Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Book-A-Day 2010 # 139 (6/22) -- Doctor Gorpon by Marc Hansen

It must be a sad and dispiriting thing to be one of the forgotten wild men of comics. Marc Hansen was one of the grand oddballs of the '80s and early '90s, carrying most of the Now Comics company on his back with his fever dreams of suburban hysteria and bizarrely naked power fantasies, all drawn in an energetically detailed and deformed style that owed more to Big Daddy Roth than to anything in comics proper (though there's some influence from the wilder reaches of Mad Magazine and the I-can-do-anything spirit of the first wave of undergrounds). His Ralph Snart Adventures was one of the top sellers of the indy scene, a book with unlikely appeal for both jocks and art-nerds.

But then Now imploded -- repeatedly, as far as I can tell from this distance -- and Hansen's career turned out to be far less portable than one would have though (for whatever reason). He's been mostly silent for the decade and a half since then, another example of the artist who retroactively turned out to have been of a moment in time.

I came across this collection of his Doctor Gorpon mini-series -- published by Malibu in 1992-1994, though the pages are dated 1991 -- recently, in a trade paperback published by the 2004 incarnation of Now. I remembered liking Hansen's stuff, but wasn't sure how much of that enjoyment was due to my own youth and love of the bizarre. (I'm harder to please now; that happens to a lot of us as we get older and more familiar with the usual tricks.)

Hansen's work always had more energy than sense, throwing a pulpy plot momentum on top of equally pulpy (though frequently deranged) characters and scenarios, and Gorpon is no exception. The main character is a musclebound, possibly insane and definitely monomaniacal monster hunter, obsessed with popping the heads off rampaging creatures and tossing those heads into his Pit of Paranormal Ooze. The characters scream their lines most of the time -- though those lines are often also very long and convoluted -- and the violence is tempered primarily by Hansen's overcomplicated drawing style and reflexive massive deformity. (If everything is bizarrely disgusting, then a few popped heads don't matter that much.)

The plot is craziness on toast, with Gorpon facing off against mutated chocolate bunnies, a discarded minion, a fanatical chief of police, and several other weird monsters. The whole thing has the feeling of having been created by (or perhaps for) overstimulated preteen boys, without a moment of quiet or reflection. But that's the whole point of Hansen's work, so I really can't complain.

Doctor Gorpon is crazy and juvenile and utterly goofy in all of the best ways; its particular verve and obsessions are very much those of the early '90s -- that time of ultraviolent heroes covered in pouches, giant guns, and poorly-drawn feet -- but it's still as much wacked-out fun now as it ever was. You need a very particular mindset to enjoy Hansen's work, but that mindset has never been rare in the comics world, so he could easily find his way back into popularity with similar insanity tomorrow.
Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index
Listening to: The Indelicates - Savages
via FoxyTunes

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