Monday, October 31, 2011

Mighty Samson

Mighty Samson
No longer blonde & no eye-patch,
but still kicking post-apocalyptic butt
...sort of...
Mighty Samson isn't as well known as Magnus: Robot Fighter, but he is a major-league pugilist par excellance whose stomping grounds are the irradiated and jungle-infested ruins of N'Yark some 500 years hence, give or take a millennium or whatever now that the title has been re-booted by Jim Shooter, just like Turok, Magnus and Doctor Solar have been Re-Shooter-ized.

To quote from the Dark Horse site:
Five hundred years after the end of the world, amid the ruins of a once--great city scourged by mutated monsters, marauders, and savage subhuman predators, the primitive N'Yark tribe ekes out a meager, fragile existence. But from among them rises a champion, gifted with prodigious strength--a warrior who can strike dead the most fearsome beast and stand alone against an army. Singlehandedly, he holds at bay the ravaging barbarian hordes of Jerz, thwarting the dark ambitions of beautiful, ruthless Queen Terra. At stake is the future of the world. Mighty Samson is the last, best hope of humankind.
For the first time in a quarter century, Mighty Samson returns to comics, reimagined by legendary writer Jim Shooter and illustrated by Patrick Olliffe (Untold Tales of Spider--Man, Spider--Girl, 52).
* This bonus--sized first issue includes the very first Mighty Samson story from 1964!
Publication Date: December 15, 2010
Format: FC, 48 pages
Price: $3.50
You can find the online version of the first issue of Mighty Samson (from 1964) at the wonderful Gold Key Comics blog. Yeah, it is kind of dated in some respects, but it is a lot of fun and it predates Thundarr, Kamandi, and most of those other post-apocalyptic Neo-Barbarians by a comfortable margin since Kamandi appeared in 1972, and Thundarr was an Eighties-thing. And it's a lot of fun, mostly because it doesn't take itself too seriously. At least the original series didn't waste time on such things as quasi-Biblical allusions like the re-boot does. But then, Mighty Samson always was a title that has been plagued from the get-go with cliches, thread-bare tropes, and dialogue that would make Ed Wood wince. But the painted covers were always kind of cool and very much in keeping with the Gold Key Aesthetic. And the core idea of a circus-style strongman running around in the weird wastelands of a post-apocalyptic world is just begging to be realized as something more than a parody of some mentally-stunted buffoon with Steve Reeve's biceps and none of his acting ability. Ouch.

Unfortunately, the new and not-so-improved Mighty Samson does not feel all that improved. Jim Shooter did a decent job on the recently rebooted Magnus, but with Mighty Samson it feels jumbled and rushed and confused. It could have been so much better, and Shooter really could have brought this character to life similar to how he has recently handled Turok, but instead this time out it looks like he dropped the ball.

And that's a damn shame.

Unlike most modern post-apocalyptic (post Mad Max, really) settings & stories, Mighty Samson wasn't a cynical anti-hero. He was a powerful force for right that backed it up with his considerable might. Mighty Samson was about a noble not-so barbarian who was trying to make the impossibly screwed-up world he inhabited a better place. He helped people. He defended the weak. He was a one-eyed Lone Ranger in a loincloth, eye-patch and without the revolver or even the horse. A D&D player would easily recognize Mighty Samson as a paladin. And he was a good example of how a paladin would operate in the post-apocalyptic nightmare world that is so often the domain of rogues, thieves, cut-throats and mutants.

The original Mighty Samson reminded me a lot of Andre Norton's Daybreak 2250 more than any other literary source. Though there are some major differences, the two works had a similar feel to them. Very clean-cut, very Fifties-esque. Most definitely: Safe For The Workplace.

Norton's protagonist mostly had to worry about mutant rats. Mighty Samson had an incredibly varied menagery of mutant creatures to fight each issue, and many of them didn't even have any tentacles.

My advice is to skip the reboot. Go back to the original. It wasn't broken, so much as it was--and is--very much a product of its time and probably ought to stay that way. Not everything is suited to being updated.

Look Ma--no tentacles!
Some Mighty Samson Links

Hmmm...blue-skinned flying winged-people...Almuric? Nope. It's Mighty Samson.

1 comment:

  1. Nice post! I'm digging the recently released Dark Horse archives myself (received the first one for Christmas). Lot's of fun to mine there. I'm not casting a verdict on the reboot just yet (with only one issue out). I'll give it a few before I decide to ditch. In any case, I'm just glad to have a little more "gamma" in the sci-fi diet these days!


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