Heckler #1 (September, 1992)
“Our First Issue!”
Plot & Pencils – Keith Giffen
Script – Tom & Mary Bierbaum
Inks – Malcolm Jones III
Letters – Bob Pinaha
Colors – Tom McCraw
Editor – Kevin Dooley
Cover Price: $1.25
The Heckler is another one of those “clothes make the hero” books for me. Just look at that costume… This book is begging to be bought and read. So much so, that I nabbed this off the rack with absolutely no idea what I was in for. As I’ve mentioned time and again, I (with very few exceptions) did not read DC in my youth. So, for this to make me part with my hard(ly)-earned lunch money, it had to be special… plus, ya know… it was a number one. That’s gotta be good for something, no?
This book was so special I actually bought it twice! During my great collection audit of 2010, I came to the tragic conclusion that this issue had somehow, during the last two-decades grown feet and escaped. Hell, if there’s any book that could actually grow feet… my money’s on this one.
I bought a replacement copy, and… and it hurts me to say this, I paid $3.00 for it. Such a humbling experience for a cheap-o bin aficionado, to be sure… but, I actually felt kind of itchy knowing that this was missing from my library. Sometimes ya gotta do what ya gotta do.
Was it worth the double-dip? Let’s find out…
Now… how does one synopsize The Heckler? Hrmm…
We open at a donut shop. The owner and waitress are making conversation. They discuss not having already seen one of their regulars, Stu Mosley. There is a lot of background conversations going on at the same time offering the reader a look into the culture of the Beach District of Delta City. Stu arrives and orders his usual. He leaves, and takes the newly purchased donuts to Sgt. McDougal. He passes a newsstand, and picks up the morning paper. The cover story is related to the Heckler’s snaring of King Mambo.
We shift uptown where the flamboyant face-painted organized crime lord Boss Glitter is brooding over Mambo’s arrest. He decides to assign Mambo’s “turf” to another subordinate, El Gusano. Gusano is none to pleased having to take over the Beach District, already having his hands full with the South Side of Delta City. Glitter cheerfully informs him that this was not up for debate, and Gusano sheepishly obliges.
We join a semi-literate man in his attempt at writing a letter. While he writes, some information comes over his computer. Information that will prove most helpful to Stu, apparently.
Stu is part-owner of a Delta City greasy spoon called “Eats”… you wouldn’t know that, as the sign-maker instead put up a sign that reads “Fats”. He is arguing with the sign people as his business partner, Britt arrives. It is implied (if not said outright) that Britt is something of an absentee partner. He does not hang around long… he takes some files, and leaves.
We now observe El Gusano performing his first Beach District shakedown. He collects protection money from a local shop, and sounds shockingly reasonable about it. Gusano appears to have the ability to tunnel through the Earth. He emerges and retreats through the ground. We follow him back to his apartment where he is informed that “The Nose” has been “nosing around”. He instantly knows that the Heckler has him in his sights. He must plan their pending confrontation to ensure his best chance of survival.
Back at Fats… er Eats, Stu is talking with an overweight Elvis impersonator about Gusano’s whereabouts. Later we join Stu with the semi-literate fellow from earlier… it is here that it is revealed that Stu is in fact, the Heckler. He decides the time is right to strike.
The Heckler heads into the night, only to find the way to El Gusano illuminated by neon signs. To rattle Gusano’s cage, the Heckler decides to call him and ask for directions instead… from the man’s own car-phone! This throws Gusano into a rampage, he tunnels through to the Heckler’s location, destroying his own car in the process.
The eventually meet, and the Heckler gets punched through a nearby wall. Gusano flees via tunneling, and Heck’ gives chase. The pursuit ultimately leads to an amusement park… and somewhere in the fracas, it became Gusano who was doing the chasing. The Big Heck climbs all the way up a flight of steps leading to a super-slide.
As Gusano approaches, Heck pounces. Gusano falls down the super-slide and picks up such speed that he winds up tunneling as soon as he hits the ground. He ultimately winds up by the water, beaten and battered.
As Heck basks in his victory, we overhear Johnny Gearshift’s morning radio show. He discusses the Heckler’s altercation with El Gusano and questions whether our man is a… “Hero or Menace”… Now, I’m sure I’ve heard that somewhere before…
That was perhaps the most taxing synopsis I’ve ever written. This book has a lot of stuff going on in it… but, as I say… is it any good?
Oh, absolutely. This is a fine book, and people should definitely check it out. It’s strange, offbeat, and at times hard to follow… but still most definitely worth a read.
The writing is quite good. We get a decent feel for this nook of Delta City via conversations we overhear. This feels like a grimy yet somewhat charming burg. Each citizen seems to have some measure of… for lack of a better term, insanity. From the Heckler himself, to Boss Glitter, to our Elvis impersonating friend, these are strange individuals… damaged, even. We get just a small taste (just enough, really) of all these outlandish characters and personalities… really whetting the reader’s appetite for more.
Keith Giffen’s art here is not as clean as his Legion work, though not as manic and terrifying as Hex, or even his work on Trencher for Image Comics. For the most part, I could follow the action. Briefly during the Heckler/Gusano tussle I did lose my place, but otherwise I have no real complaints. This kind of art fits this kind of story like a glove. I get such strange deja vu from Ted McKeever’s Metropol reading this… it’s really something that should be experienced. It’s unfortunate (though, not surprising) that it only lasted six issues.
Every page (minus the first) is a straight up nine-panel grid. This makes for very “busy” and potentially overwhelming looking pages. I sometimes had to look away for a moment before diving back in. The Bierbaums and Giffen absolutely pack each and every page/panel full of content. There is a lot to follow here!
No digital, no collected edition… so, if you are so inclined… this is a single-issue endeavor. It’s well-worth cover price, though of late (at least locally) this entire series has been surfacing in the cheap-o’s. Keep an eye out, you won’t be sorry… or, maybe you will be. Mileage may vary. But, ya know… read it. Or don’t… but do.
|First they came for the cows…
and I did nothing, because I wasn’t a cow.
|Who could turn something like this down?|
|I can become rich AND get huge muscles???|
|It’s almost painful to post this…
When the Titans stopped being fun.
|This one is intriguing…|