Review: My Pal Splendid Man

Gerard Jones and Will Jacobs are (among other things), the creators of a well regarded but somewhat obscure comic, The Trouble With Girls, that is a spot-on send-up of heroic serial fiction. I mention it because there are elements of that sort of satire here in Splendid Man, but more rough and clumsy.

Splendid Man reads much more like fan fiction than Girls.  In fact Splendid Man is pretty much Mary Sue fan fiction.  The POV character finds himself cast in the role of the best pal of Splendid Man, a direct Superman stand-in.  It’s never clear exactly why Splendid Man would spend time with our Mary Sue, or why we are interested.  Jones and Jacobs eventually get better at this.

A fan of Superman and Jones and Jacobs – like me – can find things to divert themself. It’s interesting to see a snapshot of their writing skill at the time.  One can see little quirks and stylings that remain as they mature.  The structures of the stories are well executed.  Seeing how their later writing animates these skeletons is instructive.

The two authors are also quite knowledgeable about comics in general and the Superman mythos in particular. It’s interesting to see the in-jokes and commentary on the comics that they incorporate. That encyclopedic knowledge is, again, better deployed in their work to come.

Finally, it stands as a snapshot of attitudes and biases of the 1980’s.  The Mary Sue spends a lot of time smoking and drinking in ways that I found cheerfully anachronistic.  In addition, the attitudes toward gays which were probably considered controversially compassionate when the stories were written have become quaint.

As anthropology, the stories are recommended.

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