December 9, 2009

Wacky Comic Wednesday: The Sleeze Brothers #4

sleezeWelcome back to another edition of Wacky Comic Wednesday! This week we take a peek at The Sleeze Brothers #4 published by Epic Comics Group. Epic was founded in 1982 by Jim Shooter (who also founded Valiant Comics in 1989), as a creator-owned imprint of Marvel Comics. Epic was an attempt by Marvel to produce material geared towards a more mature audience that was only available via the direct market; meaning you wouldn’t have found The Sleeze Brothers #1 in the spin rack at your local 7/11. The premise of the company very much reflected what Image was founded on in that creators would retain control and ownership of their properties. Epic’s flagship title was Dreadstar written and drawn by Jim Starlin. Other titles from the company include Coyote, Six From Sirius, Sisterhood of Steel, and Void Indigo. In short, Epic produced really random off-beat stuff for its time, most of which has not survived in the medium today.

Epic rode out the early 90s boom all right with writers like Howard Chaykin (Midnight Men) and Peter David (Sachs and Violens – these two characters would later be featured in David’s Fallen Angel series) pumping out work, but the dark times that followed ultimately put the company in the ground.

As Marvel began to struggle with bankruptcy, it did what it does best and pumped out some ‘special’ new titles through the imprint that featured more mainstream characters in an attempt to up sales. These new titles starred characters like Elektra (Elektra: Assassin), the X-Men Havok and Wolverine (Meltdown), Iron Man (Iron Man: Crash), and Silver Surfer (Silver Surfer: Parable). Big creative names were attached to these projects that included the likes of Frank Miller and Stan Lee. Archie Goodwin was even called upon to create characters for a more mature line of superheros, which was called the Shadowline Saga. All was for naught though as these stunts fell flat and Epic ceased to exist in 1994. It experienced brief but unsuccessful revivals in 1995 and 2003.

Despite its ultimate failure, Epic Comics was one of the first publishers to produce original foreign material in the medium. The manga series Akira (by Katsuhiro Otomo) is easily the most successful title of Epic’s foreign and domestic properties. Unfortunately, Epic Comics’ mature audience tag, while for awhile set it apart from the mainstream, could be pegged as a major factor of the companies undoing. Mature themed comics became more mainstream during the mid to late 90s with the formation of Vertigo and titles like Sandman and Preacher. I mean if you were in a comic shop and saw a copy of The Sleeze Brothers #1 and Sandman #1 on the shelf, which would you be more likely to check out?

The Sleeze Brothers premiered in 1989 and ran a total of six issues. A tag line in the credits of issue #4 reads, “Stan Lee wants nothing more to do with: Sleeze Brothers.” I know this is supposed to be a joke, but if it weren’t I’d still agree with Stan.

Sorry to say but this issue of The Sleeze Brothers is pretty lame. The plot is seven of the world’s best detectives are invited to attend a murder mystery dinner at Norman’s Flotel which is located in space. The detectives include a rich, martini sipping tight-buns of a man named Sam Spud, an old woman who calls herself Miss McMuffins, a vixen named Vanity Case, a weird orange Asian-monster thing that’s called Charlie Chin, and a robust loud-mouthed alcoholic, Mike Mallet. And of course the booze loving Sleeze Brothers, Deadbeat and El ‘Ape. The brothers remind me of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito in that movie Twins. Heh.

Anyway, all seven detectives have different feelings about this odd murder mystery dinner they’ve been invited to in space. Some are excited to solve the case while others suspect foul play. After the shuttle drops everyone off at Norman’s Flotel, we meet the MC of the party, Norman Normaller. Go figure. He has crooked shoulders, severely bowed legs and a stutter…he’s incredibly annoying. After dinner Norman takes the detectives to a conference room where he plays a video tape of a weird, red bald man. This red, hairless freak tells the group that he has locked them in the Flotel until the following morning, and it’s up to them to solve the murder mystery or their lives will be forfeit.

The plot thickens when a tipsy Mike Mallet barks at Norman to drop dead- and he does! Then Sam Spud croaks because of a poisoned martini, followed by Mallet who gets stuffed in a toilet. Finally the survivors conclude that the killer is one of them! But who is it!? Well, to be frank who gives a shit?

Some other stuff happened in the issue, but nothing really exciting or worth mentioning. To be honest, I found the title misleading as the Sleeze Brothers were about as sleazy as a nun on Easter Sunday. I was expecting a more crass, adult style comic book but instead found a dull, cartoony flop. What’s comedic is that this title had a mature audiences tag attached to it when it was published, but giving it that label today would be laughable. It’s really no wonder that Epic was phased out when Vertigo became more mainstream. I will say this though, the reveal of the murderer is pretty cool and unexpected to an extent. However, the silly pop culture references throughout the issue, like “The Nexus Chainsaw Massacre” and “I don’t want to play it again Sam,” came off dated and not very funny.

The creative masterminds behind The Sleeze Brothers were writer John Carnell and penciler Andy Lanning. Aside from writing 1993’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy three issue mini-series, John Carnell has pretty much faded from the comics world. Andy Lanning on the other hand has experienced one helluva career. Today, Lanning co-writes practically all of Marvel’s space titles alongside Dan Abnett. His recent work with Marvel includes Realm of Kings: Inhumans, Realm of Kings one-shot, Nova, Guardians of the Galaxy, and War of Kings: Ascension. He also writes Wildstorm’s The Authority, and this past summer’s Fusion by Top Cow/Marvel. It’s interesting that Lanning went on to write more than pencil, especially considering his artwork is very clean and consistent in The Sleeze Brothers. Steve White does a great job with the colors, giving the issue that late 80s/early 90s feel. I also have to note that the Sleeze Brothers’ logo was designed by none other than Richard Starkings; the creator of Elephantmen and the featured talent in the current interview on the homepage!

Now for some quotes:

“The universe itself is a mystery, and my life is but a mystic entity within that great mystery! Now I have received this invitation signed A. Mystery…this now becomes a mystery for a mystic within a mystery!”- Charlie Chin

“I’m so hungry… I could eat a scooper.” – El ‘Ape (I have no clue what a ‘scooper’ is.)

“Anyone fancy a game of Cluedo?” – El ‘Ape

Be sure to tune in next week to Wacky Comic Wednesday!

Andy Liegl



  1. You had me at ‘Flotel.’ This comic sounds like a turd that’s snowballing down a shit mountain, getting bigger as it plummets to the ground. I would still read it though. I mean, c’mon…there’s Flotel in it.

  2. Your analogy fits this issue to perfection! lol

  3. Billy

    I’m sure Lanning denies he ever did this. lol

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