Today: One of the most obscure-but-brilliant comics ever put out by the Big Two. (Archive.)
362. The Heckler
The Heckler is another masterpiece from Keith Giffen, re-teaming with his Legion scripters, Tom and Mary Bierbaum. It’s one of the best comics of all time, and it’s also one of the most unappreciated. Canceled after only six issues, the title and lead character have fallen into limbo, but I remember it as one of the smartest funnybooks DC ever put out.
The lead character was everyday normal joe Stu Mosely, owner of a small restaurant named “Eats.” However, he also masqueraded as the Heckler, a wacky, wise-cracking crimefighter who turned out to be the least wacky character in his own comic. The series took place in Delta City, which I can only guess is the strangest fictional town in the DC Universe (Giffen’s Vext, another axed-after-number-six series, also took place there; I’ve got to track it down one day). Giffen and the Bierbaums introduced us to dozens upon dozens of Delta City residents, from supporting players to throwaway characters, including snooty artistic cook Mr. Francois, the sage, Elvis-esque Mr. Dude, evil crimelord Boss Glitter, and the Minx, who tracks down the men she’s dated who have broken the law and shoots ’em dead.
My favorite, character, however, is probably John Doe, the Generic Man, who is a living experimentation with the comics form and a satire on your average super-baddie:
“I have been unexpectedly shot in the head and fatally wounded” is one of the greatest lines of all time.
As you can see, the book’s quite dense. Giffen consistently utilized the nine-panel grid, which, combined with the art style he was using in the early ’90s, made the page incredibly crowded, but worth exploring. Gags abounded– running gags, sight gags, humorous witticisms, you name it. My favorite bits probably involved the sign outside “Eats” constantly being changed to the wrong rhyming word, or the adventures of poor, unfortunate Bushwack’r, the star of the fourth issue, who constantly tried to kill the Heckler whilst the hero was on patrol. Unfortunately for Bushwack’r, his plans or equipment backfired every time, leading to a hilarious running gag involving multiple trips to the hospital.
Despite some neat in-house marketing, the book just didn’t take off, and it was canceled after six terrific issues, alas. I think the character’s had one cameo appearance since, which is a shame. The Heckler shall stand forever in my personal Hall of Awesome Obscure Characters Who Never Had Much of a Chance.
Here, have some more pages of the Heckler in action:
God, what a ridiculous, but awesome comic, marvelously scripted and drawn to the hilt, if that phrase even makes any sense. Not that the Heckler would care. I’m glad to have discovered this comic. Hopefully, I’ve encouraged some of you to dive into your local quarter bins and seek it out.
For more on the Heckler and his world, visit this incredibly detailed entry at Comic Book Profiles!