Strongman (SLG Publishing)

strongman-header.jpgA down-on-his-luck luchador tracks down black market organ dealers with a superhero’s sense of right and wrong.



120 pgs., B&W; 9.95

(W: Charles Soule; A: Allen Gladfelter)

Superheroes always need a flaw but Tigre might have more than his share. He was a star luchador or masked wrestler in Mexico in the 1960’s and early 1970’s, a national hero who never took off his mask in the ring or out of it. But now it’s 2008 and he’s an overweight boozer living in New York City, reduced to getting beat up in exploitation matches for $50 a night. Sort of like Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler, although to be fair this book was under development long before that film was released.

Despite his diminished circumstances, Tigre retains his basic sense of right and wrong. So when a beautiful and mysterious woman appears in his squalid rooms and begs for his help—it seems there’s a black market in human organs and many Mexicans are falling prey to it—he can’t help but agree to investigate. Doing so will force him to confront his own past as well as to deal with a very contemporary evil.

Click for a larger image.Strongman is a superhero novel so the laws of physics and physiology don’t always apply: in this case Tigre drinks a solution of plants and herbs which kill pain and supply him with superhuman strength, but only for a limited time. And there’s no gradation of good and evil: Tigre is as purely good as the organ dealer Little Pedro is purely evil.  The story is fast-moving and plausible within genre conventions except for the conclusion: it feels like Soule couldn’t figure out how to bring his story to an end and imposed an arbitrary solution to tie up all the plot threads at once.

What makes Strongman more than just another superhero story is the background Soule supplies about luchador culture: the uncomplicated moral universe of the wrestling ring, the schlocky Z-movies ("Tigre and the Dance of the Dinosaur People" is playing on a bar room television as the story opens) and the convention of never removing one’s mask in the presence of another person. We know it’s all part of the shtick but Tigre thinks it’s real, and his greatness as well as his flaws can be traced to the fact that he’s trying to live as if right and wrong in the real world were as easily identified and acted upon as they are in the fictional world of professional wrestling. It will be interesting to see where Soule takes this in later volumes: the concept has a lot of promise and he’s laid the groundwork for what could prove to be a very entertaining series.

Allen Gladfelter’s art is a great complement to the story: he uses a lot of screens within a realistic style which recalls halftone newspaper reproductions, and he has a fondness for old-style action layouts combined with detailed depictions of place which clearly identify the locale of each segment of the story. His work has a nice variety with particularly interesting use of solid black combined with screens in many frames.  

Strongman is rated for mature readers. Extras include preliminary sketches and notes about the artist’s working process which are quite interesting: he built a miniature sets with foam core furniture and action figures plus digital photos of a real actor to work out the geography of some of the trickier scenes. You can see a preview of Strongman at | Sarah Boslaugh

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