Sitcomics Presents The Blue Baron Bing Book #1
Writer: David Baron
Pencils: Ron Frenz & Craig Rousseau
Inks: Sal Buscema & Craig Rousseau
Colors: Glenn Whitmore
Letters: Marshall Dillon
Price: $3.99 US
This comic book and Sitcomics in general is the brainchild of TV writer Darin Henry. It seems as though Henry’s a comic-book fan who’s making his dream of writing in the medium come true. As a writer, he makes some missteps here, but as a publisher, he makes a couple of moves that make his comics worth a look. What he does right is talent and value. He’s tapped industry veterans Ron Frenz and Sal Buscema to bring his bombastic Blue Baron and his super-hero colleagues to life, and it’s hard for a longtime genre fan such as myself to resist artwork crafted by those two talents. Furthermore, Baron offers 72 pages of comics content (including the “Startup” origin backup story) for a mere $3.99 US. There are 63 pages of Blue Baron material in this comic, which means the audience gets three issues’ worth of content for the price of one. Not a bad way to invite oneself into a reader’s home, though I wonder if it’s sustainable, especially since Sitcomics appears to be self-distributed.
The super-strong, high-flying hero known as the Blue Baron has been protecting innocents in America for almost 250 years, so that might be why younger people today think he’s kind of lame even though he’s probably the most powerful member of the Heroes’ Union, the super-team he leads in Pennsylvania. Thirteen-year-old Ernie Rodriguez far prefers the other members of the team, so it’s a bit ironic when a lab accident wreaks a Freaky Friday effect on him and the Blue Baron. As the insufferable personality behind the Baron must adjust to life as a teen in the suburbs, Ernie discovers that being able to fly and toss cars around isn’t as much fun as he thought it would be.
With Frenz and Buscema’s name on the book, you know it’s going to look good. Their old-school approach is a perfect fit for the traditional tone of the story and characters. The title character’s design is both corny and cool, which works, because there are characters who mock the hero’s look repeatedly in the script. Most of the other designs are striking, notably the villains. I did find Raider’s half-naked, helmeted look to be lacking, though. Baron has wisely tapped another industry veteran — Glenn Whitmore — to handle the colors, and his bright tones further reinforce the Silver and Bronze age qualities of this modern comic.
The biggest problem with Blue Baron is the script, specifically the voices Henry has crafted for the two main characters. Blue Baron’s secret identity is a pompous ass for no apparent reason, and his speech is stilted despite the fact that he’s not actually been around since the American Revolution; there’s no logical way for him to talk that way when out of costume. Ernie also comes off as an arrogant ass, even though he has no reason to be arrogant. He shows no vulnerability and little wonder, and his unwillingness to listen to the experienced heroes among whom he finds himself defies credibility.
Nevertheless, I was entertained by the premise and the action. While the Baron (regardless of who’s occupying his body) is a dick, other characters — notably Raider and Startup — are likeable. The archetypes (or in the case of the title hero, the blending of archetypes) put me in mind of the fun of discovering new characters in Kurt Busiek’s Astro City.
The backup story — featuring the origin of speedster heroine Startup — was painful to read. Before gaining her powers, she’s a 300-pound woman, and every page contains wince-inducing fat joke after fat joke. The story should be an empowering one, but it’s the opposite. The plot is ludicrous, and I believe intentionally so, as it’s essentially a spin on the classic Captain America, but instead of a plot-device formula designed to helped win a war, the serum here is made to win the war on a waistline. To make this spoof story work, the protagonist is required to come off as ridiculously naive and desperate. Baron has again tapped an experienced mainstream comics artist — Craig Rousseau — to craft the visuals, but they seem a little loose here. I was reminded of the style of Scott McDaniel, and Rousseau usually boasts a cleaner line that would have served a super-speed hero better (had we seen any super-speed in these few pages).
Promotional material for Sitcomics indicates Henry is aiming to develop sitcom-type properties in the comics medium with the genres for which comics are best known. I don’t think he quite achieves that goal. The only super-hero sitcom in comics of which I can think that really hit the mark was the Giffen/Dematteis/Maguire Justice League in the 1980s, and The Blue Baron is a far cry from that sort of smart and engaging humor. There’s definitely potential here, and I think what Henry really needs is an editor. No editor is listed in the credits for this comic, and I suspect a guiding hand could steer the writer from groan-inducing humor and ham-fisted dialogue into some more measured, successful storytelling. Despite the book’s shortcomings, though, I’m pleased with my purchase, because I definitely feel I got a lot of bang for my buck. Four bucks is a good price for 63 pages of four-color fantasticness from Frenz and Buscema. 6/10