This Ambush, This Bug


Comic:

Showcase Presents Ambush Bug, written by Robert Loren Fleming and Paul Kupperberg, illustrated by Keith Giffen, Bob Oksner and others (1982-92; collected 2008): Oh, Ambush Bug. From humble beginnings as a creation of artist Keith Giffen, he was a slightly nutty, teleporting villain in a 1982 issue of the Superman team-up book DC Comics Presents featuring the Man of Steel and the Doom Patrol, the Bug went on to become a postmodern superhero in appearances in other people’s books and then in miniseries and specials of his own. His adventures were collected by DC just prior to his return in the 2008-2009 miniseries Ambush Bug: Year None.

While Ambush Bug’s DNA clearly and explicitly shows the influence of Warner Brothers cartoon characters that include Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, he fairly rapidly became a vehicle for metacommentary on superhero comics themselves, with the Bug himself fully aware that he was a comic-book character. A typical Ambush Bug adventure can be pretty hit-and-miss, but Giffen and main writer Fleming keep things moving at a breakneck satiric pace. One will eventually hit something funny, though how funny depends a lot on how many comics one has read.

Most of the jokes are only funny for someone with at least some knowledge of the DC Universe and super-hero comics in general. The satire of the mainstream comic industry’s growing obsession with continuity and quasi-realistic superhero universes rings truer today than it did in the 1980’s (and it rang pretty true then!).

I think the whole thing’s pretty funny, with the most telling standout being the repeated deaths and resurrections of Ambush Bug, either to finally remove him from continuity or to boost sales because death alway sells in comic books. Ambush Bug’s boy partner, Cheeks the Wonder Toy, is also a surprisingly fertile source of parody, seeing as he’s an inanimate baby doll that Ambush Bug confuses with a real baby. The Cheeks-centric parody of the then-ongoing Dark Knight Returns miniseries is spot-on (“The war is mine again. I feel alive again.”) as are other short parodies of Rob Liefeld’s drawing ability, war comics, DC’s more bizarre characters, and even the Green Lantern Corps (herein spoofed as the Amber Butane Corps). Recommended for comic-book readers; mostly incomprehensible to others.

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