Sep 15, 2011

It Came From The Dollar Bin: Generation X Underground Special

Full disclosure: I'm cheating this week. I picked this book up at retail, but as it fits the bill for the kind of books I'm featuring in this series, I'm using it anyway.

Mention the 90s to a comic book fan and the first thing that usually comes to mind is supermuscled, superviolent superheros. Though the decade is best known for Rob Liefeld and his over-the-top friends at Image, the popularity of "alternative" culture outside of comics also fed the independent comics scene. Black and white art was a sign of street cred. Unlike the counterculture comix of the 60s and 70s, indy comics of the 80s and 90s were primarily created by fans of mainstream comics. When a writer or artist who made their name doing a black-and-white book published by a small-press publisher like Oni or Slave Labor Graphics got an offer to write for one of the Big Two they usually jumped at the chance.

This week I introduce to you the results of one of those pairings, one of the least likely books to come out of Marvel Comics: Jim Mahfood's Generation X Underground Special.

Kids and their newfangled 32-bit systems...
Though it was the 90s incarnation of the X-Men's underage farm team, Generation X wasn't that "X-treme". Being one of the more subdued books in 90s comics, in addition to having just plain excellent characters, made it especially popular with readers who had had enough of Spawn and Youngblood. Mahfood's Underground Special came out of that affection. Though the last decade has seen Marvel embrace more and more creators with indy comic beginnings, this precursor is unique in its format: The entire comic is in black and white apart from the splashes of blue and yellow on the cover and it doesn't have any advertisements. There are even a couple parts encouraging copyright infringement. It is not so much a Marvel comic as a Marvel-sanctioned and -published fancomic.

The book puts its alt-culture cred out in front with a story called "The Big Game", about Skin challenging M to beat his high score in Space Invaders. It's adorable, but not exactly plot-heavy.

Lucas Bishop: Sex Offender
The second story, "Banshee's Angels", casts M, Jubilee, and Husk in an homage to 70s crime shows. Artie and Leech have been kidnapped for ransom by a fairly generic gangster-pimp named Johnnie Gator. The White Queen, wearing far more clothing than she has in years, asks Banshee's help in rescuing them. The girls work with Special Guest Star Bishop, done up in full Shaft regalia, to find Gator and rescue the kids. Again, fun, but not really notable as a story. This one's really just notable for Afro Bishop. LOOK AT HIM.

QQ moar, noob
Wrapping up the book with some serious mood whiplash is a short about Chamber called "Half a Face". Chamber, arguably the least normal-looking member of the team*, takes a bus to New York City and wanders around the busy street, thinking about how even his teammates don't understand how hard it is to be a mutant who can't pass as human. It's 5 pages of pure X-style teen angst, but let's be honest: That was half the charm of the Generation X series as a whole. Of all the stories in the book, this one fits in best with the series as a whole and feels the most in-character.

This book as a whole is a lot of fun, and reading back through it, as a huge fan of the original Generation X comic and 90s indies in general, was a lovely slice of nostalgia. And for another slice of nostalgia, I leave you with the Unofficial Bootleg Generation X Trading Cards. Remember superhero trading cards?

You know it's not "official" Marvel because Emma's clothed.

*Skin could give him a run for his money, and Penance only gets a break because she's feral.

1 comment:

  1. Heh, this is one of my all-time favorite comics, and it got me exposed to Mahfood's talents. :)

    How about a post on Mahfood's Grrl Scouts someday?