Sunday, June 19, 2011

CBR Ambush Bug: Nothing Special


In the mid-90s, Keith Giffen created a new character to spoof, analyse and have fun with the then-modern comic books of that era, The Heckler.
With no need and use of his original crazy prankster anymore, it seemed the days of the Ambush Bug were over...

That's probably what explains why a "last" Ambush Bug comic was released at the same time (and month!) as the Heckler's #1st issue. A special issue for Irwin, a book where he could one last time go crazy around the corners of the DCU.

Comic title: Ambush Bug: Nothing Special
Art by Keith Giffen, Bill Wray & Chris Sprouse & inks by Al Gordon
Story by Keith Giffen & Robert Loren Fleming
Published by DC
From 1992

Lineup Ambush Bug
Format: One-shot special.

Released at the same time as The Heckler #1, this Ambush Bug special, called simply "Nothing Special" tells you right away from its cover it is gonna be about the Bug losing his place in the DC Universe.
(heck! putting this book next to Heckler #1 comes out mighty hilarious I think, such a contrast between both characters and situations~)

The Bug lost his place to the Heckler in the heart of its creators.
This book is his last "Hurrah!", a chance to find a new place for him in these eventful modernized and ordained DC publications.

Homeless..Hungry...Out of job over grittier and more serious characters.

What's the pitch, if a pitch need to be present in these funny pages?

The Bug is now jobless.
The book is cut into various segments, none alike as the tradition with Ambush Bug has used us to.
In the first couple of pages, Irwin tries to find a new book to appear in and so decides to jump into other characters' stories.

Then we cut in the actual plot of this book (??), the authors are getting drunk and trying to find something to fill this special's pages with.

The Bug ends up with a poor job at the DC offices, working as a trainee... But he wants a better position back in the center fold. He wants Julius "Julie" Schwartz job, "goodwil ambassador". Besides, what the heck is that job? Doesn't sound like something that complicated.
The Bug starts traveling across time to get the job after his death (which his contracts forces him to work until), only to find out there's always going to be a Julie Schwartz around...across time AND space!
Oh, and there's this evil renegade Julie Schwartz head following and tormenting him too.

RIP Julie Schwartz (1915 – 2004)

As you can see, it's not a very serious book, it's having fun at and with the then-Editor in Chief of DC.
Julie Schwartz loved these kind of books, having fun with the medium and all.

Ambush Bug could as well be jumping randomly from pages to pages, over various scenarios in a quest to find an actual plot.

The art provided here is some of Keith Giffen's best. Quite personal, still using his classic 9-panel grid format. And the authors are clearly having fun exploring different styles and ideas.

AB ends up spoofing the ridiculous art of the comics in the 90s (particularly Rob Leifeld's art style)
Mitsu Bishi makes another appearance in a manga segment, as a matter of fact most of Ambush Bug's usual cast of characters make an appearance at some point in these pages (Jonni DC is back, Arg!Yle has a cameo...).

Rob Fleming throws a scripted novel segment at us to fill-in some pages, others are printed in green only, "Kyle Giffen" draws a conclusion for daddy's funny story...
Classic meta Ambush Bug at its best!

The glorious behind-the-scenes.

It's a very accessible book, DC Comics knowledge/Ambush Bug previous experience or not.
It's having fun with characters, styles, narration, plot, art, style and anything else that comes around the Bug's panels.

The immortal Julie Schwartz is given tribute to throughout the book, and even after his death (sadly) continues to shine in this "funny books".

Lots of famous and popular characters (of the 90s) get some form of cameos in this book. The Swamp Thing, Aquaman, Mon-El, the Doom Patrol, the Sandman, Lobo (another famous Giffen-created character), the Legion... Even Death checks on Ambush Bug when he seems to not even be absent from DC's latest crossover event but also her own list of "Dead" and "Living" characters...

Overall, one of Ambush Bug's best comics!
It spoofs DC continuity, makes fun of comics in the 90s.
And its less "contextual" than The Heckler and easily more accessible and evident.
The Bug clearly has not respect for the 4th wall and will break it brick per brick if it will manage to score him a prominent role in the DCU.

Speaking of which, since Keith Giffen was back writing his "Return to rrreally fun comics"with the Heckler in a more serious and confined environment, it does make a nice companion to that other spandex-wearing crazy funny guy. (odd enough...The Heckler ended up never appearing anymore, besides a cameo or two while the Bug had another more recent series... seems like the joke AB made while in the future, looking at tons of unsold copies of the Heckler #1 prove itself to be true...)

It doesn't make much sense, doesn't respect established rules or guidelines (yet still following the geometrical 9-panels grid structure) and goes all overboard.
There might be "Nothing Special" about the Ambush Bug but it's a great exploration of DC, or comics in general. Or just something going inside the head of a delirious ravin' lunatic who escaped the Asylum.
Who knows..
After all it's being written and drawn by two drunks in a bar.

Back in the day, this one-shot won the RAC "Squiddy" Award for Favorite Graphic Novel in 1992!

I give it:

  2.5 / 3 Plastic-trophies!

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