Max Repp Comes on Strong
(This Stripped column originally appeared in the April 30-May 6, 1998 Long Island Voice. Click on the artwork for a larger image.)
by Beth Hannan Rimmels
Watch out what you wish for; you just might get it. I've been ranting about the comics business needing diversity long before this column existed (yes, my husband is extremely patient). Well, despite the general financial mess the business is in, the variety of titles out there today is much wider than the average superhero-laden store shelves indicate.
No, I'm not being a cheerleader again (I look stupid with pompoms), but I just got back from a weekend in San Diego where I helped pick the nominees for this year's Eisner Awards. I'll discuss that next week — credits are still being verified — but I think the final results will indicate some of the range out there.
That only scratches the surface, however, and it takes being in two rooms of material from 1997 to prove it. Material submitted for consideration ranged from volumes one and two of A Jew in Communist Prague (NBM) to XXXena: Warrior Pornstar.
Which leads to this week's book: Lyman Dally's Max Rep in the Age of the Astrotitans. I know what you're thinking: What's the big deal? It's just another science fiction/adventure title, right? Wrong. This is the first bodybuilding comic book. Now, before you scoff that maybe that's taking diversity a little too far, I should explain that Dally has been doing Max Rep as a two-page comic strip for the Ronkonkoma, NY-based Muscular Development magazine for more than seven years. Based on its popularity, Dally decided to take the leap to a comic book with a set of all-new stories.
The book is a romp in the style of the old SF/adventure/mystery comics. Max doesn't realize he's one of the last examples of genetically engineered space laborers. He lives a nice, quiet life until his girlfriend dumps him, leading him to take a maintenance job at a space station where the variable gravity soon causes his genetic tendencies to kick in and turn him into Charles Atlas.
Dally, a graduate of the Kubert School, became an anatomy teacher there before he got interested in weight training. There's lots of emphasis on corded muscles in his book, but don't accuse him of drawing in the Rob Liefield-mode of unrealistic anatomy. Sure, a few of the heads might look a little small in relation to the pumped-up shoulders, but you can see the same in a bodybuilding magazine. I have seen female bodybuilders who looked like Quadra-Blu from the first issue: super-developed muscles and low body fat combine for thin hips, but she does have hips, unlike so many 46-inch-bust/10-inch-hip women being drawn today.
The transition between the first and second issues is a little jarring, mainly because there is no transition. Issue two essentially starts as a flashback to explain how Max ended up totally buff and threatening to steroid-pushing aliens. Starting a story in the middle isn't unusual for comics, but I actually had to double-check that I hadn't mixed up the order of the issues. Other than that, Max Rep is a fun romp in an old genre with a new twist. Aspiring artists should also check the schedule for upcoming Big Apple Cons — Dally often does musculature and anatomy chalk talks there.
In other award news, the 1997 Harvey Award winners were announced at WonderCon in Oakland, Calif. Not a lot of surprises. Alex Ross has become the god of cover art — until the inevitable backlash sets in — for extremely good reason. And while many might be disappointed that their favorite creator didn't win, it's hard to argue with Kurt Busiek, Jaime Hernandez or Frank Miller taking top prizes. The complete list of winners is on our Web site. Go to its Web site for information on previous and future WonderCons.
Media Connection: This week, 'Nuff Said hosts Ken Gale and Ed Menje turn the show over to listeners. No guests, just lots of people talking comics. 'Nuff Said airs from midnight May 3 to 1 a.m. May 4 on WBAI-FM (99.5).
Column © 1998 Long Island Voice. Artwork © 1998 Lyman Dally.