You Shall Die by Your Own Evil Creation
by Fletcher Hanks (edited by Paul Karasik)
Hillary Brown: Oookay. So, having read and reviewed the first volume of Fletcher Hanks's reproduced work (I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets), why would we want to do another one? I'm not sure, but it wasn't just a need to finish that kept me reading. This volume feels like more of a slog than the first, and it certainly presents very little that's new (mostly more Stardust, "Big Red" McLane, and Fantomah, with a good bit of "Space" Smith this time and a few others). It's the same weird-ass vision that the first book contained, which testifies to the comics formula just as much as to the auteur theory. I guess there are more aliens this go-round and fewer mobsters, but other than that it's the same mayhem and mass destruction, with a lot of rays and gases. Do you see any differences you'd like to point out? Paul Karasik continues to argue, in his introduction, that Hanks isn't an outsider artist, and I still think he is, but we pretty much covered that ground last time too. In short, what's to talk about?
Garrett Martin: We can talk about how this second volume makes what once seemed crazy feel mundane. Hanks is so lazy, with basically one plot for each character repeated over and over, that it really is hard to find something to talk about. We should translate our first post into Korean via Babelfish, translate that back into English, and post that in response to volume 2. We could talk about the difficulty of following up a book whose greatest selling point was that most folks would find it comically awful. Those people suck, but they made the first one a hit. Can they still find the time to mock Hanks? Or are they too busy ironically appreciating romance comics, or Akee Wise and Essence, or whatever else?
HB: Good point. It's easy to get jaded in a hurry about Hanks's casual violence, facile equation of ugliness with evil, and simplistic plotting. He is lazy, but that laziness is also kind of fascinating. For a while, at least... I haven't seen a ton of press on volume 2, and the positive reviews I have seen read like they're by people who didn't get around to volume 1. Karasik is clearly still enthusiastic about the material (will there be more, or did this clean out the Hanks archives? Ending with his death certificate certainly gives it an air of finality), and I see why Fantagraphics wants to publish it (it's important in an archival sense, as the documentation of a unique vision), but does it have mass appeal? Not so much. Will this be our shortest review ever?
GM: I believe the Hanks train has pulled into the station. Or more like it's plummeted into a lake after the Fifth Column destroyed every bridge in America with their anti-bridge rays. Every comic the man created is in these two volumes, at least everything that's been found. I'm glad to say I have the complete Hanks bibliography sitting on a shelf in my dining room, but I am a stupid completionist collector dude since elementary days. I think you've hit on something: if you come to this volume first, you will love it, at least until you pick up the first one. If you're just rounding off your Hanks collection, then you won't mind that this books is less powerful. It makes sense that the first book would be loaded with the best stuff, of course, even if they were planning from day one to release two volumes. The biggest problem here is that the most frequent strips simply aren't as entertaining as Stardust or Fantomah. The standard Space Smith strip isn't nearly as shocking or perverse as Hanks' more infamous characters, and that makes up like half the book.
Will this be our shortest review? That's entirely in your hands now. What say you?
HB: I say that you could make a great condensed Fletcher Hanks out of the best strips from both books and leave the complete version for the completists. It would be half the size of either volume 1 or volume 2 and pack a maximum of loony, id-driven entertainment between its covers before blissfully departing and leaving you wanting more, which you'd then be free to pursue or happily forget about and use your time for better things. How 'bout it, Fantagraphics?