Monday, 17 November 2014

Superman, True Brit

I've hinted in the past that I'm not keen on most critique, yeah I know it can be amusing, compelling even and on the odd occasion, a brilliant exposition of its authors insight and talents but the overwhelming majority is more than slightly disingenuous. There are several reasons behind this, the tendency to aim critique at a creator, rather than the creation and the herd mentality for which the imperative can be so compelling, it's far from unique to see folk dismissing work that they have absolutely no personal knowledge of. I once witnessed a pundit of no mean repute, offering a withering appraisal of a BBC popular drama serial. Her stream of pithy observations on the acting and narrative techniques were going down quite well amongst her peers, on BBC2's The Late Show when she made the unfortunate error of deriding the choice of incidental music. It was unfortunate because the BBC had chosen to advertise the program with a number of trailers overdubbed with music from On Her Majesty's Secret Service, music that didn't feature in the program itself. When it became apparent that she'd only watched the trailers and not the show itself, her colleague and host interjected hastily, cutting short her diatribe, much to her chagrin I imagine, until he would prompt her on her faux pas later in the hospitality suite.

Even when critique is good it can only ever be a response, true creativity lies with those brave enough to lay their gnads out there and risk getting them stomped on. Even so, every once in a while you encounter a work that instils the urge to berate it and its creator, so powerfully that it's impossible to resist, such a work is True Brit.


True Brit is one of the comics to come from DC's Elseworlds imprint, written by Kim "Howard" Johnson with some contribution ostensibly by John Cleese. The extent of Cleese's creative input is unclear, what is clear, is that his name is seen as important enough a contributor to sales potential, that he's listed as the sole author in certain places, like Amazon for instance. Like all of DC's Elseworld books, True Brit's plot revolves around a what if scenario, in this instance that would be: what if Kal El's spaceship landed in Gloucestershire and the prospective superman adopted by a typical British couple, you know, a bit like Red Son.

Unlike Red Son though, True Brit is played for laughs, of course it is, they wouldn't make such a fuss over Cleese's involvement if it weren't and I imagine the perceptual bias of Britain prevalent in the US would make the consideration of straight treatment impossible. That's OK though, humour needn't be tedious, it can be vital, satirical, offer insight and sidestep taboos--cant' it? Yeah well it can and who knows, maybe if a British author who'd contributed more than just his name to the project had been involved, that might have been the case but True Brit, I'm afraid, offers none of that. I don't think there's too great a risk in speculating that Kim quote Howard unquote Johnson is not a native Englander, nor has he spent a great deal of time in this once sceptred isle, so being somewhat handicapped with a paucity of first hand experience he's had to fall back on the device of recycling familiar stereotype. Alas this reliance on hackneyed material is not Johnson's only shortcoming as regards to humour, his painful attempts at surreal wit and punning are enough to sedate all inclination to laughter, one example being, the revelation of The Batman. Let me give you a clue: The Batman, man, cricket bat, grotesque accident, oh so hilarious juxtaposition--hmmmm.

It's been a long while since any work of fiction has instilled such a feeling of resentment in me, in fact I'm not sure if anything has, possibly the only thing that's come close is when Doctor Who was turned into side kick for the Chuckle Brothers. There's a thread of commonality there, that of an established character, invested with a weighty mythos being butchered before your eyes, that's not the reason for my resentment I think though. It's the utter waste of time and resources, not just my time reading the bloody thing, John Bryne did the artwork for it. Although not one of my personal favourites, he's a flipping legend in the comic world, what the hells he doing on this?

One finally word on the topic, if you were ever interested in comics you probably made some attempt at a strip while you were still in short trousers. I'm telling you honestly that strip, written when you were eleven and drawn in crayon, THAT's a better comic than True Brit, yes it is that bad.

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