So, it turns out that my post about the team of cybernetic pets WE3 and their quest for freedom was marginally more popular than I thought it would be. Is… this something that you guys like? Do you want more reviews of honest to god print comics? Do… you want me to do that? If I knew how to post polls on this site, I would do such things. As it stands, uh… blink once for yes and twice for no.
While you do that, I’m going to go ahead and start reviewing Michael Allred’s Madman comics. This is a series my brother got me for Christmas one year, and last month, a good two years after I came into possession of vol. 1 and 2, I finally buckled down and picked up vol. 3 And then, you know, I read them. Madman, if you’re coming into the game late, is a comic series that started in the 1990s featuring a modern-day Frankenstein (oh man you are going to hear THE BEST pun in like a few paragraphs. Just you wait) in his quest to date his swell girlfriend and avoid the group of jerky street beatniks that seem to be all over Snap City. The only problem? INFINITY.
Let me start from the beginning. A beginning, at least. My brother got me this series because of cartoons.
A million years ago there was a show on TV that featured a wacky hero with a lightning bolt emblem on his chest. The series involved him fighting crime in the silliest way possible, though because this was a Warner Brothers cartoon, it quickly devolved into celebrity name dropping and random shorts instead of actual honest-to-god heroics. The show, and the hero in question, was named Freakazoid.
Fast forward a couple of years, when my brother discovered that Freakazoid’s appearance was largely ripped from Allred’s Madman. Thus, presents, I get comics, yadda yadda. Side note: The only thing I remember about Freakazoid at this point is that one of his villains is the dreaded Arms Akimbo, whose MO is bumping things with his elbows and charging money for protection.
Anyway, Madman. At the start of the series, the Madman of Snap City is in a bit of a… situation. He has no memory of his past, recent or long term, has found himself unable to look in a mirror, and is wearing a suit that makes him look like more of a scarecrow than a human being. Also, people are trying to kill him and he had no idea why, and the one man who can help him put his past back in order is dead in his freezer.
But that’s okay! Madman does remember seeing the man, whose name is Dr. Boiffard, get hit by a car! And Boiffard made sure to tell him to go find Dr. Flem in Buzztown, so that Flem may bring him back to life.
So… Madman does some of that. He’s armed with what are largely modified children’s toys, from a yo-yo that doubles as a grappling hook to a little Nerf disc shooter that now packs a bunch of sharp metally things. The tone of the comic is more akin to the golden (or silver?) age of comics. As in, everything is “neat,” “keen” and (my personal favorite) “ginchy.” And while there are some gruesome scenes, Madman himself is largely bloodless, though he does have a tendency to fly off the handle a little bit when cornered. And then he starts eating eyes. And ripping out hearts and stomping on them, but to be fair Arnie was a no good welcher anyway.
After this, things happen fast for Madman. His entire life is one headlong rush down a hallway of weird. The first two volumes especially have Madman facing off against everything from comic crossovers to robots, GMen, circus carnies, and demons. Then there are the aliens, and the fact that Madman has an antenna coming out of his head and is a psychic catchall as a side effect of having been reanimated by the late Dr. Boiffard himself.
Didn’t I mention? Madman’s real name is unknown. But after successfully stitching a broken cadaver back together and reanimating it through a total perversion of science, Dr. Boiffard named him after his creative and scientific muses: Frank Sinatra and Albert Einstein.
So… Madman’s name is Frank Einstein (I did warn you about the puns).
By far, my favorite foe of Frank’s are the beatniks. I don’t think I have to go into any additional detail here. Beatniks. Bad guys. And then they start mutating. Win/win.
But Madman is much more than just another superhero comic. His resurrection has left him mentally vulnerable and prone to moments of serious contemplation about the nature of God, of our individual essences, and of infinity. Of what a world without violence would be like, and about the secrets of love and hate that fuel every action ever taken on this messed up planets. Who might he have been before his rebirth? What happened to the man he was?
It’s a nice contrast to all the weird junk going on in his afterlife. Frank Einstein, whoever he might really be, feels like one of us, just trying to puzzle out the world and how it works. Trying to take care of those who are important in his life (like his total hottie girlfriend, Joe. What? So maybe he’s a reanimated corpse. Looks aren’t everything.)
The series moves along at a good clip up until about volume three. There is where things start to get a bit more meta, and some of the longstanding questions are answered. It was there, also, that I realized I am missing some essential Madman comics, where he apparently teams up with Superman in order to, presumably, raid some beatnik poetry circles. While you don’t need to have read the in between comics, it certainly would explain a few things.
Anyway. Madman. A good alternative for someone looking for something a little more innocent and a lot less violent. Go get some of that.