Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Word Balloon: The Pro
With July over and the Dark Knight still ruling the box office, I thought it was time to highlight a genre in comics that is sorely overlooked. The comedy. Comic books started out as humor strips compiled into the comic format we know today, that is until the birth of Superman in 1939 began the long underwear invasion. Comedy is often an overlooked medium in comics today, and finding a good one that can be relevant to today's readers can be even harder.
Comic creators Garth Ennis (of Preacher fame) and at the time unknown artist Amanda Conner created one of the most popular humor graphic novels in recent history. Titled The Pro, it was an adults only orientated tale that featured a very mature take on the traditional super hero tale. Published by Image comics originally in 2002, this prestige format graphic novel has gone into four different printings since the first release.
The Pro stars a literal Pro, a prostitute who gains super powers from an alien being who is betting with another creature that any person, given the right opportunities, can and will do good. The Pro, a down and out hooker saddled with little money and a consistently crying infant, wakes one morning to find herself with super powers and an invitation to join the League of Heroes.
The League, comprised of an assortment of super hero parodies, like The Saint (Superman), The Knight and The Squire (Batman and Robin) The Lady (Wonder Woman) The Lime (Green Lantern) and Speedo ( The Flash), all welcome her to the team. After clashing with some super villains in a patchwork costume that can't contain her breasts, as well as her consistent use of coarse language and adult behavior (she continues to use her super powers to aid her in her prostitution alternate identity) The League is ready to drum her out. The final straw occurs when she repays the Saint for saving her kid by giving him his first blow job. The occurring climax afterwords creates a result that has to be read to be believed. Ultimately, the question asked is does great power belay great responsibility? The Pro answers this, but in a way you don't imagine.
Garth Ennis is at his lampooning best here, satirizing the state of comics in general and the absurdity that pertains to current comic mythology. Underneath the gross out humor are real questions, but honestly who cares? This is the teenage sex comedy of comic books. The parody of such iconic images are so over the top that you can't help but find the humor in the situations. The straight laced Superman figure discovering sex, the more than a hint of a homo-erotic relationship between the Batman and Robin arch types, the over-sexed but proper Wonder Woman figure, and the blatant stereotyping of African American heroes that so ingrain so many of their comic counterparts in the Lime are spot on. Garth Ennis really catches the humor in situation. Garth is not known for doing super hero stories, and in fact has a general dislike for that particular medium in comics. In the Pro, he sends up super hero comics in a way that only Garth Ennis can.
The standout creator of the book is artist Amanda Conner. She was a relative unknown in comics before The Pro, toiling away on such little known books as Vampirella and in Archie Comics. The Pro opened her to comic readers everywhere, showing her skills to do both capes and comedy. She is a very versatile artist who added the perfect visuals to Garth's story. Garth also wanted a female creator on the book who "got" the tone of the story and Amanda was his first choice. She created the look and feel of the book and gave the comic some credibility from the stand point of women (which honestly helped off set any feeling of misogyny that the blue tone may have inspired).
I recommend this book for August because it IS unlike anything you will read. It's dark and funny and adult, and really really good. You can check out The Pro, published from Image comics by Garth Ennis and Amanda Conner. Up top you can see the original cover to the book, and below is the most recent reprint. Oh, and if you get the most recent printing, the creators have added a 12 page story featuring The Pro versus a rival prostitute villain, The Ho, and eight-armed street worker. It's fantastically funny. Check it out!
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