I’ve known and written about Justin Hall’s work for his real-life travel tales (and sex tales) published in mini-comics, but now he’s gone and done a complete u-turn, abandoning reality altogether in favor of a cruelly funny collection of superhero stories revolving around the larger-than-life character of Glamazonia, “the Uncanny Super-Tranny”1. And he’s invited a lot of fellow cartoonists for the ride.
Glamazonia is a foul-mouthed, sex-hungry, perfectly-manicured and coiffed powerhouse whose adventures take her from 1960s America and the famous men of that period (and boy, does she get around, from John Kennedy to Che Guevara) to a future where she’s a worldwide iconic figure (and she isn’t pleased by that, since she doesn’t get paid for it). There are also some (slightly) more conventional superhero stories, such as the one where she thwarts a supervillain’s plan to mind-control innocent people. But she couldn’t care less about that, and is probably more annoyed by the presence of Rent Boy, a twink whose only ambition in life is to be her sidekick. That story is drawn by Diego Gomez, in an over-the–top, highly-colored style that fits its energy perfectly. The following stories are also drawn by other artists, such as Rent Boy’s white trash origin, drawn by Fred Noland, in a cartoony style that enhances the dark humor of that tale. Then Hall really begins to have fun with superhero stereotypes, by giving us half-a-dozen contradictory origins for his, well, I can’t say “heroine”, can I? So, we get riffs on Superman, Batman (where, obviously, it’s a “tranny”–I feel bad using that word without quotes–who gets thrown through Bruce’s window, instead of a bat), Spider-Man (you can guess whose bite give Peter superpowers this time) or the famous Charles Atlas ads. It’s all very funny, with an attention to details that make it more than an exercise in style.
As I said above, a lot of other cartoonists took part in this book, often drawing one-pagers (like Craig Bostick, Eric Orner or Paige Braddock), and some for a longer story. I was really taken by Jon Macy’s art on a Rent Boy story that bordered on the serious (but managed to avoid it). Macy creates a strong ambiance by using superhero art tropes (strongly reminding me of early Frank Miller art), thus making the reader expect a specific tension and action, while Hall’s script completely undermines it. When that is well done, the reader is constantly guessing at the direction of the story, one foot set in almost classic action, the other firmly planted in parody land. I really enjoyed that.
Glamazonia: The Uncanny Super-Tranny is an entertaining book with a lot of bite. The variety of art styles lends it an anthology quality which seems to me to reflect the scattered state of mind of its lead, who proves that anti-heroes are more fun to read about than the regular heroes.