Thursday, April 24, 2008

Reflection - Shanna She-Devil

Getting gift certificates for your birthday is a blessing and a curse. A blessing, because it's always fun to go on a shopping spree on someone else's dime. A curse, because I always feel I need to live up to the gift-giver's generosity by picking the absolutely most perfect thing. It can't be junk. It's gotta be great. I can buy crap with my own money, but effectively, gift certificates are still someone else's money. So when I went to Happy Harbor Comics, the best comic book store on earth, to spend two rounds of gift certificates (Christmas and birthday), I was feeling a little overwhelmed.

A good comic shop is one of my favorite places to be. And Happy Harbor isn't just a good comic shop, it's a great one. The guy who owns the place understands the hobby and the people who indulge in it. He'll watch you to make sure you aren't stealing any of the merchandise, but otherwise, he lets you browse for lengthy periods of time, a practice which is essential to the hobby. We comic geeks just like soaking up the ambience of a comic shop, looking at the covers, flipping through the pages. If a comic shop has a sign about not flipping through the comics, it's owned by some paranoid wanker who doesn't understand that if I like a comic, I'll still buy it AFTER I've looked inside. But I need to look inside to make sure that the artist who painted the amazing cover is the same guy who illustrates the whole book. Because I'm not buying comics for how much they're going to be worth someday. I'm busying them because I like reading them.

That's why I only get trade paperbacks anymore. I don't buy single issues, save on rare occasions, like when I order the collected Atland books. I want to support the artist in that situation, and he might not ever get the chance to release a trade paperback (TPB) if I don't support him in the single issue stage. Never mind that taking a TPB off the shelf and reading it is a hell of a lot easier than taking the single issue out of the collector's bag I have it hidden away in.

But deciding on the right TPB is a difficult thing, especially at Happy Harbor, because the selection is phenomenal. However, I'd been eyeing one book in particular since I first started scouting out my possible choices for spending my gift certificates shortly after Christmas. I was Shanna, She-Devil by Frank Cho.

Artists like Frank Cho are why teenage boys start reading comics. Frank Cho draws the best women in comic books, with anatomy which, however buxom his women become, still obeys gravity. And they all look a bit like Linda Carter, which isn't a bad thing. He also draws great dinosaurs. And he does both in Shanna, She-Devil.

If you ask me why I picked up a trade paperback of a scantily clad jungle girl who kicks the ever living shit out of dinosaurs with birthday gift certificates for my favorite comic shop, I'll tell you "I like to read the articles...I mean story!" In all honesty, you can look down your nose at me all you like.So maybe this is my mid-life crisis...the scantily clad jungle babe for my inner adolescent, and the dinosaurs for my inner child. It takes me back to being 12 years old reading my first Conan comics.

The plot is simple. A military unit crash lands on a mysterious island filled with dinosaurs. There they discover a secret Nazi research facility. Inside said facility, clones of hot blonde Aryan women who were going to be super soldiers! How proto-feminist of the Nazis to choose women as their super soldiers! Only one is still alive, and when she is freed from her stasis tank, she joins with our group of soldiers in trying to survive on the island...until a deadly virus is unleashed! Only a serum back at the Nazi research facility can save them, but there are a lot of dinosaurs between Shanna and the serum, and then even more between her and the camp!

Yep. Plot is dumb as hell. But Cho rises to the occasion, both as visual artist and writer, to make Shanna, She-Devil not only fun, but somewhat engaging as a character as well.

Say what you will. It's got dinosaurs and a hot blonde heroine. I've been studying high-falootin' literatooor for the past 5 years. I needed some junk in my reading diet.


  1. Warp-1 turned me OFF comics. The employees and atmosphere and... ugh. I never went to Happy Harbor when I was in Edmonton. Heck, now they sponsor local pro wrestling. I mean... darn, I missed out. =)

    I picked up a sweet Transformers comics TPB the other day for ten bucks. I agree with you that I only buy trades. I love them on a bookshelf and they're so easy to read. And, unfortunately, I also know I'm buying a contained story (or significant chapter) that is quality or not. It's too hard to me to deal with paying four bucks an issue of a comic that may or may not be good, but I don't want to "break the story."

    Basically, J. Michael Strazyinski's Spider-Man got me back INTO comics... and then got me back out with one of the worst storylines ever. Which has been surpassed by even more worst storylines ever since.

    You ever read Invincible by Robert Kirkman? Now THAT is an awesome super-hero comic. Wow.

  2. And now Happy Harbor's 3rd store is IN the space where Warp-1 used to be, turning people back ON to comics. Yes!