For this superhero-crazed world Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of B.C. Boyer’s neglected 1980s superhero the Masked Man. For Part One click HERE
ECLIPSE MONTHLY Vol 1 #4 (January 1984)
Title: The Amazing Aphidman
Villain: The Organ Grinder
Synopsis: Writer and artist B.C. Boyer was wearing his Will Eisner hat more flamboyantly than ever this time around in a tale that piles on the comic relief with a shovel.
Big-time reporter Dan Drekston is still hanging around with the Masked Man (Dick Carstairs) and his friend Barney McAlister and is still threatening to blow our hero’s secret identity or to try proving he doesn’t turn over all the money or goods he recovers from robbers.
Barney and Dick want to prolong their current arrangement – newspaper reporter Barney publicizes the Masked Man’s crusade against crime but never blows his pal’s secret identity. Still, Drekston refuses to stop tagging along as they begin shadowing Max and Jako, two thugs who work for our hero’s archenemy, Frankie the Crimelord.
Barney tries to convince Dan he should find a superhero of his own to cover and we readers are shown a high school student named “Percy” who is obviousy a pastiche of Peter Parker aka Spider-Man. We also meet his tormentor “Dash” (Flash Thompson) and his crush “Diz” (Liz Allen).
The delusional nebbish captures the darker, “nerd on the verge of a killing spree” Peter Parker of the original 1962 Spider-Man origin story and it’s genuinely funny but it gets buried in the other comedy touches of the story.
Anyway, Percy accidentally spills one of his special chemical concoctions on some aphids in the high school lab, then gets bitten by them. He becomes convinced he has gained all the powers and abilities of an aphid, even though he hasn’t gained ANY powers at all.
Percy dons a red and blue costume that is reminiscent of the outfits worn by Spider-Man and by Atlas Comics’ superhero the Destructor (Atlas’ OWN Spider-Man imitation). While the costumed Aphidman stalks the city streets, the Masked Man, Barney and Dan Drekston continue shadowing Max and Jako.
Ultimately, in the Comedy Overkill climax of this story, it turns out the “secret” activity that Max and Jako don’t want any witnesses for involves nothing criminal, but rather just their own weird – even kinky – role-play game. One pretends to be an Organ Grinder, complete with hand-cranked organ, while the other wears a leash and frolics around acting like an organ grinder’s monkey.
Spotted by the Masked Man and the two reporters, they pull their guns and open fire, planning to kill them so that nobody knows about their weird fetish. In the ensuing battle Aphidman tries to help our main character but winds up needing saved by Dan Drekston.
The Masked Man subdues the Organ Grinder role-player and, though Barney hopes to see Dan decide to chronicle Aphidman’s adventures like he does with the Masked Man, Drekston instead roughs up the wimpy Aphidman and leaves him in a heap in a trash can.
This is my least favorite Masked Man story so far. Too much comic relief and too much Eisner-imitating. This needed to go a step beyond where Eisner would have taken it, maybe by having Percy’s Aphidman go full dark comedy and try to get violent revenge on Dash and Diz and his other bullies. +++
I’LL REVIEW THE NEXT MASKED MAN STORY SOON. KEEP CHECKING BACK FOR UPDATES.
FOR MY LOOK AT HOMBRE, SPAIN’S POST-APOCALYPTIC COMIC BOOK FROM THE 1980s, CLICK HERE .
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