Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

Tip of the Hat

Posted by Don MacPherson on July 12th, 2007

Stephen Colbert’s Tek Jansen #1
Writers: John Layman & Tom Peyer and Jim Massey
Artists: Scott Chantler and Robbi Rodriguez
Colors: Pete Pantazis & Aurelio Alfonso and Dave McCaig
Letters: Douglas E. Sherwood
Cover artists: Scott Chantler (regular edition) & John Cassaday (variant)
Editors: Randal C. Jarrell & James Lucas Jones
Publisher: Oni Press
Price: $3.99 US

If I had to describe this comic book in one word, it would be…. Lincolnish. (Lincoln was into sci-fi and comics, right? What? No? Oh.) OK, make that one word: Megamerican.

Were I allowed three real words instead of one truthy word, then those three words would be “pretty damn funny.”

I’m a big fan of The Colbert Report; I’m not a member of the Colbert Nation or anything, but I don’t think they accept Canadians. Nevertheless, I was pleased to hear about this Oni Press spinoff comic book, but I wondered if it would focus solely on sci-fi satire as the Tek Jansen cartoon segments from the show do. To my pleasure and relief, the writers on this book include some political satire as well, capturing the broader appeal of The Colbert Report in the process. There’s really only one problem with this solid humor book, and that’s the long wait we’ve had to endure. It’s not troop-withdrawal late, you know, but still.

Benevolent aliens known as the Optiklons visit Alphalon-7, offering world peace and prosperity in exchange for nothing but a promise to share a small measure of energy resources with needy neighbors. But the dashing and daring leader of Alpha Squad 7, the famous Tek Jansen, isn’t quite as trusting as the general populace and his superiors. And in another classic adventure, Tek Jansen goes undercover on an alien world on a mission to eradicate racism and class divides. Tasked to manipulate the planet’s political structure, Tek opts to solve the problem as only he can: by force!

The over-the-top nature of the science-fiction and social satire here is a significant departure for Scott Chantler, known for more grounded, historical fare such as Days Like This and Northwest Passage. He demonstrates his cartooning chops here quite clearly, though, in the main story, “Invasion of the Optiklons!” He abandons the Aeon Flux-like style of the Report’s animated sequences for a more straightforward, familiar comic-book style. His efforts here remind me of a cross between the styles of Mike (Powers) Oeming and Kieron (Remains, Sea of Red) Dwyer. Chantler’s designs for newer elements — such as C.A.S.E.Y. and Meangarr — are simple but memorable. The colorists bring a bright quality to the first story that harkens back to Superman stories of the 1960s.

I was surprised at how different artist Robbi Rodriguez’s approach to Tek Jansen is in the second story, “Horn Like Me.” There’s a grittier quality to the art that actually fits the slightly harsh tone of the send-up of racial and political problems. His designs for the segment aren’t quite as imaginative as Chantler’s, but he’s not given as wide a variety of elements to play with either. Dave McCaig’s colors for the backup story are darker and deeper, again, in keeping with the slightly darker tone of the premise.

John Layman and Tom Peyer introduce a much more interesting and entertaining supporting cast of characters for the space-faring, spectacled stalwart in “Optiklons.” Meangarr is a riot, the perfect foil to Tek’s narcissistic personality. The writers balance the brighter, goofy, Silver Age tone of their story with a couple of raunchier moments, such as day-after regrets and poorly planned nudity. Though the main purpose is to poke fun at conventions of science fiction, they also manage to spit some sweet venom at uber-consumer practices of Western culture. Tek’s opposition is a far from subtle but entertaining representation of American emphasis on materialism over idealism.

Jim Massey’s “Horn Like Me” is much more on point with the social commentary. The greatest strength of his script is the fact that he’s able to maintain a goofy atmosphere despite the ugly analogy at the heart of his story. Tek is actually something of an innocent here. He really doesn’t get racism. He’s not out to fight it or understand it. He’s just a little boy playing war; his toys just have a little more bite than the average BB gun.

Just like the divergent artwork, the plots for the two stories are radically different. Tek answers to a different boss, and the alien landscapes in which he can be found are like day and night. Still, what the two stories do have in common is the main character’s ego. He is just as much a blowhard in both segments, and that implausibly egomaniacal facade is as entertaining on the printed page as it is delivering “the Word” four nights a week. 7/10

11 Responses to “Tip of the Hat”

  1. Jennie Says:

    Oh Don! The Colbert Nation is full of Canadians – we just talk louder when they’re in the room. Thanks for the detailed and insightful review!

  2. No Fact Zone.Net » A Superstantial Review of Stephen Colbert’s Tek Jansen #1 Says:

    […] Well, it may not have the “Zazz” of Rockstar and webmaster DB’s review, but this thoughtful, detailed critique of Stephen Colbert’s Tek Jansen #1 from the blog Eye On Comics. is a great companion piece. Tip of the Hat […]

  3. Don MacPherson Says:

    Jennie wrote:
    Oh Don! The Colbert Nation is full of Canadians – we just talk louder when they’re in the room. Thanks for the detailed and insightful review!

    And we Canadians just talk more slowly when Americans are in the room! Kidding, of course. I have no doubt members of the Colbert Nation are smarter than the average bear.

    Thanks for the kind words, Jennie!

  4. Sean Says:

    I really liked this comic, which surprised me somewhat as I sometimes have a low tolerance for The Report*. Sometimes I don’t think it succeeds in stretching the joke across 30 minutes per night, but Tek Jansen brought the smart & the funny throughout its pages. It felt like a Duck Dodgers adventure done strictly for adults and with aspirations of social commentary & satire. Meangarr may be an idea taken from Space Ghost: Coast to Coast and its Adult Swim spawn, but I still had to smile at everything he said.

    Another great review Don, thanks.

    * Not to be confused with not loving, Stephen Colbert, the Man, who will always be a hero for that performance at the White House Press Correspondent’s Dinner last year.

  5. Don MacPherson Says:

    Sean, thanks for the kind words. And you’re right — the tone of the stories is comparable to the modern Duck Dodgers cartoons.

  6. julieisfree Says:

    OMG DON!!

    Did you says that members of The Nation and “BEAR” in the same sentence??

    Wag of the finger to YOU!

    But HUGE tip o’ the hat for a great review.

    (And FWIW, there is no such thing as “poorly planned” Tek nudity!)

  7. Don MacPherson Says:

    Julie wrote:
    Did you says that members of The Nation and “BEAR” in the same sentence?? Wag of the finger to YOU!

    It was not an accidental choice of phrase on my part. :) And thanks for the kind words!

    This is my second finger-wagging in reaction to the review. The first can be found here.

  8. No Fact Zone.Net » Zeitgeist - The Lost Posts of Jennie Says:

    […] Tip of the Hat – “Tek Jansen” comic review from EyeOnComics.com Ok… I’ve fallen off the wagon. Actually, despite the 5 weeks in “rehab” for my colbertoholism, I never did get firmly seated on that wagon. Yea, I walked out of the joint and went on a 2 week binge of watching TCR episodes. But it looks like the entire Nation was near Colbertium Tremens before the sightings in Charleston and the Tek Janson release. […]

  9. No Fact Zone.Net » Stephen Colbert in the Zeitgeist - NFZ Anniversary Edition Says:

    […] Tip of the Hat – Eye On Comics: “I’m a big fan of The Colbert Report; I’m not a member of the Colbert Nation or anything, but I don’t think they accept Canadians. Nevertheless, I was pleased to hear about this Oni Press spinoff comic book, but I wondered if it would focus solely on sci-fi satire as the Tek Jansen cartoon segments from the show do. To my pleasure and relief, the writers on this book include some political satire as well, capturing the broader appeal of The Colbert Report in the process. There’s really only one problem with this solid humor book, and that’s the long wait we’ve had to endure. It’s not troop-withdrawal late, you know, but still.” […]

  10. Colbert Question: Comic Plug? » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] At least the fan site plugged it. And Entertainment Weekly online, who ran a preview. And it’s gotten decent reviews, even if Graeme didn’t like it. Related Posts: Quesada on Colbert § Supernatural Cross-Promotion § Tokyopop Manga Magazine Out § Pro View on the NY Con § Comic Creation Contests […]

  11. BENN Says:

    My first visit to this site and this is what I find! I mean, I didn’t actually think there would really be a comic. I only just became a Stewart-Colbert fan last December–I had no idea what I was missing! I’m spending so much on comix this year already, but can I resist the manic magnetism of Tek Jansen?