The Adventures of Unemployed Man
by Erich Origen and Gan Golan
2010, Little, Brown & Company, Paperback, 80 pages, $14.99
Superhero parodies have been out there almost as long as superheroes themselves. Back in '66 there was a company called Parallax that printed The Great Society Comic Book and Bobman and Teddy. Both were drawn by journeyman artist Tony Tallarico, although on much better paper than was his custom. The stories were just excuses to show off caricatures of contemporary politicans as superheroes: SuperLBJ, Wonder Bird, Captain Marvelous (Robert McNamara), The Shadower (Hubert Humphrey), the Disagreein' Hornet (Everett Dirksen), and so forth. Diverting enough, in the right frame of mind.
Flash forward to today, and the release of The Adventures of Unemployed Man. This 80-page graphic novel has many features in common with the Parallax book: good paper, high price ($14.99 - ouch!) and caricatures of present-day political personalities, such as Rubin, Geithner and Summers as the Free Marketeers. ("All for the few! The rest for you!")
But more of the characters are meant to be archetypes rather than spoofs, not least the title character. He starts the book as the Ultimatum, who fights negative attitudes with platitudes. ("Stop blaming others and start blaming yourself!") All too soon, he runs afoul of his Board of Directors and becomes Unemployed Man. As such, he teams up with other personified traits such as Wonder Mother, Plan B the Senior Sidekick, Master of Degrees the Eternal Grad Student and super-psychiatrist Good Grief.
The artwork, by Ramona Fradon, Rick Veitch and Terry Beatty (among others), is leagues better than Tallarico's. They also include several cameos/parodies of existing comic characters. The Silver Surfer becomes happy-talking corporate shill The Silver Lining. The Incredibles show up in a soup line, now called the Unthinkables. These fillips don't detract from the story. You don't need to know, for example, that Good Grief's origin is done in the style of the EC comic Psychoanalysis, but if you do, it just adds to your enjoyment.
And it goes beyond the book. Unemployed Man's website connects to a blog that features news related to Unemployed. Unfortunately, it hasn't been updated recently, no doubt due to the product launch. Let's hope they get back on the ball soon. (And, of course, there's the obligatory T-shirt store. Those would've come in handy at the 10.2.10 rally...)
More fights and tights than insights, but it's enjoyable, and even re-readable. (At that price it had better be...)
Image: Hachette Book Group