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Comic Book Review: Sharky!

Posted 5 years ago by Comics

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I recently reviewed Monster Massacre, a compilation of monster-themed comics, edited by comic book creator Dave Elliott.  Included in the book were a couple of Elliott’s own comics, which were some of the weakest of the bunch.  And now that I’ve read Elliott’s original creation Sharky!, I think it’s safe to say that I’m just not a fan of the man’s work.


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Sharky! is the story of a teenager named Patrick Sharky who, as it turns out, is “the earthbound son of Odin and the grandson of Zeus”.  He doesn’t realize he’s a demi-god until he faces a near-death experience at the hand of a monster that’s destroying most of downtown.  But once he’s on the brink of death, his favorite comic book superhero, Sharky, appears before him, touches Patrick’s hand, and the boy instantly transforms into the actual Sharky.  With his new powers, Patrick takes on a small rogue’s gallery of bad guys led by a zombie Captain America knock-off who’s been possessed by a necromancer who looks like Mister Sinister.  He also has a couple of ancient gods after him, too.  Luckily he has help from a gender-bent Thor, who makes up for her lack of bulging biceps with her bulging bra size, as well as a handful of members of indie comic royalty like Vampirella, Savage Dragon, The Flaming Carrot, Milk & Cheese, and Madman.

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Sharky! was originally released in the late-1990s as part of the big independent comic boom.  It was a time when any comic that wasn’t published by Marvel or DC was considered brilliant, even if it really wasn’t, just because it was bucking the system.  Unfortunately, Sharky! is pretty much the epitome of this era.

To start with, the character design is incredibly dated.  The guy wears black boots (or white canvas tennis shoes sometimes), ripped blue jeans, a white t-shirt that’s been torn to shreds to show off his abs and his arms, a sleeveless black leather jacket, fingerless gloves, bad wrap-around Oakley sunglasses, and a slicked back, Rockabilly ducktail hairdo.  Sometimes he wears a backwards ball cap and rides a skateboard just to complete his “Xtreme Bro” look. The character is so ‘90s it hurts, but not even the cool, Grunge ‘90s; he’s the desperately-clinging-to-relevance ‘80s metal guy that’s well past his prime.  It’s like he was designed by a committee of middle-aged men in order to tap into the youth zeitgeist, mirroring Poochie from The Simpsons to an almost scary degree, but without the tongue planted firmly in cheek.

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To further the music analogy, Grunge was about sloughing off the over-commercialized sheen of capitalism in order to express deeper thoughts and ideas with music.  If The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen were the Grunge of the comic book world, then Sharky! is practically the living embodiment of the superficial, Motley Crue Girls, Girls, Girls era of sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll excess that Grunge was rebelling against.  Famous characters make cameo appearances to prove Sharky’s a star, but they’re just window dressing in the story.  All the women are dressed in barely-there outfits (especially Thor), while all the guys are muscle-bound meatheads.  There’s nothing wrong with indulging in a little bit of adolescent teen fantasy, but that’s all you’re going to get with Sharky!  If you know that going in, you might enjoy the ride, but it won’t be one that you’ll remember.

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While the story and character might not be worth your time, there are glimpses of brilliance in the paintings of Elliott’s collaborator, Alex Horley.  Since Sharky’s debut, Horley’s Frank Frazetta-inspired artwork has been seen on comic book covers, pin-up splash pages, and on World of Warcraft products.  His work with the brush is impressive, expressive, and brings a surprising level of beauty and legitimacy to the comic.  The few interludes we see of Horley’s paintings throughout Sharky! are definitely the highlights of the book.  Unfortunately, Horley’s work with the pencil isn’t quite up to snuff.  His interior work has a very Spawn-era Todd McFarlane/Greg Capullo look to it – a lot of detail, some cartoony proportions, exaggerated lines here and there, and cross-hatching galore.  It was the style of the day and probably looked great then, but it’s not aging very well at all.

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It’s sad to say, but Sharky! is best viewed as an example of what was wrong with comics in the 1990s.  It’s not the shining example, mind you, (that would probably be something created by Rob Liefeld), but it suffers from the same problems the entire industry did at the time.  Weak characters who are trying to be edgy without understanding what made The Dark Knight Returns great, over-stylized designs that tried to tap into what kids liked without having a clue what kids liked, and artwork that is occasionally brilliant, but now appears mostly outdated due to evolving art trends.  Honestly, aside from Horley’s paintings, Sharky might have best been left in the past where he and the rest of the indie has-beens belong.

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Sharky! is available at Amazon and other fine book retailers.