Wednesday, 25 April 2018


Matthias Schultheiss Propellerman (1993)
I now realise that I've had this for a full quarter century and only now have I read the thing in its entirety, which feels thoroughly peculiar and a bit like time travel. It was one of those titles which the guy at my local comic shop habitually added to the bag of stuff set aside for me - mostly whatever X-Shite or Vertigo titles I had on my list, plus anything else they thought would probably be up my street. Propellerman seemed to qualify for this latter category, although they forgot to pop the second issue in my bag and by the time I noticed, it had vanished from the shelves leaving me with seven of an eight issue series which I never got around to reading because I was waiting for the missing piece of the jigsaw; and I somehow never quite got around to looking for a copy until a couple of months ago. So here we are at last.

Schultheiss, both writer and artist, instils his work with a pronounced European sensibility evoking Jean Giraud, RanXerox, Heavy Metal magazine, and particularly evoking films such as Delicatessen and Acción Mutante in the case of Propellerman, which was his take on the superhero genre, roughly speaking. I say roughly speaking because there's a fair bit of Blade Runner and even Total Recall in here, although unfortunately the latter is expressed mainly as peculiar dialogue of the kind we used to hear when Arnie acted beyond his comfort zone, attempting to convey emotions born of desires other than revenge - here thinking mainly of der chillingly stilted you know I luff you, baby Douglas Quaid reports whilst romping mit his fake vife for to have sexy fun time, ja?

In Propellerman's favour, it's beautifully drawn for the most part, wildly imaginative, and the story is fucking bonkers. On the other hand, everyone has the same weirdly lumpy face - roughly Pete Burns after the collagen injections as drawn by Richard Corben - and the dialogue mostly reads as either a lousy translation or conversation with an excessively literal African gentleman.
For days I've searched for this house. Finally I've found it. The house belonged to the man from my memory. He lived here. Everything else I've forgotten. The house is dilapidated and vacant.

I've had the pleasure of knowing several African gentlemen who spoke in such a way, so I'm not criticising their English grammar so much as pointing out that it's a poor fit for this comic. Anyway, the above is all crammed into a single speech balloon, and most of the characters have this habit of treating us to a full summary of the situation each time they speak, even going so far as to helpfully describe their own actions as they're doing them. After a while it becomes a little exhausting, and those Corbenesque faces start to get on your nerves, and you begin to wonder how the hell a Samurai warrior ended up in the cast, and what the fuck with the ancient Egyptian steam-powered robot some guy just dug up?

It has a lot going for it, but it could have been so much better with just a few tweaks, although tellingly I notice Jerry Prosser's name mentioned in some sort of editorial capacity, Jerry Prosser having been the author of the final issues of the Vertigo's Animal Man, which were frankly fucking shite, so maybe he's to blame.

Nice, but hardly worth waiting a quarter of a century to read the thing.

Oh well.

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