Gorillas Riding Dinosaurs: Giant Monster Adventures!
Doris Danger Giant Monster Adventures
Written and Illustrated by Chris Wisnia (with some inking by Dick Ayers!)
This is kind of an appropriate book to be talking about just after Thanksgiving. Like that meal, there’s some pretty good stuff here, but what makes it great is the sheer quantity of it.
The concept is that it’s a collection of material from an old ‘50s comic called Doris Danger Seeks… Where Monsters Creep and Stomp. There aren’t just stories, but also letters pages, covers, pin-ups, and a couple of historical essays. According to the introduction by the fictional editor of this stuff, it was rounded up by “historians, archeologists, museum curators, a dental hygienist, and literature professors (who) have been painstakingly traveling the globe to recover the lost adventures of Doris Danger.” If DDSWMCAS had been a real comic, that endeavor and this collection would be disappointments. Out of the hundreds and hundreds of issues that “existed,” a little less than a dozen stories made it into this volume. That’s not really the point though.
If I lived in the crazy-ass world where Tabloia Weekly Magazine once existed and ran an ongoing, non-fiction feature called Where Monsters Creep and Stomp, I suppose I’d be sad that more stories didn’t survive, but I’d also be happy to get whatever I could. Since I don’t, the stories in Giant Monster Adventures are more than enough to satisfy. They’re enough to stuff me full and make me lie down for a contented nap.
Wait… non-fiction? Read on, after the break.
You may have noticed that I called WMCAS a non-fiction feature. As Tabloia tells it, “All our stories are in fact documented historically accurate incidents, pulled word for word from your daily newspapers.” Given complaints that their dialogue sucks or that their version of the army is made up entirely of three-star generals, Tabloia responds that that’s just the way it actually was. Everything has been “factually documented” rather than “edited for clarity.” This makes for some hilarious reading on the letters pages.
But what about the stories themselves? Wisnia’s art is a fond homage to Jack Kirby’s giant monster comics from the early ‘60s. You wouldn’t exactly mistake him for Kirby, but I don’t think you’re supposed to. What’s important is that he’s got all the beats down and what you like about insane Kirby pages you’ll also like about Wisnia’s.
Likewise the over-the-top dialogue with its endless exposition and over-reliance on quotation marks. “Where did that giant monster get its ‘outer space survival suit’ and ‘facial oxygen globe’?” “Who are those men wearing ‘fezzes’?!” Wisnia’s captured everything fun about Stan Lee-style dialogue and made it funny too.
Same with the plots. Not a story goes by without some dramatic revelation that the “dupers” have been “double-duped” or that one of Doris’ trusted allies is actually… a robot! And like any good Timely/Atlas/Marvel-inspired comic, there are countless references to other (unfortunately “lost”) issues. “Hey! It’s that giggling scientist I saw hiding under the clothespile at the carnival (see issue #129)! How does he fit into all this?!!” It couldn’t be more fun.
The only problem is that it works a little too well. Forget what I said earlier about being satisfied; I want more. I don’t just want random issues that give only the smallest glimpses about girl-reporter Doris Danger and her crusade to expose the US cover-up of the existence of giant monsters. I want my Essential Doris Danger collection that puts the whole story together. I want to know who the giggling scientist is and the real agenda of the fez men, the Monster Liberation Army, and those sneaky robots!
For what it is – an unsystematic collection of short stories from a fictional comic – Doris Danger Giant Monster Adventures is awesome. There’s more than enough here to delight anyone who loves joy. There are even giant-monster pin-ups by Mike Mignola, Art Adams, Mike Allred, Gene Colan, Peter Bagge, Ramona Fradon, Dave Gibbons, Russ Heath, John Severin, Bill Sienkiewicz, Tony Millionaire, and Los Bros. Hernandez.
But because each story is part of a larger epic that doesn’t actually exist, they’re also rather unfulfilling on their own. It’s like snitching a bit of turkey before the big meal. It tastes good, but if that’s all you were going to be able to eat, you’d be kind of ticked off about it. Fortunately, there are enough nibbles here – even as unconnected to each other as they are – that you still feel good and full at the end. You just sort of wish you could do it all over again tomorrow.
Four out of five shocking secrets!