SuperF*ckers (Top Shelf)

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James Kolchalka may concentrate much of his time on all-ages reads, but this superhero satire shows how sharp he is when he's at his most adult.

 

 

 

144 pgs. color; $14.95
(W / A: James Kochalka)
 
As James Kochalka has grown up, his comics have gone in the opposite direction. His work is still good, but like They Might Be Giants or any number of artists who have had children, Kochalka has begun focusing more on creating art for kids or families. That's fine. But with this SuperF*ckers collection, it's great to see how sharp Kochalka is when he's at his most adult.
 
The comic is about a young team of superheroes who seem to hate each other. The book is full of cursing, and while it may be crass, it works every time. The obscenities the characters use to describe good situations, bad situations and each other are funny on a base level. The characters and situations, however, are more advanced. Kochalka has previously produced smart, philosophically-leaning work on the nature of existence, happiness and art itself. His diary strips often explore the creative process and Kochalka's attempts to erase the barrier between work and play. His chops as an analyst of his own medium are established, but SuperF*ckers is the result of Kochalka turning his inward gaze around. This is a work of satire. And as the following blog post from Kochalka indicates, it's a deeper satire than people think:
 
“Many reviewers have mistakenly referred to SuperF*ckers as a super-hero parody.  And it may be, in part.  But much more than that, it’s a satire.  One of the big targets of this satire is college life.  Here’s an awful article from the NY Times about a college student committing suicide after being taunted online by his roommate.  Read it… and you’ll see that the satire is not even that extreme… SuperF*ckers is REAL.
 
“Those guys all seem like characters from my book, don’t they?
 
“(Another target of the satire in SuperF*ckers is George W. Bush, his college lifestyle, his conversion to Christianity, and his ascendancy to the presidency.  No reviewers have picked up on that AT ALL.  Which is okay, but it’s still in there, making the work richer even if you don’t notice it).”
 
It is surprising that the Bush allusions have been missed. The team's most unrepentant jerk, Jack Krak, converts to Christianity, but he doesn't change much more than his costume. He still swears and abuses his colleagues, but he does it with an air of moral certainty.   
 
The college metaphor is present, too. The SuperF*ckers don't fight evil, they get high, play video games and insult each other's sexuality. The superhero aspect is secondary.
 
Outside of the story, the individual SuperF*ckers issues reprinted in this collection exhibit Kochalka's other trademarks. He fills the pages at the beginning and end of each issue with jokes, panels flipped upside-down and other extras that are aesthetically-pleasing and fun, but not essential to the story. It's comics for comics sake, and it's great. The collection spans from 2005 to 2009, but Kochalka's diary strips and blog suggest there's more to come. Super. | Gabe Bullard
 
Click here for more information and a brief preview of SuperF*ckers, courtesy of Top Shelf.
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