Saturday, February 02, 2013


Comic Art


The comic book world is full of silly super-villains, but it is hard to top the silliness that surrounded Howard the Duck. Howard was extraordinarily "hip." One of the reasons was that at a time when comics were still very stuck in 1950's Americana, Howard managed to work in some pretty cute cultural references. I cannot help but wonder is such was not the case with his arch-nemesis - Dr. Bong. This, of course, is a bell based villain (You know, bells go "bong, bong,...bong" and it has absolutely nothing at all to do with, well.

Don't laugh at me, but back in 1977 when Dr. Bong first made the comic scene, I never made the connection, I was that far removed from the culture. Given the people that liked to read Howard the Duck, you might have thought I'd have figured it out, but not this corn fed church boy.

Howard the Duck was really what happened when the huge underground comics movement (think R Crumb, etc.) went mainstream. Or at least Howard's fans like to tell themselves that to justify dabbling in the mundane world of superhero comics. I have my own theory - the hippies were more mainstream then they wanted to admit and Howard was an excuse to be there....

Anyway, back to Dr. Bong. I do think some of the magic weed may have been involved in making up his origin story:
Lester Verde was an overweight child and the constant victim of bullies. At an early age, he decided to use the power of words to strike out where he couldn't physically. In college, he pursued a journalism degree, leaning toward sensationalistic stories, and he used the power of the written word to falsely accuse his journalism ethics teacher in a drug scandal thereby destroying his marriage and career. During this time, Lester also became enamored by a model for the art classes, Beverly Switzler, although she spurned his advances. Verde sought revenge by writing false stories about Beverly and her current boyfriend. Subsequently, her boyfriend died in a car crash as he raced to see her.

After college, Lester worked as an investigative reporter for various tabloids, but later switched careers to become a rock music critic, and then a musician, all to impress Beverly who had nonetheless forgotten all about him. Then, Verde arranged to "expose" the band he was in with charges of decadence. However, in an elaborate mock fight that grew out of control, Verde's left hand was severed by a prop guillotine. Underneath the prop bells, Verde's sanity snapped, and he decided to become a supervillain.

Verde somehow acquired a superb physique, mastery of sonic and genetic engineering, and an elaborate headquarters and other scientific resources. Verde succeeded in creating vaguely humanoid beings called "Neezers" from genetically-engineered animals.

Calling himself Doctor Bong, Verde captured Beverly and her companion, Howard the Duck.
Based on that story I think that most of us that read comics routinely could have qualified as supervillains. We all were bullied, most of us were smarter than average, and Lord knows spurned by women at every turn. What a long strange trip it's been.
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