By Ben Boruff
When Bob Dylan released Modern Times, his ambitious 2006 album that features songs like “Thunder On The Mountain” and “When the Deal Goes Down,” fans of the musically fluid troubadour experienced collective cognitive dissonance. Many fans and critics appreciated the folk-style lyrics that, when paired with Dylan’s signature blend of blues and rockabilly, offered a series of heartfelt insights into the complexities of romance, pain, and Alicia Keys. Others, however, were troubled by Dylan’s uncredited and arguably liberal use of lines from other artists, namely Henry Timrod, a little-known 19th century Confederate poet. As a group—and even as individuals—fans were conflicted. As a creative work, Thorus: Lord of the Super Gods is nowhere near any Dylan creation—on any scale—but the concern felt by Dylan fans in 2006 is similar to the concern I felt while reading the first issue of Jay Piscopo’s comic. Both works borrow from other artists. While Moderns Times remains a well-received staple of Dylan’s iconic discography, however, Thorus: Lord of the Super Gods is unoriginal to the point that I hesitate to call it art. For those who value originality, reading Thorus: Lord of the Super Gods is a frustrating experience. Thorus, the feebly characterized protagonist of the comic, is a thinly veiled combination of Hawkman and Thor. The comic’s villain, a motiveless brute who speaks like the teenage antagonist of an after-school PBS sketch about bullying, is a clear blend of Thanos and Galactus. Even the comic’s henchmen are derivative: they look like characters from Gargoyles, the animated television show from the 90s, and their modus operandi is reminiscent of the Chitauri from Joss Whedon’s first Avengers film.
Some reviewers have praised Piscopo’s style, arguing that Thorus: Lord of the Super Gods is a refreshing imitation of the storytelling techniques of comic titans like Jack Kirby and the animators at Hanna-Barbera, but those reviewers—many of whom seem blinded by nostalgia—fail to discuss the quality of the reproduction. Borrowing from other artists is common—even natural, to some degree—but the forgeries must be both minimal and deliberate. Thorus: Lord of the Super Gods is a muddled, tasteless cocktail of superhero clichés. Even if one can justify the inclusion of some of those clichés, few can argue that they are integrated effectively into the story. The first issue of Thorus: Lord of the Super Gods is filled with ineffective characterization and banal dialogue.
Jay Piscopo is capable of better work. As an artist and a writer, Piscopo has created some inspired stories, but Thorus: Lord of the Super Gods is not one of them. Aside from the visual counterfeits, the artwork—thick, paintbrush-like lines and solid colors that pop from the page—has a simple charm, but it is not enough to overshadow the narrative and visual deficiencies of the comic.
Intentionally or unintentionally, Piscopo plagiarized to the extent that the comic toes the line between problematic art and unapologetic kitsch. The comic’s copyright page houses this disclaimer: “No similarity without satiric purpose of any living or dead person, product or institution is intended. Any similarity that may exist is purely coincidental.” Assuming that Marvel’s Thor and DC’s Hawkman are “products,” I call bullshit. Some may argue that such comics are meant to be fun, not original. I disagree. But even if that is the case, I still hesitate to recommend this comic. Find fun elsewhere—there are plenty of comics that do it better.
Thorus: Lord of the Super Gods #1
Writer/Artist: Jay Piscopo
Publisher: Nemo Publishing Group