The cover to my copy of Don Simpson's Bizarre Heroes #4

One thing I enjoy doing – especially when traveling – is stopping by resale, antique, and comic stores and looking for obscure comics, or, at least, ones that are unusual. I pretty much missed the entire 90s boom, but I can usually tell if something is leaning on the “obscure” side of things.

I don’t feel that Don Simpson is obscure, and while Megaton Man (pictured above) went on to have a book with Image I think the character – and certainly this issue by the defunct Fiasco Comics imprint – maybe fairly unknown to many.

There are three sections to Issue #4 of Don Simpson’s Bizarre Heroes, and right out of the gate it is clear that this comic is going to have something of a goofy side as the first thing we see is a full page splash of most of the characters “backstage” waiting for their entrance cues.

The first story features Megaton Man in a piece called “I’m Never Goin’ Back To My Old School.” We learn that our overly muscular hero has never graduated high school, and some sort of technical requirement has forced him to go back and retake his classes (has no one in fiction heard of GEDs? Really?).

One of his classes is Music, and having long ago stopped practicing the clarinet Megaton Man finds that he sucks at it now and one of the students challenges him to a play-off later to prove he’s better and overtake MM’s seat. One of the other students is X-Ray Boy, who sits and talks with the hero during recess.

X-Ray Boy reveals that his powers stem from the 35 cent x-ray glasses he mailed away for which actually work. Megaton Man sighs, realizing that with the 10 million dollar technology he’s installed with both of them are sitting there using the same collective power to do the same thing; staring at teenage girls (insert “creepy factor” here). One of the girls asks MM why he’s not out helping his fellow super-humans battle a clone outbreak that is going on, and while our hero tries to save face its revealed he’s not helping simply because no one asked him to.

Elsewhere Federal Agent Riley shows up to collect some government-funded equipment from HT NOVELTY CO., where it is revealed that the see-through specs that X-Ray Boy has are actually a multimillion dollar project that were simply intended to look like their 35 cent equivalent, and the company’s secretary mailed them by accident. After HT NOVELTY’s owner turns over the shipping address Agent Riley shoots the owner and secretary and vows to retrieve the glasses – and kill everyone who knows about them.

Issue #4’s second section is called “The Apocalypse Agenda” and revolves around a group of heroes being briefed on a clone crisis by intrepid report John Bradford. It takes eight pages of flashback for Bradford to explain that a psycho cult leader, Philip Loeb, has slowly been replacing ordinary citizens with sleeper-agent clones who, when activated, make use of a super-power to cause as much chaos and destruction as possible.

It is in this segment that the sexy hero Moon Cat (think a cross between Moon Knight and Black Cat) introduces herself. Completely new and unknown to any of the group, Moon Cat’s heroic status isn’t questioned because she is “so stealthy” and although she tries to explain all her powers it is decided that the group has more important priorities to attend to.

The present heroes are broken up into teams to do things like hunt down clones, find the people responsible, et cetera, and loner hero Slick (think Paste-Pot Pete combined with Spider-Man, complete with alien suit) decides he’d rather strike out on his own. However, Moon Cat thinks it would be a good idea if the two loners work together and she follows him.

Outside on the roof the sexy feline-dressed hero approaches Slick and proposes a team-up. She suggests they go back to the “Moon-Lair” and Slick is quick to pick up on the signals (she’s also dressed in barely more than a sports bra and denim shorts so little of the new heroine’s alluring anatomy is left to the unknown). Slick is concerned about potentially revealing his secret identity to someone he’s just met, but agrees to go with Moon Cat.

At the Moon-Lair – which is basically the heroine’s civilian apartment – Moon Cat starts to strip (no nudity is shown but she is topless for a few panels), revealing that while the claws on her gloves/footies are fake, and the cat tail is simply attached to her shorts, her realistic-looking cat ears are permanently glued to her forehead (to the point she has to go to work with them). She also does not remove her nose paint or whiskers, but it is unrevealed if they are equally permanent.

Just as Slick starts to undress he gets cold-feet about revealing his identity and vamooses out the window. While the hero swings through the city he second-guesses himself (and gives a quick recap of his back-story) before being shot by some sort of weapon. While the fallen hero lies unconscious the responsible villainess stands over him, revealing that she saw him exit Moon Cat’s apartment. As someone who has had a crush on him since high school she could not stop herself from becoming jealous and taking Slick down.

I almost missed the third portion of Issue #4 because it is very short and appears after the letters pages. Entitled “Her Name Is Dark-Cease” it reveals that Philip Loeb, the cult leader responsible for the clones, has created a clone of reporter John Bradford’s assistant Cecilia Munoz. She is sent to assume her civilian identity and destroy Bradford while Loeb reveals four other lab-raised clones which he intends to send out simultaneously to destroy those who would stop him!

THE FINAL VERDICT: An amusing read, worth a few bucks if you can spare it.

This is the only issue I have from this series, and by itself it is amusing. I only paid $1 for it, and probably wouldn’t have been upset about paying two or three times that (max). For a completely black-and-white comic I was able to follow all the action with no trouble (an issue I have frequently with purely B&W graphic tales), which is a testament to Mr. Simpson’s abilities to block a scene and create dynamic/varied characters who are easy to differentiate, even in crowds.

The 8-page flashback was a bit strange, and I certainly would have preferred it if I could have read the entire back-story as an expanded “as it happens” tale, but I can’t fault Mr. Simpson for understanding the economic limitations of indie publishers in the 90s boom – although the expanded issues of intrigue following Reporter Bradford’s investigation would be a great niche comic now, it would have been interrupted by the Comic Collapse before Mr. Simpson could get to any action (although it could have also been presented in the series featuring Megaton Man that proceeded this series, I can’t be certain).

There are also a few goofy parts of the story, such as Moon Cat’s quick acceptance into the heroes’ fold, which people will either find an amusing homage to more innocent times or just distracting from the the story. This issue could also expand to the Golden Age/Shakespearean dialogue that crops up on occasion. Characters at times talk unnaturally in order to state the obvious – such as Slick’s “I’ve been hit!” exclamation. Whether this is an intentional throwback reference to comic’s history of stating the obvious for unobservant/inexperienced child readers, or if it’s just Don Simpson’s preferred method of storytelling, I’m not certain. Readers could find it distracting either way.

There are no transformations per say in the comic, but for those who are fans of hybrids Moon Cat is one to look for. Although her cat features are only glued on the ears and whiskers are drawn to look like they are real parts of her anatomy (once her hood is removed), and the idea that the ears – and possibly whiskers – are permanently affixed to her could appeal to stuck and costume fans.

When all was said and done it was an amusing comic. No storylines presented were self-contained, and I’d probably pick up another issue or two if I saw them, but I wasn’t blown away by plot or characters. If you’re interested in Moon Cat it’s worth a read, but if you’re tight on cash you’re not missing anything overly amazing by sticking to a strict budget.