Painstaking scientific research has shown that the best way to fight crime is for vigilantes to put on masks, leap around rooftops with their capes billowing dramatically in the wind, and occasionally punch drug dealers in the face. One such peer-reviewed document is this issue of an independently published comic from 1984, which may not actually give us any crime reduction tips, but is an excellent example of how fans wanted their comic books to look at this time.
At this point the super books have evolved away from any pretense at 'cartooning', the emphasis is on stylized, cleanly inked anatomy that is overemphasised yet still realistic, where you can only tell the super-people apart by the color of their tights. That makes "Spectrum Comics" special among indy comics outfits; they were able to deliver the true superhero comic experience with color printing. For a little while, anyway, before they went out of business. Painstaking scientific research ALSO tells us that nobody wants to read your comic about your own wanna-be Batman. They'd rather read Batman. Anyway, let's get deep into the super-hero loving psyche of the mid 1980s; prepare yourselves for some tightly rendered fists and, of course, the dramatic debut of Silhouette, the super-heroine who is really a sheet of construction paper someone's cut into interesting shapes!
Page One and we're already face down in the filth of Manhattan's Lower East Side, the crime-ridden heck hole where multi-ethnic gangs of drug dealers in belly shirts are about to murder a painfully obvious undercover cop while Bob Seger's hit song plays in the background.
Looks like Sunglasses At Night cop is about to get a drug-dealer beatdown from some of the most ripped drug dealers you ever saw - I think they're pushing steroids down at Golds Gym, those are the drugs they're pushing - but on the rooftop a masked vigilante is about to swoop in, because this is his comic, after all. Not Bob Seger's.
Giant sound effects. Lots of splayed limbs. Big chunks of expository dialogue expressed as a character is leaping through the air. And, of course, a reference to the constant threat of the Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers that all New Yorkers fear.
If you can't pose dramatically while pondering the interpersonal relationships of narcotics dealers, why, then, what's the point?
Here Mr. T is smacked by a garbage can lid. Reality check time: I know you kids live in a world of plastic wheelie bins, but the old-style garbage cans, well, they weren't very heavy or strong, and the lids were even less so. Getting smacked in the face with a garbage can lid, well, it's disgusting, but it is not going to take you out.
And hey, Obvious Policeman here remembers he has a radio!
Oh man and it turns out that this was all a carefully calculated police operation that Mister Super Dude here just ruined! Now the police won't be able to arrest those drug dealers, they needed to actually witness assault-on-officer before arresting the dealers, NYPD never, ever, ever arrests people without good reason. Never!
Our mysterious masked hero promises to deliver Drug Kingpin Royer to the police in a neat package, said while displaying his own neat package. Those outfits are a little too sheer sometimes.
Now I know what you're thinking. We were promised the dramatic debut of Silhouette! Where is Silhouette? How dramatic will this debut be?
Well, here you go, the dramatic debut of Silhouette. She sits! She stands! She walks away! If that isn't drama I don't know what is. Well, back to our story.
Now THIS - THIS is what I call a dramatic debut! Staggering drunk, rocking the pimp hat, stumbling down a grafitti-scrawled hallway, collapsing into a rickety bed fully clothed in his anachronistic pinstripe suit... somebody call the Academy.
Sure, he has a fancy cape, but he still has to buy his information from street-level hustlers wearing giant hats. We call this the "Huggy Bear Rule."
Okay kids so that weird thing that the freaky looking dude is talking into, that's called a "pay phone", and there used to be millions of them across the nation. Also, the weird artwork you're seeing here is called a "John Byrne swipe", and Byrne was kind of working the Neal Adams thing, who in turn was operating in sort of a glammed-up Alex Raymond commercial art style, and in turn he was... okay, my point is that super hero comics involve a lot of drawing that has to get done really quickly for not very much money, so there's gonna be some aping of styles going on, but this is a little excessive.
Here we see our amazing masked avenger doing a little masked wiretapping. Dude, if you wanted to beat up drug dealers and get some illegal wiretapping done, you could have stayed a cop!
Yup, he really misses being a cop. Maybe he should have stayed a cop, that way he'd get regular shifts, a snappy uniform, a bitchin' mustache, and a paycheck. Super-hero work doesn't come with much of a salary, you know.
The next day at Royer Construction the deal is going down and Inappropriate Sunglasses Cop is on the scene to bust that drug kingpin in the act of delivering a suitcase full of drugs to the city's most heinous narcotics marketplace - a construction site!
But the joke's on Sunglasses Cop - Royer knew the heat was on and replaced the drugs with his wife's beef stew, and the construction foreman and Royer share a good laugh, and the artist really wasn't sure what "laughing" looks like, so he drew Royer grimacing in pain as if somebody was stomping on his foot. Maybe somebody was stomping on his foot there.
That night an unidentified man sneaks past some sad dogs and picks a lock, setting off the Sunglasses Cop alarm!
Have a half dozen units meet me at Royer's place, Sarge! I'll be over here investigating how parallel lines really flatten your comic panel composition, and don't even get me started on the weird perspective on these doors!
Bingo, here it is in black and white, all the evidence that I, as a former cop, know full well will never be admissable in court because it was obtained by a dude in a mask breaking into an office.
Also, where's my cape? I had it a minute ago.
and Stinky is back! Stinky! My man! Here to deliver a crazy psychedelic technicolor freakout beatdown! Hey, we paid for color printing and we aren't going to let any color get out of here without getting used to its fullest.
I don't know about you guys but this comic is really not selling me on the whole 'masked vigilante' thing. So far he's interrupted a police investigation, obtained evidence that can't be used in a court of law, been beaten savagely by a man named "Stinky", and is now about to be framed for the beef-stew murder of a construction company executive. Not exactly a champion of truth and justice, is he?
"I've got to get out of here - it sounds like a Trump rally is about to start!"
Looks like Sunglasses Cop finally has the drop on the guy who's been causing all the trouble in the city all this time. And even if the barrel of his gun is drooping alarmingly, which it is, jesus guys, get a ruler or something, he'll bring this masked vigilante in!
Now I know you're looking at this whole "next issue: The Spade Is Wild" thing and asking, what the heck, and the deal is that there is some masked assassin character that is a total ripoff of Bullseye from "Daredevil", and his name is "Spade", and he throws shovels at people. I mean playing cards, he throws playing cards at people. Anyway in the next issue he shows up and The Spade and Guardian fight, I guess. There were only two issues of The Guardian, so hopefully they had fun with it while it lasted.
so what have we learned? Ditch your cape halfway through your comic, learn how laughing works, pump iron if you want to deal drugs, intently study the work of John Byrne, wear your sunglasses at night, and don't fire that gun until you get it fixed or you'll blow your arm off. Guardian out!
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