This Exists! is a semi-regular column about particularly strange, ridiculous, and/or obscure comicbooks I happen to have stumbled across.
I can't remember exactly where it was that I found Captain Awareness: Assault on Campus, but I know from the sticker on the cover of my copy that it only cost me 25 cents. It must have been years ago, since I'm sure I read it back when I first picked it up---otherwise it wouldn't be stored in a longbox but instead sitting in one of many growing piles of unread comics---but I have zero recollection of that initial reading experience. My assumption is that I bought the issue simply because it was cheap and looked sort of goofy, whizzed through it without much thought back in the day, and then stashed it away and forgot about it until it caught my attention recently while I was mining my collection for something new to write about.
In the space of only 36 pages, if your aim is to examine the innumerable causes and consequences of rape on America's campuses, you're going to have to trim the fat and get right down to it. That's what DeAngelo does, by having his characters speak plainly and directly about the topics at hand. It allows the reader to see things from many different angles, and get a fuller picture of all the ways rape can affect someone's life. It's not just Diane, Rick's most recent victim and the comic's narrator, whose life is dramatically and forever changed. Her roommate, Denise, is also deeply affected by the events, as are Denise's boyfriend Mike, new student Maria, and Rick's ex-girlfriend and previous victim Helen. That's a decent number of brand new characters to move through, and even if they aren't entirely three-dimensional, they at least have distinct attitudes about and reactions to the incidents of the story. Between them, they cover a lot of ground, so DeAngelo can discuss not only the mindset of rapist and victim, but those of the people around them, too, good, bad, and ugly.
The artwork is also noteworthy, though not necessarily for DeAngelo's pencils, which are serviceable but never amazing. What is pretty amazing is the line-up of inkers: George Perez, Gordon Purcell, Norm Breyfogle, Dick Giordano, and Jimmy Palmiotti, among others. Each of these recognizable and respctable industry professionals handles only a few pages worth of inking duties, but they all help to solidify DeAngelo's work and message. There are also some pin-ups in the back of the issue by the likes of Colleen Doran, Dan Jurgens, Trina Robbins, and Mike Wieringo, as well as Purcell and Breyfogle again, plus a cover by Phil Jimenez. And they're all nice additions to the Captain Awareness tapestry. Except, I guess, the first pin-up, by Alex Ross and Brent Anderson, which for some wholly inexplicable reason is of Winged Victory from Astro City. I mean, cool character to throw in there, and thematically related inasmuch as Winged Victory's whole deal is female empowerment, but still a weird choice.
|Colleen Doran delivers my favorite pin-up|
Did DeAngelo ever do anything concrete with Captain Awareness beyond this one issue? I don't know, and it doesn't really matter. The issue itself is a complete narrative, and an ambitious stab at dealing with taboo but important content. Not the greatest of creative triumphs, and not even the most effective, I don't think, strategy to employ in the fight against college sexual assault. Yet still a worthwhile and in many ways impressive effort from all involved, DeAngelo especially, since it is his pet project. He clearly put a lot of himself and those close to him into this book, and his bottomless concern and care comes through on every page.