Tony DeZuniga

Foolkiller (1990)

The last time I read Foolkiller, almost fifteen years ago, I really liked it. I wish I knew what I’d liked about it because it’s really not good. Even back then I know I thought the art—Joe Brozowski on pencils, Tony DeZuniga then Vince Giarrano on the inks—was bad. And the art’s bad. It appears DeZuniga had been handling the facial features and without him, the people start looking real bad, but then Giarrano adjusts or something. Very rocky, art-wise. Never good, sometimes less bad than other times.

But the art’s not the problem. The problem’s the script, which is from Steve Gerber, who’s not just good, but also not the guy you expect to do a comic all about how the “super predators” are real. At one point they even do a Central Park Five reference. In Foolkiller, it’s a string of Central Park attacks on cyclists where the gang beats the victims to death, enraged the victims can… afford bicycles. Even the killers’ parents are okay with their sons brutally murdering those better off bicycle owners.

Of course, one of the other bad guys is a right-wing TV host. The first few issues of Foolkiller have a different feel than the rest of the comic and not just because the noses go bad at some point. The comic’s about a new Foolkiller, inspired by the original, who’s actually the second one, and is currently in a mental institution in Indiana. The protagonist, Kurt, has just lost his father, his job, his house, his wife, and finds Foolkiller—on the right-wing TV host’s show—aspirational. Pretty soon Kurt’s going around killing bad guys, romancing his shift manager at the burger joint—the only job he could get because savings and loans—and working out in garbage. On one hand, Foolkiller feels like Gerber amping up the absurdity over this kind of character but Gerber’s also grounding it as he goes along. It’s like Gerber’s too dedicated to the actual narrative to subvert it with jabs at the protagonist’s philosophy. Taxi Driver: The Comic.

And outside a mention of The Avengers and Spider-Man swinging through an issue to sell at least one to the Spidey collectors, Foolkiller doesn’t feel very Marvel comic. Outside the art, which—even bad—looks like Marvel and the lettering, which is perfunctory and somehow inappropriate. Foolkiller’s journals are all supposedly written on the computer but they appear in handwriting. It’s also unclear how the journals are supposed to be read—contemporary to events, past tense. It’d be nice if it mattered. Something in Foolkiller should matter.

Yeah, Gerber created Foolkiller, didn’t he. At least the most famous one—and he was in Man-Thing. I just can’t figure out what happened to the joke in Foolkiller. The comic takes a shift when it starts dealing with the Iraq War in the last few issues; that news is pushing Foolkiller’s killing spree out of the headlines. The other headlines are about crack babies and something else kind of iffy, even for the early nineties. The first half of Foolkiller is Randian objectivism with some sprinkles of libertarianism, the second half of it is the lead dispassionately offing examples of those philosophies. Maybe if there were a connection there’d be some impact but Gerber introduces the relevant supporting characters—outside the TV host—when he needs them, not before. And the TV host doesn’t really provide much texture. Foolkiller confuses hyperbolic with effective.

Nothing in the comic stands out. None of the characters, none of the moments Gerber tries out with the supporting cast. He’s got a lack of empathy for everyone involved, which matches the protagonist I suppose but… it’s a little long—ten issues—to go just to prove you can do something. Though Foolkiller is from the old days, back when publishers never would’ve dreamed off cutting issues off a limited series. Or at least it seemed like they wouldn’t. What do I know? I used to be a big Foolkiller (1990) fan. And not when I had any excuse to be.

Maybe the most disappointing aspect—other than Gerber’s exaggerated, almost defensive classism—is the pointlessness of the narrative. It doesn’t add up to anything for anyone involved, not Foolkiller III, not Foolkiller II, not Foolkiller II’s too liberal psychiatrist, not the girl who falls for Foolkiller III, not the stupid villain who can’t seem to die… no one. One of the villains is even a New York City real estate developer who is way too competent to be confused for any real figure.

Either something went very wrong with Foolkiller or it was always a terrible idea.

I’m not sure I wrote about Foolkiller the last time I read it, but if I did, the posts are long gone. I don’t know if I want to know what I thought but I’m frankly embarrassed about it.

Foolkiller (1990) is most decidedly not good. From the start. I kept thinking maybe it turned around in the last few issues and Gerber finally acknowledged the nonsense.

But no.

It’s just bad all the way through.

Detective Comics 523 (February 1983)

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Batman kills Solomon Grundy at the end of this story. I wonder if it was easier for writers to do Grundy stories because he’s not human or alive so they could kill him off every time. There’s not even a real explanation of how he comes to Gotham.

The issue’s okay. DeZuniga’s inks aren’t the best for Colan. There are a lot of great faces and expressions, but the figures are too static. It’s like DeZuniga solidifies too much of Colan’s pencils. The figures jump out of the panels.

Conway’s spinning his wheels for a story–Alfred has a page of thought balloons about how Batman is basically just making himself miserable when he ought to be relieved following all the recent events. There’s even a couple wasted pages on Dick, just for filler.

Speaking of filler, Green Arrow fights some goofy villains in his backup. It makes little impression.

CREDITS

Inferno; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Tony DeZuniga; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Ben Oda. Mob Rule!, Part One; writer, Joey Cavalieri; penciller, Irv Novick; artist, Ron Randall; colorist, Tom Ziuko; letterer, Phil Felix. Editors, Nicola Cuti and Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman 351 (September 1982)

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The Batman as a vampire story sort of limps it’s way to the finish line, with Conway filling the issue with just about everything else he can to pad it out. There’s Gordon investigating something–it has to do with Rupert Thorne, though Gordon doesn’t know it yet. There’s a Human Target cameo (Alfred hired Chance to impersonate Bruce, but now Chance is going to investigate him for curiosity’s sake).

But the best part is vampire Dick Grayson coming on to Vicki Vale. She’s mortified but in a hilarious way. It’s too bad he’s a vampire, otherwise it’d have been great character material.

Excellent art from Colan and DeZuniga–vampire Batman is terrifying.

The Catwoman backup–even though the Gonzales art is wanting–is excellent. Jones figures out how to tell these stories in two successful parts, instead of having a problematic followup. It continues the noir feeling, something the art unfortunately cannot match.

CREDITS

What Stalks the Gotham Night?; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Tony DeZuniga; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Ben Oda; editor, Dick Giordano. Gentlemen Defer Blondes; writer, Bruce Jones; artist, Adrian Gonzales; colorist, Tom Ziuko; letterer, Janice Chiang; editor, Len Wein. Publisher, DC Comics.

Detective Comics 517 (August 1982)

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They’re really dragging out the Batman turns into a vampire thing. I think this issue is the fourth or fifth of the story. I guess it’s fine, since it’s Colan and DeZuniga again and I am curious how everything is going to tie together.

Conway and Levitz are finally bringing Vicki Vale into Batman’s story, with Dick Grayson (as an evil, mind controlled vampire) kidnapping her.

The approach to vampires is particular. There apparently aren’t–according to this issue–vampires in the DC universe, at least not enough the bad vampires here could be related to them. The vampires here have their own origin and their own vampire hunter. It’s a lot of backstory, but I guess Conway and Levitz wanted to give Colan something to draw to resemble his Tomb of Dracula content.

The Batgirl as snake lady backup mercifully ends. It’s supposed to be tragic, but it’s just silly instead.

CREDITS

The Monster in the Mirror; writers, Gerry Conway and Paul Levitz; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Tony DeZuniga; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Annette Kawecki. A Tale of Two Serpents!; writer, Cary Burkett; penciller, Jose Delbo; inker, Joe Giella; colorist, Tom Ziuko; letterer, Janice Chiang. Editor, Dick Giordano; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman 350 (August 1982)

2812.jpgOnce again, the Bruce Jones Catwoman story is a lot more interesting than the Batman feature. But I’ll go in printing order and start with the Batman.

The art this issue is Gene Colan and Tony DeZuniga; so far, DeZuniga is the best inker for Colan on Batman, especially given the vampires. The whole issue has a disquieting tone to it. It looks great… even if the story is a little tepid.

Dick is under the influence of his vampire girlfriend and he sets up Batman to get bitten. Once again, Vicki Vale’s dilemma over whether to reveal Bruce as Batman is more interesting than the Batman stuff.

DeZuniga is the solo artist on the Catwoman backup too. Jones’s writing is great–he puts Selina in a very noir situation, perfecting adapting things to make the femme fatale the noir protagonist. The art wondrously matches the writing’s tone. Just fantastic.

CREDITS

Nightmare in Crimson; writers, Gerry Conway and Paul Levitz; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Tony DeZuniga; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Ben Oda. Those Lips, Those Eyes; writer, Bruce Jones; artist, DeZuniga; colorist, Tom Ziuko; letterer, A. Kubert. Editor, Dick Giordano; publisher, DC Comics.

Spider-Woman 5 (August 1978)

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Wolfman edited Spider-Woman too? I guess I hadn’t paid much attention. Now a lot more makes sense. Without any editorial oversight, Wolfman can keep going with whatever he thinks works (to be fair, Spider-Woman did run fifty issues–five years–so he must have been in sync with readers) and what does he go with? A dream issue.

I can’t think of a dream issue offhand I like–did Alan Moore do a Swamp Thing dream issue? I liked that one if he did. But here’s why I hated this one.

Who cares?

Wolfman doesn’t really work at making Spider-Woman a) a likable protagonist or b) even the protagonist of her own book. On the fifth issue, with all her neurosis, it’s clear she’s a lame character. He’s trying to force interesting characteristics; they aren’t helping.

Maybe I think I like Spider-Woman because of the cartoon.

CREDITS

Nightmare; writer and editor, Marv Wolfman; penciller, Carmine Infantino; inker, Tony DeZuniga; colorist, Michele Wolfman; letterer, John Costanza; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Spider-Woman 4 (July 1978)

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Can this series make any less sense? I mean, I’m not even going after Wolfman’s characterization of Spider-Woman as a social outcast who has a great vocabulary, not even mentioning the whole, everyone hates Jessica Drew thing. I’m getting the feeling I’d hate Jessica Drew too, if Wolfman were scripting her.

I don’t even know what happens this issue. Does Brother Grimm die? I thought there were two Brother Grimms. Didn’t the last issue cliffhang on that note?

And then the Hangman, one of Wolfman’s villains from Werewolf by Night, shows up. Wolfman layers on the melodrama in this series–it’s telling how he’s got the misogynist Hangman taking Spider-Woman captive after hogging her own book from her–Wolfman barely gives the titular character any time in her own book, instead concentrating on the male characters.

Infantino does a better job this issue.

There, I said something nice.

CREDITS

Hell Is the Hangman!; writer and editor, Marv Wolfman; penciller, Carmine Infantino; inker, Tony DeZuniga; colorist, Mary Titus; letterer, Joe Rosen; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Spider-Woman 2 (May 1978)

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Vixen. A spiteful or quarrelsome woman. Vixen.

Marv Wolfman refers to his protagonist as a vixen in this issue. Not so sure he knows what the word means and for someone so flatulent in his writing, he really ought to have a dictionary handy.

I’m not entirely sure what’s wrong with this comic book, whether it’s Wolfman or the editorial decisions behind Spider-Woman, but it’s a mess.

She’s heading to America at the end of this issue, presumably to have superhero guest stars, but it’s the second issue. Why bother with her in England in the first place? More, why bother with the inane romantic interest (actually, he’s more of a stalker–a stalker from SHIELD–it could be a new title).

Infantino’s professional enough to pull everything off, but he’s clearly bored. Worst is how Wolfman’s exposition sometimes doesn’t match Infantino’s panels, like Wolfman’s trying to force it.

CREDITS

A Sword in Hand!; writer and editor, Marv Wolfman; penciller, Carmine Infantino; inker, Tony DeZuniga; colorist, Janice Cohen; letterer, Irving Watanabe; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Spider-Woman 1 (April 1978)

27760.jpgWow, does Wolfman like to write exposition. I mean, he just loves it. It really made this issue incredibly boring. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention, but I had no idea–until a few pages into it–the issue is taking place in London. I’m also not sure if Jessica Drew is English or not. I mean, does she have an accent? Wolfman likes doing European settings, but his dialogue never sounds like it’d be right if said with an accent.

Infantino’s art was a little disappointing. It’s competent and all (DeZuniga’s inks practically make it look like someone else), but there’s a decided lack of enthusiasm.

Wolfman’s approach to the character, with her missing memories and her anti-social behavior (her neighbors are afraid of her? That’s just lame), is under-cooked. He sets up all these contradictions for her and bypasses resolving them like he doesn’t know the answers.

CREDITS

…A Future Uncertain!; writer and editor, Marv Wolfman; penciller, Carmine Infantino; inker, Tony DeZuniga; colorist, Glynis Wein; letterer, Joe Rosen; publisher, Marvel Comics.

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