All this week we will be celebrating the true spirit of independence with self-published comics. These brave men and women have broken free of their corporate masters and have taken on all the risks and responsibilities of publishing their own books. Some will be successful. Some will not. But all represent the true spiriti of independence!
Today’s book is Johnny Space Commander by Sean Parnell
If the movie Airplane 2: The Sequel were a comic book and starred a hapless adventurer and his robotic sidekick, then it would probably be called Johnny Space Cmmander and would be written and drawn by Sean Parnell.
Johnny Space Commander is a farce comic that sends up sci-fi adventure movies and tv shows while taking every opportunity to make a sex joke or body fluid reference. But, like the classic farce movies of the 80′s such as Airplane and The Naked Gun, these simply add to the overall humor of the book. It is clear that the reader is not supposed to take any of this seriously. Instead of working hard to create a sense of drama and mystery while sprinkling in bits of humor (like most comics), Parnell turns it on its head and takes every opportunity to cash in on a joke, and sprinkles in a little action and adventure.
The stories of Johnny Space Commander are neat little adventures which are designed to give Johnny an opportunity to show off his skills as a fighter or pilot, while bringing him in to contact with as many colorful characters as possible. Johnny, more often than not, plays it deadpan while the rest of the cast is free to make sex jokes, make cheap gags, or come up with some Deus ex Machina to resolve the scenario, often with hilarious effect.
The art is probably the weakest part of the entire package. When it comes to art, Parnell is a good writer. It is not that the art is particularly bad, it is more that it is not very refined. Like the script, the art is designed so that the reader will not take it very seriously. That is the problem. The joy of the farce movies is that they tried hard to recreate the look and feel (at least on the surface) of whatever genre they were spoofing. With Johnny Space Commander, there is little effort to make it look or feel like any other comic.
The notable exception is in the Jack Kirby puberty spoof backup story. Parnell does a solid job of mimicking Kirby’s art which takes something that would be mildly funny and turns it in to something with several laugh out loud moments. Had Parnell chosen to take Johnny Space Commander in that direction and make it a spoof in the art style of classic Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon, then the book would have been over the top!
The backup features are a happy diversion in each book. They are an opportunity for Parnell to try something a little different and to stretch himself. The story featuring his real-life brother is not only hilarious, but also a little heartwarming as well. Clearly Parnell has plenty of good ideas that are just begging to be let out to play!
In the end, Johnny Space Commander is a fun diversion. So relax, enjoy the adventure, and know that Johnny Space Commander is on the job!