Just to give you an idea of how screwy Fletcher Hanks’ YOU SHALL DIE BY YOUR OWN EVIL CREATION! is, consider the collection’s first story starring Tabu, Wizard of the Jungle. He’s like Tarzan, only with mystical powers. Anyway, Tabu’s trying his damnedest to rid his land of a group of slave traders. An earthquake didn’t quite cut it, so a sudden gust of wind blows them into a slimy pool, where they’re nearly killed by giant snakes (“Did you notice the size of those constrictors?” “Did I!!”).
Leaping across a gorge — yes, a gorge — Tabu shows up (“There’s the wizard who is causing this agony”). They threaten to kill him, so he immediately “makes a quick motion,” turning himself into a gorilla (“Oh, my soul!!”). That gorilla then becomes a “jungle tree vine,” crushing the men into oblivion. Says Tabu, “It’s the justice of the jungle.”
I mean, holy. Effing. Shit.
Was Hanks insane or otherwise mentally handicapped? Dunno, but as editor Paul Karasik points out in his meaty introduction, this was a man mean enough to kick his 4-year-old son down a flight of stairs. By all accounts, he was less than kind to others, so I have no qualms criticizing his less-than-competent work.
Of course, that’s exactly the point. As with Karasik’s runaway hit I SHALL DESTROY ALL THE CIVILIZED PLANETS!, the late Hanks’ work is being celebrated because of its inherent badness. Characters are out of proportion; stories make no sense. Yet they’re mammothly entertaining, as if Hanks was completely oblivious to his considerable limitations.
Unlike PLANETS, which focused primarily on two characters — superhero Stardust and mysterious jungle woman Fantomah — CREATION opens it up to those and many more, thus completing Fantagraphics’ collection of Hanks’ entire comics output.
Lumberjack Big Red McLane, King of the North Woods, returns with many more adventures, all of which simply involve him punching people. All problems are solved with his fists, and he’s concerned with little more than a flapjack breakfast at the end. Take a drink every time he hits someone, and if you’re in a frat, your chapter will be kicked off campus. Get a load of his mouth, too: “I don’t like the way you do business, and I don’t like your face!! I can’t change your business methods, but — I can change your face!! And how!”
In one of Stardust’s more notable adventures, aliens bore a hole to the center of the Earth, into which a chemical is inserted so that rocks will rain over Chicago. And the point is …?
However, Fantomah — she of the occasional floating, flaming skull — steals the show with what may be the single most unintentionally funny two-panel sequence in comics history. It’s not about what is said, but her keen sense of timing (not to mention that head):
Other featured Hanks characters with unwieldy names: Tiger Hart of Crossbone Castle on the Planet Saturn, Whirlwind Carter of the Interplanetary Secret Service, and “Yank” Wilson Super Spy Q-4. Were these monikers generated with spins of a wheel? With foes that look like the work of Basil Wolverton (were he stripped of talent) and plots that dare not veer from Hanks’ lone story template, these works are already parodies of themselves.
You’ll love how much you hate them; you’ll hate how much you love them. —Rod Lott
OTHER BOOKGASM REVIEWS OF THIS AUTHOR:
• I SHALL DESTROY ALL THE CIVILIZED PLANETS! edited by Paul Karasik