In the back of It Girl and the Atomics #1, Jamie S. Rich talks about how he went from editing Mike Allred’s Atomics to writing this spin-off; sort of the BPRD to Madman’s Hellboy. He talks about Allred’s adoration of Silver Age superhero comics and reading that, it hit me why Madman has always been so much fun, yet simultaneously so frustrating for me.
I grew up in the ‘70s – the Bronze Age, if you like – so my childhood comics were Savage Sword of Conan, Ghost Rider and Master of Kung Fu. At DC, Batman wasn’t fighting aliens and other-dimensional imps anymore, he was going on globe-trotting adventures against Ra’as al Ghul and spy organizations. Those were fun comics, but Marvel had made its mark even on DC, and there was weight to those stories. The heroes felt like real characters.
Going back and reading DC Silver Age comics as an adult, I have a hard time with them. They’re zany and imaginative, but they were also short on characterization. To be a fan of a DC superhero in the ‘60s was mostly about being fond of his powers or costume or something equally superficial. It was hard to connect to the characters as actual people. That’s my problem with Madman and It Girl, too.
It Girl is a super-fun comic. The main character is peppy and cute (in personality as well as appearance) and narrates in pink caption boxes. She’s easily bored, addicted to online gaming and misses her sister, who ran off to have intergalactic adventures in a spaceship that looks like a tiny, crater-covered planet. She’s helping out a former criminal called The Skunk, who used to rob banks while shooting noxious gases out of his butt. Only the Skunk’s former gang – made up of the Ferret, the Hedgehog and the Otter – are trying to pull him back into a life of crime. Then there’s crazy Dr. Flem, who wants to perform experiments on It Girl because his usual test subject, Madman, is on tour with his space band. Also, the comic is gorgeously drawn by Mike Norton (Battlepug), who’s obviously having as much fun as Rich is writing it. The comic is full of awesome ideas, and they fill every page.
And yet, as cool as It Girl is, I still don’t feel like I know its main character. I know a lot about her – all that stuff I mentioned above – but I can’t figure out what makes her tick. Why is she so bored? Why is her first instinct to seek excitement in computer games instead of crime-fighting? Why is she so careless about letting Flem experiment on her? The series isn’t answering those questions, so while I like It Girl an awful lot, I don’t love it yet.
I’m going to stick with it for a while longer, though. It’s supremely entertaining, and I want more of it; I just also want strong characterization. I hope it’s eventually able to deliver that more than the Silver Age comics did that inspired it.