For many comics nerds, Gone and Forgotten was essential back in early oughts (and its current incarnation still is.) A lot of people have done the “look at these wacky old comics” thing (myself included) and almost all of them (myself included) ripped off their technique from there. Jon Morris, the man behind Gone and Forgotten, now has a book out called The League of Regrettable Superheroes and I can’t think of a better topic for him to cover, or a better person to cover it.
LORS is a look at the super-powered characters who just never quite made it. There’s a lot of material from the 40s, of course, when the superhero boom was at its peak and everyone was trying to cash in, but unlike most of these discussions Morris also continues looking at characters through the present day.
This is the first touch that sets LORS apart from the myriad of other folks plying similar trades. Morris isn’t doing a “ha ha look at how crazy comics were!” and then giving current nonsense a pass. He’s interested in these misfires themselves and how these things just sometimes don’t go right.
The second, and more important distinction, is that while the book is full of hilarious commentary an some of the heroes are just “what on Earth was anyone thinking?” hapless, Morris isn’t just pointing a finger and getting yuks. He is often as baffled as anyone as to why a character failed (or, as is often the case, worked for a year or so before failing). Anyone can point out a goofy character that didn’t take off, but it doesn’t get interesting until you compare it to similarly goofy characters who did. There are many ways a superhero can just not “click” and not all of them are obvious.
Morris hits some familiar ground to fans of weird comics, and some essential ground, but he also brings in a lot of heroes I wasn’t familiar with, and goes into more detail on ones I had only heard spotty references to.
The League of Regrettable Superheroes is a supremely funny book, but it’s more than just cheap gags at the expense of old creators. It really does look at a very strange world, the world of superhero comics, and wonder how a guy using slapstick props to fight crime fails, but a dude with a metal skeleton and claws that pop out of his hands gets fantastically popular. (This, incidentally, is also why I enjoy Andrew Weiss’ “Nobody’s Favorites” feature, which also owes a lot to G&F and similarly goes for more than just mocking laughter.) LORS recognizes that all superheroes are kind of dumb and goofy, so why are these ones seemingly moreso?
I am enjoying the hell out of the book and highly recommend it. It should be pointed out that Morris’ commentary, while still funny and biting, is more family-friendly than G&F. My only wish is that there was a little more reprinted comment for the characters, but what’s there is perfectly fine. Get it today!