What Did I Learn?
This week’s review is on season one of the Smash Comic by Chris and Kyle Bolton, with Sarah Fenton on colors. It’s about a ten year old boy named Andrew Ryan who accidentally acquires some super powers from a big time superhero named Defender. That’s his hero. And it’s a bit distressing to him to be given a superhero name of “Smash” instead of something more heroic sounding.
I could talk about the comic’s pacing and how no moments are wasted story space. Or we could discuss the hilarious expressions with outrageously sized eyes and wildly contorting mouths or the exaggerated features of the characters with oversized jawlines and impossibly cartoony musculature. All of it contributing to the tone of the comic nicely, I might add.
Perhaps you’d rather examine the minimal backgrounds that suggest far more than the artist (Kyle) had to draw or the wonderful use of color that strikes a balance between being eye catching and distracting. Maybe you would prefer that we talk about the origin stories shown, the retired heroes and villains mentioned, the creative bat signal for our hero or the wonderful mad science machines.
So instead of considering those things, I’d like to talk about something that I found easy to overlook. If you peer closely enough, you’ll see that the comic uses pencil lines. It gives the art a just barely wispy sort of line that carries a huge amount of character. I’m not sure I can completely describe it but maybe I can show you. Try this out: Find a page in the archive with lots of panels or use the part of the page I included below. Look closely at the panel border lines.
You really couldn’t look at the panel borders, could you? They just can’t hold a candle to the organic pencil lines which, for all practical purposes, are in full, unstoppable motion compared to the digitally added border lines.
You just don’t see this much. Some comics have an unfinished line and some have a crisply digital line which results in purposefully sparse line or over polished work. The pencil gives an irregular yet fluid quality to the comic.
The second thing I wanted to discuss was about Smash’s weakness. All supers need them because they make for better stories. Like Smash, almost all of us have wanted to fly like a superhero at some point, even if it was only in our dreams. I found it interesting that Smash is afraid of heights. This provides an engaging ceiling, so to speak, for our hero which is better than Kryptonite. It’s something most of us can easily relate to and is something the character can always be challenged with.
Another thing every good super needs is a good bad guy. In this case, it’s Magus and he has henchmen with super gadgets. A true villain is rare, in my opinion. There are few that really do the job of the villain properly. Favorites of mine are the Kurgan, Zoltar, Vader and Hans Gruber, plus Syndrome, The Wicked Witch and Joker (but they go without saying.)
A good villain maybe gloats a little but doesn’t share all his secrets just to serve the needs of exposition. He plans and/or adjusts for events and the actions of the hero. He makes sure things will get done so his goals are me. And although some of his henchmen are bumbling idiots he is not and neither are his lieutenants. (Yes, yes, I keep saying he but included some female villains. Roll with it. It sounds better than they and less annoying than he/she.) Magus, in the little bits we have gotten to see of him, does these things without being artificially methodical or burdened with some obvious mental handicap which is important. A villain needs his personality weakness just like the hero does. Magus, despite being a bit impatient, would succeed without interference from Smash so he’s a credible threat worthy of a hero who is super strong and can fly.
And if you read any of the interviews, you’ll find out why Magus is really after Smash. It’s not revealed directly in the comic but it is hinted at in one panel. Perhaps it will be more fully explored in season two or later.
What Did I Learn?
I always find it surprising that such little things like a fear of heights or a smudgy pencil line separate a supers comic from being above average to being noteworthy. And a good villain will always promote a comic to a higher plane of respectability. It will be fun to see where the Smash Comic goes in later seasons.