two “regular” universes. Two characters were combined in order to create one new character. For example, Batman and Wolverine were combined to create Dark Claw. Orion and Thor were combined to create Thorion. Iron Man and Green Lantern made Iron Lantern. But, the new universe went even further. Instead of just having the characters be combined for an issue or two, have an adventure together, and then part ways, Marvel and DC created Amalgam Comics, a comic company that published stories from the Amalgam universe. It wasn’t a real company, just something they created to have fun for a short time. Then, they published one shots of the characters as if they regularly published those stories. The comics even had a fake letters page at the back with mail from fake people writing to complain.
At the time, I bought a few of the Amalgam comics, and many were interesting. Lobo the Duck was my favorite. Lobo the Duck was a combination of the wise-cracking Howard the Duck from Marvel Comics and the bounty hunter Lobo from DC. It was the most ridiculous pairing of characters, which actually fit those ridiculous characters. It made sense in that it made no sense. The comic was just plain fun.
The single issue begins with Lobo waking up to realize that Manhattan had been destroyed. Lobo the Duck had been hired by the heroes of the Amalgam universe to help stop a bad guy. That all happened, according to the issue, in Giant Sized Bat-Thing #69, even though there was never a Giant Sized Bat-Thing #69, or any other Giant Sized Bat-Thing issue. Back then in comics, when something happened in a previous issue, it was basically footnoted. An asterisk would be placed next to the exposition, and then in a separate panel would be “See whatever issue it was.” Lobo the Duck refers to many more fake comics, such as Lobo the Duck Magazine, Bonghunters Special, and, my favorite, The Savage Sword of Lobo the Duck.
The fake comics and fake universe are a lot of fun here because the self-awareness of Howard the Duck has carried over to Lobo the Duck. At one point, two characters are introduced just to be killed by the villains of the story. One of the characters says, “We work in the labs, but we’re no scientists, so we don’t get any special character treatment . We’re just working-class stiffs created on a whim! Patsies who’ll be rubbed out after a few brief panels of life—just to emphasize how bad the bad guys are!” Later, when no characters are left to help out Lobo find the villain, he threatens his own reflection in the mirror to talk, which works and sends him to the villain’s lair. It’s silly, but the comic never takes itself seriously so it works.
Also, the villain’s name is Gold Kidney Lady, who says to her crowd of kidnoids, “All evil in the universe can be infallibly traced back to improperly functioning kidneys! For is it not written, ‘Filter not the impurities, and yea shall suffer, yea, even unto the seventh generation?’”
The comic ends on a cliffhanger, with Gold Kidney Lady using her Gravitoninoutometer to pull the moon to Earth. Of course, there is no follow-up issue so we’ll never know if Lobo the Duck is able to save the day. Amalgam comics suffers from its own success—the characters are wild, fun, and interesting so I would have loved the idea to last much longer, but the very reason the characters are interesting is that we get this brief glimpse into their world and the writers are able to go all out, which is something that rarely occurs when a story needs to last. Hopefully, one day the companies can work together on a short follow-up. I want more adventures of Lobo the Duck, and possibly an issue of The Savage Sword of Lobo the Duck.
Sean Ironman is an MFA candidate at the University of Central Florida, where he also serves as Managing Editor of The Florida Review and as President of the Graduate Writers’ Association. His art has appeared online at River Teeth. His writing can be read in Breakers: An Anthology of Comics and Redivider.