June 11, 2011

Titan Books Reviews: Fighting American Tpb

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Written by: Billy
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Fighting American
Publisher: Titan Books
Writer: Joe Simon
Artist: Jack Kirby (art restoration & new colors by Harry Mendryk)
200 pages/color/$19.95 SRP

The wonderful Golden Age tales of Fighting American by legendary creators Joe Simon and Jack “King” Kirby are collected all in one trade for every comic book fan to now enjoy.

The solicit from Titan reads as follows:

“The complete adventures of the quirky Cold War superhero, launched in 1954 by the creators of Captain America, are presented here in an affordable graphic novel format, with weird and wonderful characters like Yucha Liffso, Jiseppi the Jungle Boy, and Poison Ivan! This volume boasts a new introduction by co-creator Joe Simon as well as previously unpublished stories and covers!”

The television newsman, Johnny Flagg, is a war hero, and the pride of his family. He was wounded in the war and is now forced to use crutches just to get around. His kid brother, Nelson, is the brains behind Johnny’s great nightly news material. After investigating a report about some criminal activity, Nelson is approached by a government agent. The agent takes him to a hospital where his brother Johnny is lying in a bed, close to death. You see, Johnny had many enemies due to his outspoken demeanor on his newscasts, and one of his targets put an end to his rants. As Johnny dies before his brother, the government people approach Nelson and ask him if he wants to help bring about retribution for his brother’s death. He tells them vehemently that he’ll do anything to help, and then the transformation begins. The government people take Nelson to an undisclosed laboratory where he is strapped into a machine that has revitalized his brother Johnny’s body to its peak, and will also switch Nelson’s brain into it!

As you can tell, the government was looking for a guinea pig, and they found one in Nelson, but their motives are pure enough. Nelson embarks on a mission of justice not only in his city, but abroad as well. He even takes on a sidekick named “Speedboy.” Together they fight for justice against every kind of enemy imaginable. They encounter gangsters, Commies, two-headed crooks, and everything else you can think of!

OK, so this is certainly a book any and every Simon & Kirby fan out there needs to pick up. All Golden Age people will love it, too. It was a book that was restored very nicely by Mendryk, as well. The book reads sort of like a collection of Sunday strips, but it does flow together well. Some of the stories are a little “out there,” but nothing absurd. One of my favorites was issue #2 that included the “Handsome Devils” story. Fighting American must solve the mystery of a group that is murdering people on the streets and then robbing them. The only clue he has is that the thieves are very handsome. I couldn’t imagine the reason behind the killings/robberies, so the ending for me was quite surprising.

The duo of Simon and Kirby did intentionally make some of the stories outlandish and quirky, but they still were well written and drawn. The team seemed to take a little from every other hero and mash it all together. You can definitely see Batman, Captain America, Superman, Dick Tracy, and so on, present in these stories. Classic villains like Communists, aliens, gangsters, and even a Joker-esque type character were used as antagonists. The run consisted of one volume with seven issues, and volume two containing only two issues. One thing I’ll point out is that at the time, I don’t think many comics were showing a considerable amount of killing, whereas this book does it several times. Not that it’s in bad taste or anything, but I was a little shocked by it.

The forward by Joe Simon is one of the best I’ve ever read. He basically tells you that the character was not meant to be a Captain America replacement, but a hero all his own. Poking fun at all superheroes in general, Fighting American is a testament to the brilliance of these two superstars. Do yourself a favor and head on over to Titan Books and give this one a shot. Hey, it’s Simon and Kirby, you can’t go wrong!

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher.

Billy Dunleavy



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