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Vincent S. Moore Presents:









 

Strutting With Justice

I was born in the year 1968.

Yes, in some circles, that makes me middle aged. But I was a child once.

In fact, I was a child during the decade of the 1970s, the tumultuous time of lingering war protests, bra burnings, and the struggles between The Man and all those groups of freedom fighters that sought to end all sorts of white oppression.

No, really, the 70s had a lot of that going on.

Whether it was the Black Panthers or MOVE or the National Organization for Women or the Symbionese Liberation Army, there was a whole lot of fighting against The Man going on.

The fight against The Man not only took place on the streets of the city but in the movie theaters as well.

Some of those movies fit under the banner title of Blaxploitation.

In the days before the suburban multi-screen cineplex, local theaters in the middle of the city kept audiences entertained with all sorts of films. I could see Bruce Lee martial arts flicks or samurai movies or Italian giallo films all across town, from Inglewood to Hollywood, Culver City to downtown. But most of all I could see the larger than life and badder than bad Blaxploitation heroes.

For a young black male child (I gotta skip saying ‘boy’ here, don’t y’all think?) growing up, those films were manna from heaven wrapped in gaudy costumes and cool soundtracks.

As a child of that era, I tend to be attracted to books and things that reflect some of that sensibility. Imagine my surprise when at Comic Con International a few years ago I came across something that caught my eye. Or rather my ears, as I heard samples of classic ‘70s funk booming out of a boom box, just above the din of the ever present crowd. My ears led me to a sight that still amazes me to this day. I saw one of the skinniest white guys I would ever have the pleasure of meeting standing in front of these cool sounds, displaying his wares and encouraging passersby to check them out.

Well, check them out I did, and I was glad for it.

Over time, I would end up traveling in some of the same circles as this young man (that’s for full disclosure here) and would continue picking up new issues of his book, just to see what he was up and how it was going for him. In time, he would complete the first story arc of his initial title, something I ended up buying at WonderCon 2009. At long last, I could read the complete first story arc.

Boy, was I glad I waited.

Return Of The Super Pimps issues 1-6 are written by Richard A. Hamilton, drawn by Ulises Carpintero and Rich Bonilla, colored and lettered by various talents, and published by Dial “C” For Comics, Richard’s company.

Truth be told, the Blaxploitation movie was not, as has been popularly put forward by certain filmmakers and documentaries, merely made up of black crime genre stories. There were comedies and dramas made during those days starring black folk. There were even horror movies featuring mostly or all black casts. Yet, for many, the Blaxploitation movement is treated as a singular genre--much like manga is today--with one almost universally pervasive stereotype that stands as the purest representative of those films: the hustler, the pimp.

Richard Hamilton is old enough to know that figure from those movies. But what he does to that stereotype turns it on its ear and seemingly redeems it. By doing that he lives up to his desire to mix the nobility of superheroes with the power of Funk and Soul, as stated in his first issue afterword.

The basic plot of Return Of The Super Pimps is this: The Super Pimps, a band of urban hustlers turned superheroes, once protected The Hood, an every-ghetto, from all manner of villains. That was, until one of their number lost his life in battle. That sad turn of events caused the SP’s leader, Blackbeard, to quit the hero biz and disband the team. Decades later, in our time, Police Detective Maple learns of the death of the SP’s former faithful servant and sets out to find his childhood heroes to tell them the news. Along the way, old friendships are tested and renewed, an old foe returns, and a team of heroes is reborn.

I purposely left out a number of details, but that gives you readers enough information to get you started.

Overall the first arc works well. Return Of The Super Pimps is a fun read. Nothing that will change the world of comics but a good, solid adventure yarn, full of characters and situations not normally seen in the standard superhero comic.

But there are some important points to cover here.

For one, Ulises Carpintero’s art, whether he is inking himself or is aided by Rich Bonilla, is reminiscent of Eduardo Risso’s work. The very solid black and white, light and hard shadows approach fits the noirish bent of the story. However, the coloring as done by many talents, including Carpintero, has a tendency to overpower the artwork. Some of the time, this actually improves the overall effect and look of the art; other times, it distracts and obscures the visuals. Perhaps either a flatter approach to color or better colorists might have worked better.

Meanwhile Hamilton’s enthusiasm for his characters and their adventure serves to carry the reader forward even when the story itself doesn’t necessarily do so. The writing reflects more a screenwriting/cinematic approach that does not always work as well in print media. At times it feels as though the story is lumbering towards the conclusion, with scene coming after scene, mandatory plot point follow mandatory plot point, all trusting that the readers is still with the story. The same way a film or TV audience is, passively observing the action. That’s not always a good thing to rely upon in comics. Thankfully there’s more at play here than just mere story inertia. Hamilton’s fascination for this tale is in the pages themselves and that overcomes any weakness on the narrative’s part.

As well as the arrival of Robert Roach as letterer with issue #3. His choices of word balloon placement help to keep the reader moving forward where the story alone leaves an open space where a reader could put the comic down and stop reading.

Where Hamilton shines, though, is the total package. What starts as an apparently simply story about the return of The Hood’s greatest heroes to face their greatest foe turns into something else. Beneath the 1970s gloss of the story and the tropes of the superhero genre lies a tale of heroism, its costs and rewards, and how and why heroes are necessary to our collective psyche. Hamilton tells his story honestly and it hits home in the end.

I highly recommend Return Of The Super Pimps.

Ask for it at your local retailers; all the back issues are available through Diamond. Or go to dialcforcomics.com where you will have the option of buying direct from the writer/publisher or finding the Diamond order numbers to give to your local comics retailer.

I hope there’s another adventure for the Super Pimps coming soon.

Thanks again for reading the Omnium Gatherum.

Namaste. 

Vincent S. Moore

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