This time around Mr. Charlie #56 enjoys “The James Kochalka Experience,” and because I want you to also experience this fabulous cartoonist, I’m going to talk about some of his work for a few columns. Part One looks at a work from the Kochalka comix bibliography:
Super F*ckers #1: The indicia for this book actually notes this as “Super F*ckers #271,” and that gives this comic, right from the start, an odd sense of history, as if it’s been around a long time chronicling the adventures of attitudinal teen superheroes. The press release (from the publisher, Top Shelf Productions) describes the “Super F*ckers” as “the baddest teenage superhero team around, and everybody want to join them,” and, unlike a lot of publisher ad and press copy, this one is dead on.
Basically Super F*ckers is as much (if not more) “real world” superheroes as any comic book series has ever been. The team members live pampered lives in a big clubhouse and play video games on their super computer. They do (or abuse) drugs; their favorite drug is made by putting the slime drippings of one of their teammates, Grotus, in rolling paper and smoking it. In this issue, they’re so lazy and idle that they “don’t even hit a lick at a snake,” never doing anything super-heroic. Rather, the dramatic tension in this issue mainly comes from two-subplots. One is that the teammates (I counted nine of them) don’t get along that well and that there are cliques within the larger team. The second bit of drama is that the Super F*ckers are holding tryouts, and a large group of overzealous, would-be heroes arrive a day early before the tryouts and fight amongst themselves.
If teenage superheroes were portrayed in a way that would make them and their world closer to our own, in particular early 21st Century America, then they would be more like the ones in this comic book and less like the Teen Titans, especially the Cartoon Network version of the Titans. They’re petty, childish, immature, violent, nihilistic, selfish, mean-spirited, and their primary concern is to use their abilities for celebrity. They simply want attention, and the only other way they use their powers is in a way that makes them “feel good.” They use their powers for the rush and exhilaration they get from activating their enhanced abilities. These aren’t the self-sacrificing heroes that we’d like to believe Batman and Superman are. These guys want to party and have a good time, and anything or anyone that gets in the way of their buzz and feelings of feeling good is something or someone to be hated, belittled, or perhaps even destroyed.
For instance, Jack Krak, the sort of Tom Cruise-like matinee idol of the group, is a total asshole. He was conniving with an unnamed spoiled, sorority-type bitch to have Grotus (a spongy, squishy, violet-hued chuck of blob) thrown off the team, before discovering that he liked the high he got from Grotus’ slime. By the time he discovers the joys of “grote,” and how it makes him feel good, he’s ready to make Grotus his homeboy. On the other hand, he goes out of his way to make trouble for a teammate he doesn’t like, a teen boy named Vortex, who keeps a moment of time in his life frozen in a glass jar – similar to Superman’s “Bottle City of Kandor.” Jack does everything to humiliate Vortex, even encouraging the other jerks on the team to give Vortex a hard time.
Meanwhile, more assholes-in-training have gathered outside the Super F*ckers’ clubhouse, and each one will do anything – anything – to become a member. Just like today’s elite athletes on every level: high school, college, semi-pro, and professional (maybe even junior high), the wannabes take performance and power enhancing drugs. One idiot takes so many of a power-boosting pill called “Xaxxax” that he becomes a deformed monster, and in a fit of convulsions practically kills all the other costumed clowns waiting to tryout. These potential heroes are such assholes, so selfish, and sneaky that it takes them being extremely brutalized at the hands of a fellow wannabe for the reader to feel even the littlest twinge of sympathy for them.
From my description, you might think this Super F*ckers is a drama; it isn’t. It is an outrageous laugh-out-loud comedy. Kochalka takes the dark side of the young spoiled-rich and young celebrities in our world and heightens it to bloody brilliant comic effect. With a dash of Rick Veitch’s Brat Pack, Teen Titans, collegiate Greek nihilism, and Larry Clark’s film, Kids, Super F*ckers is the MTV “The Real World” of teen superheroes. The vibrant colors and “squash and stretch,” animation-like drawings capture the outrageousness of out-of-control privilege and power. Kochalka expertly suggests or hints what unchecked supernatural power would be like in the hands of the instant gratification generation. And it’s funny because anyone who remembers being a teen asshole realizes what he or she would have been like with unchecked power.