Friday, July 31, 2015

"Sure, the public accepts that our top brass all have their 'screws in loose screwy-holesies' ...but the press has you 'pegged' without a screwdriver!" Monstrosis review

I'm going to assume you haven't heard of Chris Wisnia's Monstrosis. It's been around in one form or another since (according to my research) 2006. The series has featured contributions from Mike Allred, Herb Trimpe, Bill Sienkiewicz & Dick Ayers. Accolades (and pin-up art) have poured in from popular super hero creators such as Kurt Busiek, Roy Thomas, Art Adams, Ryan Sook, Neal Adams, J.H. Williams III, John Severin, Mike Ploog, Gene Colan, Dave Gibbons, Russ Heath & Brian Bolland. Even artsy comic book types such as Peter Bagge, Tony Millionaire, Jhonen Vasquez & Los Bros Hernandez have given the series a tip of the hat. And you mean to tell me you've never read it???
(Disclosure: until I visited London in 2014, the "mind the gap" joke on this page was lost on me)

In your defense, you had few opportunities to read the series in-print. Slave Labor Graphics released the trade paperback Doris Danger: Giant Monster Adventures in 2009 and the hardcover Monstrosis in 2013 (collected from the 2011 digital comic). Like most SLG products, you won't see much online promotion about the work so the series has had to build its fanbase through the time-tested strategy of "accidentally stumbling across it." Such as I did.

Monstrosis is a loving tribute to the late 50s/early 60s giant monster comic books by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby - but run through a filter of surrealist dadaist nonsense. Supposedly it concerns the efforts of journalist Doris Danger to expose the truth of giant monsters' existence against the efforts of government agencies to cover them up. However, the plots (and giant monsters) exist mainly to play around with the tropes of comic book storytelling. It's like the Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, only less-commercial.

Monstrosis constantly footnotes itself with references to prior issues of "Tabloia," said references becoming snares of storytelling black holes at times (as above). Many of the giant monster splash pages are also presented with reprint notes intentionally styled after Marvel's reprint notes of the 1970s. Not only are creatures such as Wwwow, Tra-La-La, Dangg and Ptht presented in splash pages based on splashes & covers from the Kirby tales, but nearly every panel of Monstrosis prompts a feeling of deja vu, be it Doris striking a pose directly from Kirby's Jane Foster, to the Monster Liberation Army posing after Kirby's Big Jim's P.A.C.K.. It would be kind of fascinating to identify where each panel was lifted from (I can already eyeball several), to say nothing of trying to chart all of the footnote references to Tabloia to see if the series makes more or less sense.

The most recent Monstrosis product I know of is the 2014's S is for Spanko book, a collection of the many monsters from Wisnia's series arranged as an alphabet book. Monstrosis (and Doris Danger: Giant Monster Adventures and S is for Spanko) are all available at Comixology. Or, you can try to purchase the digital comics directly from SLG, but their system isn't 100% reliable. If you want SLG to have your money, it's best to buy the print products from them; good luck with their website!

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