Monday, February 18, 2013

This Exists!: The Great Grimmax #0 & Splatterball

This Exists! is a semi-regular column about particularly strange, ridiculous, and/or obscure comicbooks I happen to have stumbled across. 

One of my continuing comicbook collector missions is to acquire everything Defiant Comics ever published. It's not that vast a library, since the company only existed for about two years, but they're somewhat elusive books. Defiant was founded by Jim Shooter after he had already been ousted as editor-in-chief of both Marvel and Valiant. It appears to have been sort of a vanity project for him, with his name being attached to nearly every project as at least creator and editor if not writer as well. And though they don't tend to be comics of the highest quality, I find them uniquely interesting and would love to someday own them all. They tend to have some genuinely good ideas, but with storytelling that's half-hearted, obvious, and/or absurd, so the results are often unintentionally amusing. I like that, and I want more of it in my life.
     My introduction to the accidentally-funny world of Defiant was Splatterball, which I picked up and skimmed at a sale just because of its cover. It was only twelve pages long and seemed colorful and strange, so I figured it couldn't be that bad, and it was cheap enough that I ended up buying it.
Then I read it, and it was awful. But fun awful, the kind of lighthearted, marshmallow-level material that doesn't take itself seriously enough to even be worth ridicule. It's empty calories, primarily a means of introducing readers to a few aspects of PLASM, the planet that was meant to be a major setting in the greater Defiant continuity. The plot is flimsy, because it wants to be character-based, yet all the characters are two-dimensional (at best) and mostly unlikable. But the comic doesn't even seem to be trying for a decent plot. The whole thing is an ad for other comics, a giant finger pointing out a few almost-interesting elements of PLASM. See? The sports on this planet are brutal! or FYI, the government is super corrupt. It's not even numbered as Splatterball #1 because there was never any intention of publishing a second issue. It's promotional material, basically, but I didn't pick up on that until I'd finished reading it.
What there is of a story centers on the championship game of Splatterball, an event that means a lot of violence on the field and gambling on the sidelines. Various forces of evil try to rig the game and control its outcome for their own greedy intentions, but star athlete The Great Grimmax is skilled enough to squelch those plans and claim victory in the end. A shallow victory, though, because it means the death of his entire team and the one they were playing against. Grimmax, the only survivor, is also the only player who ever seems disturbed by the murderous nature of the game, but he still plays to win.
     Lucky for him, in his own book, The Great Grimmax  #0, he has escaped PLASM and is living on Earth as an earnest and naive bicycle delivery boy. Ostensibly this zero issue was intended to introduce the character so that a series could then launch in which he was the star, but according to the Internet, no such series ever existed. It's not hard to see why, because he's a bit robotic for a leading man. His lack of understanding of human behavior is so extreme, it makes it hard to believe that he'd even have a delivery job. And while his dialogue represents total honesty and kindness, he's pretty quick to start throwing punches when cornered. That's too many incongruous details for an eight-page character introduction, and certainly doesn't make me want to read more.
So Grimmax's first and only solo adventure was that of delivering grapefruits to a rough part of the Bronx, and inadvertently teaching one of the local street hooligans a valuable lesson about the importance of life. It is the after school special of sci-fi superhero stories, complete with forced dialogue and a hamfisted delivery of the ultimate message.
But again, as bad as this is, it's a kind of bad that makes me happy. I chuckle at almost every line Grimmax has, not in spite but because of how unrealistic it all sounds. When you pass a certain threshold of awful, you reach a zone of comedy, and both of these books sit there comfortably.
     So I started snatching up other Defiant titles after reading these, not expecting quality material but still hoping for enjoyable experiences. Some of what I've found has been better, and some of it has been even worse, but it all hits that sweet combination of decent concepts and poor execution that makes for fun, funny, easy reading. Sometimes you gotta wade through the muck so that the oasis seems even sweeter. Splatterball and The Great Grimmax #0 both remind me what junk comicbooks look like, so I can more fully appreciate the great ones that share my longbox space with these weaker issues.

No comments:

Post a Comment